Astros One defense boots. Rangers steal Game 2, 4-3

The Astros’ first-place finish in 2022 got to where they are mostly thanks to league-leading shooting, strong defensive support and enough offense to win close games.

Although starting pitcher Framber Valdez recorded his 23rd quality start, the Astros’ usually solid defense sabotaged his efforts with three errors, and the offense left nine runners on base, was only 1-11 with runners in scoring position and failed in the score 4-3.

Rangers got to Framber Valdez early, scoring three runs in the second inning, starting with a walk for Mark Mathias followed by a single for Leody Taveras. Both players scored on a brace from Ezequiel Duran. And before Valdez even got one out in the inning, Duran scored on a hit and a throwing error from Jose Altuve.

Valdez tied up and retired the next three batters, two on K’s. The third point against Valdez was marked as unearned.

The Astros answered in their second half with a first single from Kyle Tucker. Tucker took second on a passed ball, then stole third, his 21st of the season. He would score on a Yuli Gurriel groundout.

In the third inning, Jose Altuve brought the Astros one point closer by flexing his new opposite field power with a solo shot just over the right field fence. Right fielder Adolis Garcia put his glove on the ball but couldn’t maintain control.

Kyle Tucker, whose hustle and base run culminated in the Astros’ first inning, fought his way to the Astros’ third inning in the fourth inning. He started the inning with a single, stole his twenty-second base to go to second, moved to third on a hit by JJ Matijevic and scored on an RBI fielder’s pick by Chas McCormick.

In the first and fourth innings, the Astros wouldn’t have scored without Tucker’s stolen bases.

The Astros and Rangers tied at three until seventh. The Rangers capitalized on the Astros’ third infield error after Yuli Gurriel blasted a grounded player by Corey Seager with one out. Eventually, Seager would score after a single from Nathaniel Lowe and a wild pitch from Valdez that scored Seager from third with two outs.

Phil Maton came on to finish the seventh with a strikeout from Leody Taveras.

Although Valdez gave up four points, he is still credited with his 23rd straight quality start, as two of the points (at the time of this writing) were scored as unearned. Nonetheless, it wasn’t one of Valdez’s best performances, as he allowed six hits, four walks, two wild pitches and had just five takedowns in 6-2/3 innings. He knocked out eleven Rangers.

Notes: The Astros had a season-leading five stolen bases, two by Tucker, two by Jeremy Pena and one by Jose Altuve, who was left stuck at second base in the ninth inning with one out after stealing second. The Astros were 1-11 with runners in scoring position.

It was a disappointing defeat, but you will love this assist from the ‘Machete’.

The Astros are going for the series win in tomorrow’s rubber game, pitting Cristian Javier against Rangers’ Cole Ragans. Game time 7:10 CT at MMP.

Box score and videos here.

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