The Houston Astros went through it all Saturday against the Oakland Athletics. After being no-hit for six innings, the Astros somehow fought back against the A’s bullpen. The offense came alive for the final three innings, tagging Oakland for eight hits and 10 total runs. They couldn’t even manage a hit for most of the contest, and still came back to win the game 10-6.
While that was incredible, it wasn’t even the most unlikely thing to happen to Houston during the game. In the top of the ninth inning, the Astros actually ran out of position players!
Allow us to explain. As the Astros mounted a comeback, manager A.J. Hinch started burning through his reserves. Brian McCann and Marwin Gonzalez were used as pinch hitters in the sixth inning, and Josh Reddick replaced Carlos Beltran as a pinch runner in the eighth.
With the team carrying 13 pitchers, they had already blown through all their position players. But the moves had worked, and the Astros led the contest 8-6 entering the ninth inning.
That’s when disaster struck. Carlos Correa was hit in the wrist by a pitch and had to be removed from the game. With no position players available, Hinch turned to starting pitcher Mike Fiers as his pinch runner. X-rays on Correa’s wrist came back negative after the game, so it appears the Astros dodged a major bullet there.
Still, the team still needed to take the field in the bottom of the ninth. Now out of position players, many wondered how Hinch would successfully navigate the situation. He figured it out, and it led to one of the weirdest baseball pictures we’ve ever seen.
You’ll note a few things there. First off, everyone is listed as No. 42 because it’s Jackie Robinson Day. Second, you’ll notice that the Astros left the ninth spot of their lineup blank. You’ll also notice that no DH is listed. Last time we checked, the Astros played in the American League, so what the heck happened?
It’s rare, but American League teams can choose to “forfeit” the DH position. That’s exactly what Hinch did here. Alex Bregman moved over from third to short to cover for Correa. Gonzalez moved from first to third, taking Bregman’s old spot. Reddick played first base for the first time in his career to fill in for Gonzalez.
Fiers, who had replaced Correa as a pinch runner in the top of the frame, was replaced by Luke Gregerson. Gregerson remained in the fourth spot, however, which is why you see the pitcher listed as the clean up hitter above.
By doing this, Hinch gave up the DH spot. Had Oakland come back and tied things up, the Astros would have had to play the rest of the game like a National League team. Their pitchers would have had to step up to the plate and take at-bats.
That didn’t happen, obviously. The Astros went on to win, and Hinch avoided having to throw an inexperienced pitcher out in left field. His methods may have been unconventional, but that seems fitting considering all Houston had to overcome to pull this one out.
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