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Martin Maldonado tosses an inning of 5-hit ball as he became latest Astros position player to pitch

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Yes, there is a striking parallel that the Little League World Series, which has had a handful of mercy-rule endings already, and Thursday’s 17-1 rout of the Astros has happened about the same time.

Fortunately, style points, or the lack thereof, aren’t doled out for embarrassing 16-run defeats.

Unfortunately, the Astros erased any gains it got from the two wins against the Red Sox on Monday and Tuesday with back-to-back losses to Boston on Wednesday and Thursday. As a result, Houston entered a mathematical tie with Seattle, a game and a half behind the Texas Rangers for the American League West lead.

Starter JP France gave up 10 runs on 11 hits through two and one-third innings, placing the Astros in a deep hole that the team obviously didn’t get out of.

But an important byproduct of Thursday’s game was the rare move manager Dusty Baker pulled, especially for an Astros team that has been consistently competitive for the last eight seasons.

In the ninth inning, after Brandon Bielak and Rafael Montero pitched in relief, and with Houston trailing 13-1, Baker trotted out catcher Martin Maldonado, not to take Thursday’s starting catcher Yanier Diaz’s place behind the plate, but to take the mound.

Maldy became a pitcher, seen unofficially as a sign of surrender and a move to avoid taxing the bullpen even further, which is the most common reason for position players pitching.

He got through his inning but not before giving up five hits – including a two-run home run – and no strikeouts. He finished with an earned run average of 36.00. Yikes.

The game got ABC13 Sports digging into the record books for the Astros’ most recent position players pitching. Here’s some of what we found, including one ‘Stro who did it four times in one season.

Bligh Madris, July 7, 2023: Normal position: rightfielder, first baseman. The now-former ‘Stro threw 11 pitches in the ninth inning against Seattle, allowing a home run and a walk.

Robel Garcia, June 29, 2021: Normal position: infielder. Now out of baseball, Garcia came in the last frame of a 9-3 game against Baltimore. He gave up five hits, including two home runs, ending his inning of work by allowing four more runs scored.

Tyler White and Max Stassi, June 26, 2019: Normal positions: first baseman and catcher, respectively. The appearance was one of four pitching stints during this season for White, who yielded two home runs and six earned runs against Pittsburgh on 38 pitches. He ironically needed another position player to relieve him: Stassi, who threw five pitches to just one batter to close the ninth inning.

Bonus

Martin Maldonado, April 30, 2014: Normal position: catcher. So, this wasn’t an appearance for the Astros, but this was when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. That’s right. This was the last time Maldy came into a game in relief before Thursday. He threw 15 pitches and allowed just one hit in a scoreless ninth inning of a rout for his team.

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