Bregman’s game-ending 2B lifts Astros to 12th straight win
HOUSTON (AP) — Jose Altuve upped the pressure on Alex Bregman as he walked to home plate with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
“Altuve told me ... that he’s not bringing his bat or batting gloves to the on-deck circle, so I better get the job done,” Bregman said. “So I had to find a way.”
Bregman hit a game-ending two-run double and the Houston Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 to match a franchise record with their 12th straight win.
Houston trailed 4-0 after three innings but cut the lead to one entering the ninth.
Sergio Romo (1-2) walked Marwin Gonzalez to start the ninth, then allowed a single to Max Stassi. Tony Kemp’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners up, and Houston loaded the bases when George Springer reached on interference by catcher Wilson Ramos.
Bregman then drove a ball that bounced off the wall in left-center. He lifted both arms as he trotted into second base, and teammates mobbed him in the infield.
It was Houston’s second game-ending hit of the season, and the other also came off Bregman’s bat April 7 against San Diego. Bregman also walked off Houston with a single in Game 5 of the World Series last season.
“You do it as often as Alex has done it, we know it’s going to be a good at-bat,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Whether it ends in our favor or not is baseball, but he’s a guy we want up there.”
Romo declined to speak to reporters after the game, but manager Kevin Cash discussed his work.
“He’s the guy who’s been out there and got the experience,” Cash said. “He’s done it here as of late. It lined up right; it just didn’t work.”
Collin McHugh (2-0) struck out two in a scoreless ninth for the win on a night Gerrit Cole walked a career-high five to help the Rays build the early lead.
Houston also won 12 straight in 2004 and 1999. The Astros will go for No. 13 on Tuesday with ace Justin Verlander on the mound.
“The only thing that matters to these guys is winning,” Bregman said.
Romo was the seventh pitcher the Rays used as they employed a reliever as a starter for the 16th time in 30 games.
Cole walked Jake Bauers with one out in the first before Ramos launched a fastball into the seats in right field to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.
Matt Duffy drew a walk with one out in the third, stole second base and took third on an error by catcher Brian McCann. Cole, who hadn’t walked more than three in a game this season, walked Bauers and Ramos to load the bases. A two-out single by Joey Wendle came next to score two and push the lead to 4-0.
Altuve, who finished with three hits, singled with one out in the fourth, and Carlos Correa followed with a double. Houston got within 4-1 on a groundball single by Yuli Gurriel which scored Altuve. The Astros made it 4-2 when Correa scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick.
Altuve doubled and reached third on an error by Johnny Field to start Houston’s sixth. A one-out single by Gurriel scored Altuve to cut the lead to 4-3. Gonzalez singled with two outs, but Diego Castillo came in and retired pinch-hitter Evan Gattis to end the inning.
Rays: OF Kevin Kiermaier will be activated from the disabled list Tuesday after sitting out since April 15 after tearing a ligament in his right thumb which required surgery. He wasn’t supposed to be reinstated until Friday, but was feeling good after a rehabilitation stint in the minors and wore Cash down with incessant text messages saying he was ready. “I was sick of hearing from him so I called the general manager and said: ‘Please get him up here,’” Cash joked. ... RHP Chris Archer (abdominal strain) has been playing catch and is scheduled to throw a bullpen Friday. Cash said he’ll need to make some rehabilitation starts before returning to the team.
Astros: RHP Joe Smith (right elbow inflammation) felt fine after playing catch Sunday but likely won’t return from the disabled list until Houston’s next homestand, which begins on July 5.
With their two runs in the ninth on Monday night, the Astros have scored a major league best 137 runs in the seventh inning or later this season. Monday’s four-run deficit is the largest they’ve overcome to win this season, outdoing the two-run deficit they came back from for a victory on Sunday at Kansas City.
Verlander (9-2, 1.61 ERA) opposes Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell (8-4, 2.58) in the second game of the series Tuesday night. Verlander yielded two homers and three runs in seven innings in his last start to extend his winning streak to five games. Snell looks to get back on track after he had a four-game winning streak snapped by allowing five hits and four runs in five innings of a loss to the Yankees his last time out.
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