Happy birthday, ma.
Gale Hoes, mother of Astros outfielder L.J., got her wish on Tuesday. Her son hit his first home run in more than two months, breaking a long stalemate with the A’s in a 3-2 win for the Astros that lasted 12 innings.
“It’s a really good feeling,” said L.J., who had a great diving catch in the seventh inning. “Especially cause it was my mom’s birthday and that was the last thing she told me to do, was like, ‘Hit a homer for me.’ To be able to do that for her, it was a special thing.”
The game lasted four hours, nine minutes.
“She’s probably knocked out right now,” Hoes said of his mother. “She went to the beach with my little sister so they’re probably all a little tired right now. I know my dad’s up, he just called me.”
Hoes hadn’t homered since May 13. Playing time hasn’t been the easiest for him to come by, but with injuries in the outfield, he’s getting a chance.
Wearing the number zero ever since Jon Singleton took the No. 28 Hoes used to wear, Hoes drilled the first pitch of the at-bat, a fastball, from former Astros pitcher Fernando Abad with one out in the 12th. He said he had been thrown fastballs all night.
For the first time in franchise history, the Astros have a three-game win streak against the A’s. Tuesday was the first of a three-game series, but the Astros won these teams’ previous two meetings in April.
By the time the bottom of the 12th arrived, Astros manager Bo Porter hadn’t used closer Chad Qualls, an old-school move that doesn’t quite fit the Astros’ usual protocol. The idea that has been more and more accepted is that if the closer is the team’s best reliever, he shouldn’t be saved for a moment that may or may not ever come, i.e. the save.
“In that situation, we had a rested bullpen,” Porter said. “We were able to use guys in the spots that we wanted to use ‘em.”
But the moment came and Qualls was ready, finishing out the save 10 years to the day after he made his major league debut with the 2004 Astros.
The A’s have seven walk-off wins on the season, including one against Qualls earlier this season. But the Astros bullpen was great for five innings, the first two from Josh Fields who has quietly been fantastic.
Lefty Darin Downs needed one pitch to get out of a two-on, two-out jam left to him by Jose Veras in the 11th inning. Downs took the win.
The night was a duel of lefties through seven innings, with Scott Kazmir pitching as he always does for the A’s — very well — and Astros fill-in Brett Oberholtzer continuing to make a case he should stick around.
Despite no strikeouts on Tuesday, Oberholtzer matched Kazmir, who was making his first start since pitching in the All-Star game last week.
“I love going up against good competition,” Oberholtzer said. “A’s are great, Kazmir is obviously one of the better pitchers in baseball this year. That just amped me up.”
Both pitchers allowed two runs, and Oberholtzer got by without striking out anyone.
One of the biggest bats the Astros have has finally perked up for a stretch of time. In his last dozen games entering Tuesday, Chris Carter hit .333 with a .380 on-base percentage and a .800 slugging percentage, with six home runs to boot.
Happy birthday, ma.