Astros 7, Giants 6 (12). San Francisco started Mark Davis, who has to be one of the least-impressive pitchers ever to win a Cy Young award (89 career ERA+, 7.3 WAR). Houston countered with one of the best pitchers who never won a Cy, one Lynn Nolan Ryan.
San Francisco took the lead in the top of the first when Bob Brenly walked and Gene Richards and Al Oliver singled him around. Bill Doran led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but was caught stealing second. Joel Youngblood started the top of the second with a hit and was bunted up one base, but was then thrown out trying to take third on an insufficiently wild pitch, and the Astros got on the board in the bottom of the inning when Jose Cruz tripled and came home on a pitch that did escape far enough for safe advancement. Jerry Mumphrey then singled, Terry Puhl hit into a force, and Mark Bailey doubled Puhl home for a 2-1 lead.
Ryan retired the Giants in order in the third, and the Astros piled on in the bottom of the inning. Doran led off with a walk, and Phil Garner's one-out single moved him to third. Cruz then singled in a run, and Mumphrey doubled in another, chasing Davis from the mound in favor of Bob Lacey. Puhl was intentionally walked to load the bases, Bailey hit an RBI groundout, and Craig Reynolds singled Mumphrey home, augmenting the lead to 6-1.
The Giants began chipping away at the lead in the fourth, starting with the quintessential Nolan Ryan run: Jeffrey Leonard drew a leadoff walk, stole second, and came around to score on a pair of groundouts. After Lacey threw a spotless bottom of the fourth, a Dan Gladden triple and a Brenly single brought San Francisco another run closer in the fifth. Lacey tossed another 1-2-3 inning, and the Giants completed the comeback in the top of the sixth. Leonard and Al Oliver started the inning with singles, and Manny Trillo reached on a Reynolds error to load the bases with nobody out. Youngblood singled home a pair of runs. Johnnie LeMaster flied out, moving Trillo to third, and pinch hitter Duane Kuiper grounded out to bring him home with the tying run.
Frank Williams allowed a Reynolds single and a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth, but stranded the runner at second. Dave Smith relieved Ryan in the seventh and allowed hits to Richards and Leonard, but Oliver and Brad Wellman grounded out to end the inning. Enos Cabell led off the bottom of the inning by reaching second on a single-and-error, but Williams and Gary Lavelle combined to leave him there. Smith was flawless in the eighth; Greg Minton allowed a single-and-steal in the bottom of the inning, but Doran struck out to strand Denny Walling (who had hit into a force after Reynolds singled) at second.
Frank DiPino took the mound in the top of the ninth, and Gladden greeted him with a single. Brenly laid down a bunt, and the Astros tried and failed to get the force at second, but DiPino eventually recovered to strand both runners. Cabell led off the bottom of the inning with a single of his own, made it to second on a bunt and took third on an intentional walk followed by a forceout. Minton then issued a second intentional walk before retiring Bailey to send the game into extras.
DiPino walked Wellman to start the tenth, then retired the next three hitters. Minton allowed singles to pinch hitter Jim Pankovits and Doran in the bottom of the inning, putting runners at the corners with one out. The golden opportunity was promptly squandered when Pankovits was caught stealing home. Bill Dawley allowed a Brenly single in the eleventh, then left him on; Mumphrey doubled with two outs in the bottom of the inning and was also stranded.
Dawley retired the Giants in order in the top of the twelfth, and Mark Calvert replaced Minton in the bottom of the inning. Reynolds greeted the newcomer with a double. Dawley bunted, and the Giants went for the lead runner; they failed to get him, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Doran was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Cabell hit into a force at home, but Garner then singled Dawley home with the winning run.
Both starters had a rough time of it in this one, giving up six runs apiece - and both bullpens were really good, with Houston's relief corps throwing six scoreless innings and the Giant firemen lasting a full nine before giving up a run. The difference was that San Francisco had to yank its starter so early that they burned through their front-line relievers before the Astros did, and Houston was able to pounce on Mark Calvert (who threw less than 70 total innings in his two big league seasons) as soon as the Giants were forced to use him.
Turns out, it's helpful to have your starter make it past the third inning. Who knew?