Houston survived a number of tricky situations and some close calls that luckily leaned in their favor to come back from down 3-0 to eventually emerge as 4-3 winners.
Bud Norris had a decent time on the mound, free of frills or disasters. In his last 11 starts, the Astros have scored three or less runs. It’s difficult for any pitcher to work confidently thinking that he isn’t going to have good support from his offense, but Norris kept his chin up and went six innings earning just two of the three runs.
J.D. Martinez was the game’s poster-boy, as he followed two quick two-out singles by Jose Altuve and Chris Carter with a monster home run to left field, to the dismay of the Wrigley faithful. It was an illustration of just how effective a swift stretch of confident hitting can make the difference, even if it’s contrary to the flow of the game.
In June, the Astros have scored 48.5 percent of their runs via home runs, second in the league only to the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s a common phenomenon with struggling teams, who may not be efficiently stringing good at-bats together but are surviving with moments of glory.
The top of the ninth inning hinted at the growth of the Astros, who led off with a Justin Maxwell double and proceeded to play clever small-ball from there on in. Back-to-back sacrifice squeeze bunts moved Maxwell from second to third and then home, scoring the go-ahead run.
Jose Veras earned his sixth save of June with rapid, aggressive work from the mound, adding to his pedigree as a reliable closer. Tomorrow, the Astros will send Jordan Lyles to the mound, who is looking to stay white-hot.
For the month of June, the Astros have the lowest batting average in the American League and the Cubs represent the lowest in the National League. Two struggling teams can offer as much excitement as two competitors at the top of their games, and though the outcome won’t have too much bearing in the big scheme, Sunday’s tie-breaker should provide some fun indeed.