August 15, 2022

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Risk it for the biscuit: Siri's big gamble pays off 

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PHOENIX — Jose Siri isn’t afraid to take chances. He took two big ones during the Astros’ 2-1 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field on Tuesday night — one that didn’t work out and one that helped win his team the game.

Let’s start with the unsuccessful risk, which came when the game was tied at 1 in the seventh inning. Siri was on first base with one out, and he seemed ready to run. On a 1-2 pitch from D-backs right-hander J.B. Wendelken, Siri broke for second. But the throw from catcher Jose Herrera arrived well ahead of Siri, who never made it to the bag and could not evade the tag.

“I just got a slow jump there,” Siri said through a team interpreter. “But there are going to be other opportunities to run there. [I’m going to] just put it behind me.”

Siri did just that when he next came up to the plate with two outs in the ninth, the game still tied and the Astros needing somebody to spark a rally. He came through, connecting on a 2-2 knucklecurve from right-hander Mark Melancon and dumping the ball over the head of second baseman Ketel Marte into right-center field.

However, it was time for Siri to take another risk.

D-backs right fielder Pavin Smith did a good job of cutting the ball off before it went too deep into the gap, but Siri had already made up his mind that he was heading to second. His speed caused Smith’s throw to be off the mark, which resulted in an easy double for Siri.

After Jose Altuve extended the inning with a walk, Michael Brantley slapped a single into left field that scored Siri and gave the Astros the game-winning run.

This time, Siri’s risk reaped a reward. And the 26-year-old outfielder proved he isn’t afraid to continually take chances.

“If you do something that’s not positive, you can’t look back, you can’t carry it with you,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I don’t know if that’s maturity or if that’s just life — if you’re dwelling on the past, you can’t perform in the present. I’m not worried about what he did in the past, he came up big for us.”

Even if Siri hadn’t been having the best night on the basepaths up to that point, he had made a huge offensive impact already. He was responsible for the Astros’ lone run over the first eight innings, which came on his first home run of the year.

Siri crushed a massive fifth-inning blast off D-backs starter Madison Bumgarner, sending the ball a Statcast-projected 456 feet onto the left-center-field concourse. It left Siri’s bat with an exit velocity of 109.7 mph, his second-hardest hit in 24 big league games.

Before Siri came to bat in the ninth, Brantley said the two had been talking in the dugout about how Siri should be patient against the veteran Melancon. The approach worked. And Brantley came away from the night impressed with not only Siri’s abilities in the batter’s box, but the high-level energy he brings to the team.

“That’s the way he plays. He’s been playing that way since he got here [on] day one,” Brantley said. “He pushes the envelope day in and day out, we all know that.”

Siri, who is Houston’s No. 14-ranked prospect, per MLB Pipeline, has been splitting time in center field with Chas McCormick to open the 2022 season. But he’s making the most of his starts — which are coming against left-handed pitchers — as he is 5-for-11, having reached base seven times in 13 plate appearances with five runs scored.

What has made Siri so successful despite the inconsistent playing time?

“The concentration, first and foremost, that’s the biggest thing,” Siri explained. “Today ended, so now I’ve just got to focus on tomorrow.”

And, of course, his fearlessness to take chances.

“In life,” Siri said, “you’ve got to take risks to win.”

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