Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker on Wednesday said that a huge source of pride about his American League West-leading team is the way they play defense after right fielder Chas McCormick made two huge plays in their 9-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in 12 innings.
McCormick made a one-hop throw to prevent Shohei Ohtani from scoring the potential game-winning run in the 10th inning.
Two innings later, the Astros broke through with four runs, including a two-run double by Jose Altuve, to reduce their magic number to three to clinch their fourth division title in five seasons.
“He has been working on his throwing and grip. He made a great play in the outfield,” Baker said of McCormick. “Defense doesn’t win you many games, but it can lose you games. That was a big one to win.”
Ohtani, who was none for two and walked four times, made an ill-advised run home on David Fletcher’s bases-loaded lineout to shallow right.
McCormick caught Ohtani by several steps with a one-hop throw — the two-way star did not slide, tried to avoid the tag and ran past the plate before being easily tagged by catcher Jason Castro.
“I wasn’t surprised. I know he can run a little bit and was doing everything to win,” said McCormick, who prevented an RBI single by Jack Mayfield with a diving catch in the third. “I’m happy I made a good throw on it.”
“It wasn’t that tough of a play. The one on Mayfield was one of my better plays, but the biggest play was throwing out Ohtani,” he said.
Angels manager Joe Maddon said that he did not have any problems with sending Ohtani.
“I know it wasn’t that deep, but we have challenged it in the past,” Maddon said. “They played great defense on us. We had opportunities to end it and they wore us down.”
Pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez scored the go-ahead run on Jake Meyers’ single off Sam Selman (0-1). Altuve then provided some insurance with a double down the right-field line to make it 8-5. Altuve advanced to third on the throw home and scored on Alex Bregman’s sacrifice fly.
Yordan Alvarez had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in three runs for the Astros. Castro also homered and Luis Garcia tossed six shutout innings.
Yimi Garcia (4-9), the seventh of eight Houston pitchers, got the win.
The Angels, who have dropped six straight, trailed 3-0 going into the seventh before scoring five times.
Mayfield provided the key hit with a two-out, three-run double down the right-field line to give Los Angeles a 5-3 lead.
The Astros quickly responded with a pair of runs in the eighth to tie. Alvarez hit an RBI double and scored on Yuli Gurriel’s single through the hole at shortstop.
The Astros jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first when Alvarez drove a fastball by Janson Junk to the berm in right-center. It was the longest home run of Alvarez’s career and the second-longest by an opposing player at The Big A this season.
“That was a high rocket like what Willie Stargell and Big Willie McCovey used to hit,” Baker said.
“You knew he hit it out, you just didn’t know how far that was going to go,” he added.
Junk had retired 10 straight before Castro led off the fourth with a homer into the elevated stands in right field to give the Astros a three-run advantage.
In St Petersburg, Florida, Austin Meadows hit a three-run homer in a six-run third inning as the Tampa Bay Rays clinched a post-season berth with a 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
The AL East-leading Rays (94-59) secured a post-season berth for the third season in a row and the seventh time since 2008.
Toronto (85-67) dropped into a tie for the second AL wild-card berth with the New York Yankees, who later on Wednesday defeated the Texas Rangers 7-3.
Six Tampa Bay pitchers combined on a four-hitter.
J.T. Chargois (6-1) struck out two during a hitless fourth.
The Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier was hit by a pitch, apparent retribution for scooping up a Toronto scouting report two days earlier.
Reliever Ryan Borucki hit Kiermaier on the back with his first pitch of the eighth inning, when the Rays led 7-1.
Borucki was ejected from the game after the umpires met.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr had two hits and scored when Teoscar Hernandez picked up his 109th RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Ross Stripling (5-7) took the loss.
In other games, it was:
‧ Athletics 1, Mariners 4
‧ Brewers 2, Cardinals 10
‧ Cubs 4, Twins 5
‧ Diamondbacks 2, Braves 9
‧ Marlins 5, Nationals 7
‧ Padres 6, Giants 8
‧ Phillies 4, Orioles 3
‧ Red Sox 12, Mets 5
‧ Rockies 10, Dodgers 5
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