HOUSTON (AP) — Cristian Javier got one out, and J.P. France got two. That marked the end of Houston’s title defense.
Playing a Game 7 in Space City, the Astros never even took off.
Javier flopped in an abbreviated postseason start and France had a rocky relief outing, sending Houston to an 11-4 loss to the Texas Rangers in the finale of the AL Championship Series on Monday night. The lineup wasn’t much help either, going 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
So much for Houston’s seventh straight appearance in the ALCS, and its bid for baseball’s first repeat champion since the New York Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. The Astros’ trouble at home finally caught up to them.
Houston went 39-42 at Minute Maid Park during the regular season, but it secured the AL West title with a win at Arizona and a Texas loss on the final day. It went 1-5 at home in the playoffs.
No team with a losing record at home has ever reached the World Series.
The Astros are the only big league team to lose four home games in a seven-game postseason series, falling against Washington in the 2019 World Series and then experiencing the same issue this year versus Texas.
“We have been spoiled around here as far as winning and winning and winning,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “And heck, I’ve been here four years, and we’ve been to two World Series and two Championship Series.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of or nothing to hold our head down about. We’re down, but we’re not out. And every team in baseball would trade to have had the last four years that we’ve had.”
Third baseman Alex Bregman was disappointed that Houston’s quest for a third straight trip to the World Series came up short.
“We didn’t execute as well as we have in years past. … It comes down to execution, and we didn’t do a good enough job of that, and they did,” he said.
Javier was 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in the playoffs this year and 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA in four career postseason starts for Houston. But he fell apart after retiring leadoff batter Marcus Semien on a grounder to shortstop.
Javier didn’t speak to reporters after the game, but catcher Martín Maldonado addressed the right-hander’s struggles.
“His command wasn’t great,” Maldonado said. “His off-speed pitches weren’t sharp. I feel like they had a good game plan against him. Other than that, I felt like his (velocity) was up. Even in the bullpen, it felt like he was a little harder than what it used to be. I don’t know. Probably doing too much.”
Corey Seager launched a fastball 440 feet into the second deck in right field for a home run. Evan Carter walked and stole second base before scoring on a single by Adolis García that caromed off the wall in left field.
García stole second and Mitch Garver followed with a pop-fly single to left-center field. The ball bounced off the shoulder of diving left fielder Michael Brantley, and García scored to make it 3-0. A sharp single to left by Jonah Heim put runners at the corners, and Javier was removed by Baker.
“Once an offensive team gets five or six at-bats on you, they’re going to score and they’re going to do some damage,” Baker said.
Big league teams are 3-9 in postseason history when their starting pitcher lasts less than an inning in a winner-take-all game.
But Houston closed to 4-2 on Bregman’s solo homer in the bottom of the third. France then replaced Hunter Brown for the start of the fourth, and Texas took over.
With one out and the bases loaded, France surrendered a two-run double to Evan Carter and a two-run single by García. Following a two-out single by Heim, Baker replaced France with Hector Neris.
France allowed five hits and walked one in his first appearance since he pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings a week ago in Game 2 of the ALCS.
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