After answering a four-run inning from the San Diego Padres with a five-run frame of their own, the Houston Astros knew that victory wouldn’t come easy on Saturday, especially given their recent lack of success at home.
But one exceptional relief effort from veteran right-hander Hector Neris proved just enough for the Astros (81-62) to squeeze out a 7-5 win in the middle game of this three-game interleague series. Neris entered with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning and preserved a two-run lead by retiring Ha-Seong Kim and Fernando Tatis Jr. on infield popups.
“He’s been one of the best,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Neris.
The two teams will meet again Sunday in Houston.
The victory not only ended a stretch of 10 losses over their past 12 home games, but also enabled the Astros to extend their lead in the American League West to 1 1/2 games over the Seattle Mariners, who lost Saturday to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Texas Rangers squeezed out a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics to remain three games back.
The Astros will host the last-place Athletics for a three-game series starting Monday.
“We’re down to like 1/19 of the season right now,” Baker said. “Every game is huge, especially when you’re trying to pad the lead and hold off whoever is behind you. But you’ve got to look toward the finish line now, not worry about what they’re doing behind you. You’ll take some help from your friends but it’s in your control to control your own destiny.”
Rookie right-hander J.P. France (10-5, 3.72 ERA) will start the rubber match for the Astros on Sunday. He allowed five runs on six hits — including three home runs — and three walks with five strikeouts over five innings on Monday, but did not factor into the decision of a 13-6 road victory over the Rangers. It marked the first no-decision for France in nine appearances, as he went 6-2 with a 3.77 ERA over the previous eight appearances, including seven starts.
France will make his first career appearance against the Padres. He is 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA across six career interleague starts.
Rookie right-hander Matt Waldron (0-2, 5.12 ERA) will start the series finale for the Padres (67-76). It will mark the fifth appearance and third start for Waldron, whose most recent start came against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 19, when he allowed five runs on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts over five innings in a 6-4 home loss.
Padres catcher Luis Campusano went 2-for-3 with an RBI single, two runs and a walk in his second consecutive start. With Gary Sanchez sidelined for the rest of the season after suffering a right wrist fracture Wednesday, Campusano — who missed two months following thumb surgery prior to a July 18 reinstatement from the injured list — will get ample at-bats down the stretch.
“He’s had a good year overall,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “Obviously he had an injury that set him back a little bit, but between him and Sanchez, it’s a very productive spot. This will be the best opportunity he’s had in the big leagues. Camp is going to get a lot of looks and for the first time in his career he’s going to be an everyday guy even though there’s only like 20 games left.”
–Field Level Media