Cody Clark on his first major league start
Everything was in place for a storybook ending.
Cody Clark was at the plate. Bases loaded, two outs, team trailing 2-1 in the last of the ninth with the Astros catcher seeking his first major league hit, and possibly a win to go with it.
It didn’t happen. Toronto closer Casey Janssen deflected the ball hit up the middle by Clark to second baseman Ryan Goins, who threw to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion for the game’s final out, ending the Houston threat after the Blue Jays scored twice in the top of the ninth.
“If Janssen doesn’t reflect that ball it’s probably a game-winning, two-RBI single, his first major league hit and everybody in the clubhouse would feel a lot different,” said Astros manager Bo Porter.
Toronto’s 2-1 comeback win deprived the Astros of their first home series sweep this season and negated the outstanding pitching performance of Houston starter Dallas Keuchel, who allowed only four hits in seven scoreless innings. It did make a winner of Mark Buehrle (10-7), who allowed only one run and seven hits in eight innings.
“I wish I could have gotten that hit in the ninth,” said Clark, who was making his first start in the major leagues after being called up from Double A Corpus Christi on Friday. “Other than that I thought it went pretty well until the ninth. We couldn’t hold on to it in the ninth.
“I hadn’t worked with Lo before. Next time we’ll get it done.”
Chia-Jen Lo came in relief of Josh Fields in the ninth inning trying to protect a one-run lead and going for his second save in as many days. Command was an issue for Lo (0-2), who walked three batters in his 1/3 of an inning. Lo walked pinch hitter Munenori Kawasaki with the bases loaded, allowing Brett Lawrie to tie the game.
Kevin Chapman replaced Lo and got Goins to ground out for the second out, but pinch runner Anthony Gose scored the go-ahead run.
The Astros had loaded the bases in the ninth on a two-out walk to pinch hitter Jason Castro, a single past short by Jonathan Villar, followed by a walk to pinch hitter Brett Wallace.
That set the stage for what Clark and the Astros were hoping would be a walk-off win in dramatic fashion. But Janssen had other ideas.
“I just knew I was going to get a hit. He just made a nice play and got his glove on it,” said Clark, who believes if Janssen doesn’t get a glove on it, the ball may go through to the outfield. “I asked some guys, they said, they think it gets through. Maybe somebody dives for it, but I think it’s a hit.”
In his fifth-inning at-bat, Clark was robbed of a hit by shortstop Jose Reyes, who made a diving catch in the hole. Clark got payback when he threw out Reyes trying to steal second in the eighth inning. The 31-year-old Clark, who spent 11 years in the minor leagues and who is in his first stint in the majors, was 2-for-2 throwing out runners. He easily threw out Kevin Pillar in the fifth inning.
“It was good to go out there and play well and to see Dallas throw so well is really neat,” said Clark, who was 0-for-4. “I’m upset we didn’t get the win, but it was fun to be out there.”
Clark left 28 passes for family and friends, including his 94-year-old grandfather C.L., who flew in on Sunday from Arkansas.
Despite the tough loss, the Astros are 6-6 over their last 12 games, and Saturday’s win clinched their first series win at home since winning two of three from Milwaukee June 18-20.
Matt Dominguez scored Houston’s lone run on a second-inning double play hit by Jake Elmore. The Astros had loaded the bases with no outs, but Buehrle limited the damage to one run.
Villar tied a career high with three hits. Robbie Grossman went 2-for-4 and extended his hitting streak to a career-long 12 games