Wednesday, September 17, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G152: Astros v. Indians

Carlos Carrasco (7-5, 2.86) vs Brett Oberholtzer (5-11, 4.51)

There's Jose Altuve, and then there's everybody else. Firstly, my apologies to the readers for missing last night's recap, as a family emergency arose, but Altuve did indeed surpass Craig Biggio's club record with his 210th and 211th hits in last night's 4-2 loss. Tonight, Altuve merely notched his 7th multi-hit game in a row, knocking hits #212 and #213 - and he was also the only thing standing between Houston and getting no-hit tonight. A pair of Altuve infield singles and a Jonathan Singleton walk were all the offense that Houston could muster against Carlos Carrasco, so Brett Oberholtzer's solid effort goes for naught and the Astros drop their second straight, by a 2-0 final. They drop to 67-85 with 10 games left in the 2014 season.

On the Mound:

*Brett Oberholtzer was good. Very good. Maybe as good as he's been all season, as this was his longest outing of the year, and he never walked a batter while allowing only 2 runs. It took him just 94 pitches (67 strikes) to make it through 7.2 innings, and the two frames in which Cleveland scored were the only two frames in which he allowed a pair of baserunners. On most any other night, such an effort would be rewarded with a win, but tonight, Carlos Carrasco was just too good (or Houston's offense was just too bad). (Or both.) Obie's line: 7.2 IP / 7 H / 2 R / 2 ER / 0 BB / 3 K.

*Mike Foltynewicz took over for Oberholtzer with a runner on first and two away in the 8th. That runner (Michael Brantley) stole second on Folty's first pitch, but he got Yan Gomes to pop to third on his second pitch, for the third out. Then Folty retired the side in order in the 9th to give Houston the chance at the walk-off win.

At the Plate:

*But no walk-off was gonna happen tonight. There was Jose Altuve (2x4, SB, K), with his infield singles in the 4th and in the 9th.

*And there was Jonathan Singleton (0x2, K), with his one-out walk in the 3rd.

*And that was it for the Astros offense. Altuve made it to second on defensive indifference in the 9th, and to third on a steal and a throwing error in the 4th. And the rest was just silence.

Turning Point:

After holding the Indians hitless through the first 3.2 innings, Carlos Santana finally broke through against Brett Oberholtzer with a double to left on a 2-1 fastball. Obie then managed to get Yan Gomes down 1-2, but Gomes hung in for three more pitches until he got a changeup that he lined to center for a single, which drove Santana home. With Houston's complete absence of offense beyond Altuve tonight, that was the ballgame.

Man of the Match:

Jose Altuve, we love you. <3 <3 <3

Goat of the Game:

Every Other Astro with a Bat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Springer Shut Down For Year

The Astros have announced that George Springer has been shut down for the year. He has been on the DL since July 23 with a strained quad. In his brief time with the team, he was exactly as advertised, striking out a ton, but hitting 20 homers and walking at a solid 11% rate, resulting in a 127 wRC+ for the season, despite a .231 batting average on the year.

Upon his arrival on Weiland Island, he immediately wrested control and redubbed it Springer Island. And so it will be for the remainder of his stay, no matter the lack of a clever rhyme.

Monday, September 15, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G150: Astros v. Indians

Zach McAllister (3-6, 5.97) vs Collin McHugh (9-9, 2.79)

Around the final turn and down the stretch the Astros come, beginning their final homestand of the season with a four-game set against Cleveland at MMP. Tonight was a showcase for two of the brightest stars of 2014's much-improved Houston squad - Jose Altuve (the likely team MVP) and Collin McHugh (the deserving team ROY). Altuve continued his torrid streak since passing 200 hits, tonight adding 3 more and factoring in all 3 Astros runs. McHugh continued his own late-season string of remarkable success, having not allowed more than 2 runs in any start since July, and not having walked a batter in 4+ starts, since he last faced these Indians back on August 23. Count it all up into a 3-1 Houston win, improving the team to 8-4 in September - all against playoff contenders - and 67-83 overall.

On the Mound:

*Doctor McHugh was having himself another great night until his night was ended the way you want to see no pitcher's night ended early - and in this case, that unfortunately does not mean he lost effectiveness. McHugh took a line drive off the left (non-pitching) forearm with two outs and none on in the 7th, but fortunately the early medical returns seem hopeful - only a contusion. Which is good, because hopefully then he'll be healthy enough to make two more starts this season, which just might be enough to push his now 2.66 ERA onto the official league leaderboard. But regardless of leaderboards, it has been a remarkable year for Houston's unlikeliest star, further evidenced tonight as the only run he allowed was unearned following a Marc Krauss error on the attempted first out of the game. The Doctor never allowed more than one hit in any inning, never walked a batter (again), and finished with a 6.2 IP / 5 H / 1 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K line before Lonnie Chisenhall's liner caught him on the inside of the left arm, not far above his glove. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery for McHugh.

*Kevin Chapman got the emergency call to relieve McHugh in the 7th, ending the inning on two pitches, then further recording the first two outs of the 8th (1 K) before leaving after a Michael Brantley single.

*Samuel Deduno's one job tonight was to face Carlos Santana, whom he fell behind 3-1 before retiring him on a liner to right.

*Chad Qualls and his odd hip ailment were not banished to Weiland Island, as he resurfaced tonight for the save situation in the 9th. And Chad was back in his typical not-facing-the-A's form, allowing a two-out single but nothing else, recording his 18th save with 1 K.

At the Plate:

*We're out of superlatives to describe Jose Altuve's offensive prowess anymore. He's just too good, and there's nothing more that can really be said about that. Three more hits tonight put him at 209 for the season - one away from Craig Biggio's club record - and the first of those hits was a 2-run single that put Houston up 2-1 in the 3rd. The third of those hits was a leadoff triple in the 8th, after which he scored the Astros' other run, and pushing his MLB-best average now up to .342 following his 3x4 night.

*Gregorio Petit is still swinging well and went 2x3 tonight, scoring on Altuve's RBI single in the 3rd.

*Mike Bob Grossman likewise scored in the 3rd following his own double, and he finished 1x4 with 2 K.

*Jason Castro had a double and finished 2x3.

*Dexter Fowler went 0x3 with a K, but drove in Altuve in the 8th on a sac fly.

*Handsome Jake Marisnick had the other Houston hit, going 1x3 with a SB and a K.

*Chris Carter went 0x4 with a K and saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end.

Turning Point:

After old friend Michael Bourn scored his unearned run in the 1st, Houston struck back in the 3rd. Matt Dominguez led off with a full-count pop-up in foul territory for the first out, but Gregorio Petit followed with a single to left. Robbie Grossman next doubled, moving Petit up to third and bringing Jose Altuve to the plate. On Zach McAllister's first pitch to Altuve, he singled up the middle and flipped Cleveland's 1-0 lead into a 2-1 hole. With Collin McHugh on top of his game and the bullpen strong in relief, that cinched the series opener for Houston.

Man of the Match:

Co-MotMs to Altuve and McHugh tonight. At this rate, Jose ought to have no trouble smashing Biggio's record tomorrow night.

Goat of the Game:

Lonnie Chisenhall, for the line drive that took out McHugh. But also Marc Krauss - 0x3 with 2 K, and an error on a routine throw from Altuve that led to Cleveland's only run.

From the Office of the County Clerk - G149: Astros at Angels

I talked briefly yesterday about the "long tail" in the Astros lineup, looking specifically at the lack of protection for Chris Carter and Jason Castro (the latter is the formers protection, unfortunately).  The term "long tail" is specifically known to me as a cricketing term.  In cricket, much like baseball, the best hitters / batsmen bat at 3-5, and the worst guys are stashed at the bottom of the order, so I would think the term is essentially interchangeable.  The Astros have had a whole lot of ineffective bats from 5 onward recently.  I also talked about the Astros' recent relative run-drought, averaging 3.11 over their last nine games.

Anyhow, the Angels - heading into this game - had managed to rattle off a 10-game win streak, two games after a six game win streak.  Sixteen of 18 is the impressive overall result since August 26.  In that time, the Angels have managed 8, 6, 4, 4, 2, 8, 3, 1, 5, 7, 8, 14, 12, 9, 8, 7, 11 and 5 runs (the numbers in italics are the runs scored against the Astros in the two games they lost).  All of that adds up to 122 over 18 games, averaging 6.7 runs per game.  The last 10 games (i.e. their current win streak)is powered by a mammoth 86 runs scored by the Angels, with a minimum of five runs scored in a game.

Which makes it even more when considering what Keuchel did today.  He took a perfect game into the sixth, a no-hitter into the seventh, and wound up yielding only one run on a hot California day.  The Astros jumped on the Angels early, Keuchel nailed down the win, and the Astros pen closed it down in a 6-1 victory.  This win gives the Astros a 5-4 road trip through the three contending teams' home parks in a row, and they have gone 11-7 in their last 18, all against the AL West.  The Astros get to 66 wins for the season with thirteen games to go, with the next seven at home against contenders (Indians and Mariners), and the last six against the Rangers and Mets.

A quick note about the AL West.  In the period of time that the Angels have won 16 of 18 (or 16-2), the Athletics have gone 5-13.  The A's recorded seven one run losses in a row (including 2 against Houston).  This has been a stunning late-season turnaround - and along with the Mariners' awesome pitching and the incredible cratering of the 2014 Rangers, the AL West has certainly been the division of surprises and story lines this year.  The Astros are arguably the most unsurprising team in the AL West, despite the fact that they will not pick first in the draft this year for the fourth time in a row (as a lot of pundits were picking).

On the Mound:
Dallas Keuchel is the story, just like he was in Game 45, earlier this year.  Keuchel, as mentioned above, retired the first fifteen in order, eventually losing a perfect game bid on a full-count pitch to Iannetta leading off the sixth (the pitch was actually right on the corner, about where umpires tend to call pitches 50% of the time, and Keuchel did not get the call on this one).  However, Iannetta was promptly erased on a double play, keeping the no-hitter intact.  Mike Trout (who else!) blooped a single into the LF-CF gap in the seventh for the first hit, then he was erased on a double-play by Albert Pujols, so Keuchel faced the minimum through seven despite giving up a hit and a walk.

I remember checking in after four, and seeing Keuchel with the perfect game intact, but sitting at 65 pitches - not quite as bad as Santiago's 82 pitches after 2+.  At that point, I thought that if the perfect game remained intact, that may be the worst thing, as Keuchel would be encouraged to go for it, throwing 200-odd pitches in the process.  The ultimate in pyrrhic victories - Dallas "perfect game" Keuchel has his left arm hanging limply by his side for the rest of his career - so in some ways, I am glad that the walk and a hit eventually occurred, but I wish him all the best for his next go-round.

But what Keuchel did was dominate in hot, exhausting weather.  His eventual line (7+IP, 3H, 1R/ER, BB, 4K on 114 pitches, with 15:2 GB:FB ratio) was a microcosm of his season.  A great WHIP, a low ERA, some nice strikeouts, ground-balling at an amazing rate, but losing effectiveness if he went too much over 100 pitches.  That said, he totally neutered a powerful Angels lineup in impressive fashion, and his ERA now sits at an even 3.00.

Keuchel got some solid glove-work from Jose Altuve in the third when he ranged to his left, spun, and threw out Collin Cowgill; Jesus Guzman in the fifth who dove to his right off a soft liner off the end of the bat; and Matt Dominguez, who hoovered up absolutely everything, and threw accurately all day.  The two double-plays were also impressive.  The D was very helpful today.  No errors!

Anyhow, Keuchel was relieved after allowing a run on a Beckham double to right (just out of the reach of a diving Marisnick), and a Freese hard-single up the middle.  Jose Veras relieved, and he struck out Grant Green on a pitch in the left-hander's batters box, got Iannetta on a weak pop up, and struck out C.J.Cron looking for the final out.  Tony Sipp got the ninth, and he got Cowgill to pop out, walked Calhoun, struck out Shawn O'Malley, and got Pujols to ground to third.

At the Plate:
The Astros worked over Angels starter Hector Santiago in impressive fashion... in every way except the runs column.  The three runs scored off Santiago were nice, but it could have been so much more.

Grossman (2-5, 2B, 2RBI) started by striking out, then Altuve (2-4, BB) hit number-205 deep into the 5.5 hole for a single.  However, he was stuck there for the inning, as the next two hitters went in order.  In the second, Jake Marisnick (3-4, BB, SB, CS) singled to RF leading off (just over the head of Howie Kendrick at second), and Santiago walked Corporan on four straight.  Jesus Guzman (0-5) saw six pitches without taking the bat off his shoulder, striking out on a full count.  Santiago then picked off Marisnick as Dominguez (0-4, BB) then walked on five pitches to put runners at first and second with two outs.  Then Gregorio Petit (2-4, 2B, HR, 3RBI), on a 3-1 count, got a low-and-in-fastball, which he mashed deep into LF for a no-doubt, 2-out, 3-run home run - his second of the season.  Nice piece of hitting - the ball was exactly where Iannetta called for it, and thankfully the Astros managed some runs in the inning.

But the second wasn't finished there (or it was, in terms of scoring).  Robbie Grossman hit a line-drive double into the LF gap, Jose Altuve reached on an IBB, then Dexter Fowler (2-5) struck out looking on a full-count.  Inning mercifully over for the Angels, and they most likely considered themselves lucky to only give up three runs.

Santiago came out for the third, and he immediately gave up a line-drive single to Chris Carter (1-4, BB) to left.  He walked Jake Marisnick on a full-count, and followed suit with Carlos Corporan to load the bases with no outs.  However, two foul outs and a strike out meant that none of Vinnie Pestano's inherited runners scored, and the score stayed at 3-0, Astros.

Fowler then doubled with two outs in the fourth, and Carter walked on a full count before Marisnick struck out looking.  In the fifth, Carlos Corporan walked (his third!), Gregorio Petit doubled to the wall in CF with two outs, and Robbie Grossman drove in two with a soft single to CF, just out of the reach of a leaping Howie Kendrick.  Astros 5, Angels zip.

In the sixth, the Dexter Fowler hit his second double of the game (to RF), before Jake Marisnick singled him home with a hard grounder up the middle with one out.  The Astros went in order in the seventh, Altuve singled in the eighth, but was erased on a double-play, and Marisnick hit a lead-off single in the ninth, but went nowhere.

Ex-stro Wade LeBlanc threw 2.2 scoreless for the Angels.  Perhaps the Astros shouldn't have given up on him so quickly... :-)

Turning Point:
The Astros nearly departed the second inning without scoring any runs.  Hector Santiago allowed a lead off single, then gave up a walk, and things were looking pretty good when Jesus Guzman was sitting 3-0 with no outs.  However, Guzman struck out and Marisnick was picked off, leading to two outs.  Matt Dominguez walked to restore the runners-on-first-and-second thing, but Gregorio Petit was considered at long odds to score them.

Well, Petit showed some teeth.  A long home run, well out in left, on a good pitch scored three runs.  Petit has been very interesting this year.  His line now sits at .275/.296/.449, and he has shown enough to potentially get another look next year as a utility guy.  I would think that Jonathan Villar should start 2015 at short (barring a bad Spring Training), but Petit's presence may allow the Astros to either trade Marwin Gonzalez (who has also had a very solid year), or start Villar at AAA.  Who knows, plenty of water to go under that bridge, but for one it is nice to see the Astros having actual options, not having to pick the best of two bad ones.

Man of the Match:
No shortage of candidates here, so just as well I kept the MoTM from two days ago.  Today, The Battery get the credit.  Keuchel was obviously awesome, but so too was Carlos Corporan, with a great line of his own: 0-2, 3BB, 2K.  Carlos Corporan, master of the Two True Outcomes.

Goat of the Game:
Jesus Guzman was the only Astro who did not get to run the bases - 0-5, 2K, 3 RISP, 8 LOB.

On the Morrow:
The Astros return home to play Cleveland, who impressed when when they last met.  However, Cleveland have scuffled since then, and are very close to being done for the year.

Zach McAllister (3-6, 5.97) versus Collin McHugh (9-9, 2.79)

8 Eastern, 7 Central.

As this was the last West Coast game of the year, this may also be my last game recap for 2014, depending on the extent of Cockroach's post-viral fatigue.  I hope I have kept everyone entertained and engaged, and I have really enjoyed doing some overly wordy descriptive analysis that is unique to Astros County.  I now get to go to work on catching up on the monthly recaps, looking at prospect ages, circulating some more roundtable minutes, and writing about PED's.  Look forward to catching you over the offseason if this is, indeed, my last game recap for the year.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G148: Astros at Angels

The Astros dropped to 4-4 on this road trip, losing to the Angels by a score of 5-2.  The Angels offence at the moment is a ruthless hitting machine - give them an inch, and they will take a mile - and Jered Weaver was on his game from the get-go, making it doubly difficult.  Like yesterday, a single inning (in this case, a three-run inning) accounted for the difference, but the Astros also cannot expect to win many games scoring only a pair of runs.

The only real comment that I have to make prior to starting the game recap is that the Astros seem to have a long tail to their lineup at the moment.  Especially today, when they elected to start Alex Presley in CF (was Dexter benched?) and Gregorio Petit at third (who likely offers more than Matt Dominguez in batting average, but far less in potential power).  So, protecting Chris Carter was Jason Castro (who has not had a good series), and protecting him was... Alex Presley!  Then, Marisnick, Gonzalez, Singleton and Petit.  So, out of the last six spots in the order, only Marwin Gonzalez has an  OBP greater than .300, and Marwin also has the highest slugging percentage, at .390.  Yikes.

This is where losing Springer for the last 50 games really hurts, especially when added to the offensive black holes at first, third and catcher.  I think it is difficult manage long winning streaks when you offence doesn't fire - it means that you rely too much on pitching, and if the starter has a rough day, or the bullpen guy struggles, the game is lost.  So, in September, the Astros have scored 8, 4, 4, 3, 4, 1, 2, 5, 3, and 2 runs, which averages out to 3.6 runs per game.  Remove that 8-run "bust out" on September 2, and you have 3.11 runs per game.  For the sake of comparison, the Angels currently lead baseball in runs per game (4.92), the Astros check in at number 18 (3.95 on the year) and the Padres are the worst team in baseball in terms of runs per game (3.23).

On the Mound:
Scott Feldman is a gritty battler.  He didn't have his best stuff tonight, allowed 9 base runners in 6 innings, and none of the non-Trout base runners got to touch home plate.  His final line was 6IP, 8H, 2R/ER, BB, 5K.  But he allowed two home runs - both solo shots - to Mike Trout in the first inning (fastball away, driving to RF into the third row of the stand above the high wall) and again to Trout in the third inning (low curveball to straightaway CF).  But the Angels left 2 runners in scoring position in the first, had a baserunner erased on a busted hit-and-run in the second, left a base runner sitting on first for three outs in the third and went in order in the fourth.  Mike Trout doubled with one out in the fifth, and advanced to third on a grounder, but he didn't score when Howie Kendrick grounded out to the pitcher.  Feldman ended the sixth with a double play, and his night was mercifully done.  Feldman, again, kept his mob in the game with another quality start against the top offensive team in baseball.

But when he left, things fell apart.  Mike Foltynewicz relieved, and retired Hank Conger on a grounder for the first out.  Collin Cowgill reached on a high chopper off the plate that no play was possible on - a miserable bit of luck for Folty really - and Darin Downs relieved.  Downs sent Cowgill to second on a wild pitch, who then stole third on the next pitch.  Kole Calhoun then walked, and Tom Lawless opted not to go after Mike Trout (thus loading the bases) and hope that Albert Pujols GIDP'd instead.

Veras relieved to induce said GIDP, but he walked Pujols on a full count, scoring a run.  Kendrik then singled on a ball that leaked back on the inner third of the plate, scoring another run.  Erick Aybar grounded out to short to score the third run of the game, and Freese lined out for the final out.  But the damage was done - mostly by Downs and Veras, who walked 3 (1 intentionally) between them.

Kevin Chapman pitched the eighth, and he was solid, allowing a single, then striking out two, both swinging.

At the Plate:
Jered Weaver was nasty to start the game, striking out three in the first two innings pitched.  I was rolling my eyes at this point, thinking that a no-hitter was nearly inevitable, so it was a real surprise when the Astros scored a run (and levelled the game) in the top of the third.  Marwin Gonzalez (1-4) led off with an infield single, the stole second.  Singleton struck out for the first out, and Gregorio Petit (0-2) flied out for the second out.  However, Robbie Grossman (1-4) ambushed Jered Weaver on the first pitch, hitting a hard liner into RF - Calhoun dived for it, but the ball went off his glove, and MarGo scored without a throw to level the game at one-all.

Altuve (2-4) then singled Grossman to second, but Chris Carter (1-4) struck out to end the frame.  Carter also happened to be the next Astros baserunner in the sixth, when he singled to right field against the shift with two outs.  Castro (0-4, 2K) struck out to end the frame.  Alex Presley (0-3, BB) walked to lead off the seventh, Marisnick (1-3) sacrificed, but Gonzalez and Singleton (0-4, 4K) both struck out to end the frame.

The Astros scored their second run in the eighth.  Dexter Fowler, pinch-hitting for Gregorio Petit, led off with a double to RF, and advanced on a flyout to the warning track in right from Grossman.  Jose Altuve then doubled to left over the head of Cowgill off the wall, scoring Fowler.  However, Carter and Castro struck out to end the frame.

And Marisnick singled with one out in the ninth to prolong the agony, but was stranded at second on a Singleton strikeout.

All-in-all, 15 Astros struck out, versus 1 walk.  Jered Weaver did have good stuff, and may have been getting a few calls that the Astros weren't getting.  But 15 strikeouts in 33 at-bats is kind-of-a-lot.  Not quite Domingo-Santana-2014-a-lot, but certainly quite a lot.

Turning Point:
Darin Downs did a great job last time he pitched against the Mariners on the tenth of September.  He faced five batters in two complete innings, striking out 2 and walking one.  Today, he was less good.  He advanced a baserunner to second on a wild pitch, then allowed a stolen base before walking the guy he was facing.  He was called upon to intentionally walk Mike Trout, then Jose Veras relieved with his petrol can and collection of oily rags, and he stoked the fire by issuing a walk, allowing a hard-hit single, and enticing an RBI groundout.  Pity, because the Astros scored what may have been the game-tying run the next inning, had they not been in a 5-1 hole.

That said, Jose Veras didn't have a run credited to his ledger.  He just allowed all three of his inherited runners to score.

Man of the Match:
Lets go with Jose Altuve, who is hitting .338/.375/.449 on the year.  He went 2-4 with a double, earning his 203rd and 204th hit.  Altuve has a mammoth 26-hit lead on Michael Brantley for the most hits in MLB, a 4-point lead on Victor Martinez in the MLB batting average race, and lies third on the majors with 52 stolen bases (and 7 CS) behind Dee Gordon (60 SB versus 17 CS) and Billy Hamilton (55 SB versus 22 CS).  Jacoby Ellsbury in the next on the AL, with 38 SB and 5 CS.

Goat of the Game:
Jon Singleton: 0-4, 4K.  However, kudos to Jon for the improvements in his "D" - nice jumping catch today, and a good block of Petit's desperate throw to get Cowgill in the seventh.

Up Next:
Battle of the lefties...

Dallas Keuchel (10-9, 3.08) versus Hector Santiago (5-7, 3.38)

3.35 Eastern, 2:35 Central.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G147: Astros at LA Angels

Well, this game kind of had everything.  The Astros handsomely outplayed the Angels at the start, then spotted them a couple of runs because... well, I think they felt sorry for them.  Then the Angels totally dominated through the middle, helped considerably by the self-inflicted wounds from the Astros.  Then the game descended nearly entirely into farce, resembling a spring-training game, with the Angels seemingly intent on using all 37 players on their current ML roster, and Tom Lawless using the dregs of the game to get innings for guys that haven't thrown for a while, and at-bats for guys that need them.  Astros lose, 11-3.

There are, I guess, a couple of ways of looking at this for the Astros.  How this all unfolded is embarrassing and sloppy, and they could be derided for it.  Another way of looking at it is that the game is hard, and the Astros have been fairly neat and tidy recently, so a game like this could be seen as a one-off aberration.  Like many things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle, I would say.

But really, the Astros were going toe-to-toe with the hottest team in baseball (and winning!), then totally fell apart.  The defence has been a problem all year - the Astros both make too many errors and convert too few playable balls into outs, so in many ways, they were undone (or at least the unravelling was started) by the weakest part of their game.

Quick note on the Angels.  They have won 14 of their last 16, including a 6-game winning streak, and an 8 game winning streak.  They lost two games in the middle, and those two games were the Sept 2-3 games at Minute Maid Park, immediately prior to this road trip.  The Astros are the only team to beat the Angels in a game in the best part of 3-plus weeks.  The winning record of the Angels recently has been phenomenal, and has all but guaranteed them a spot in the non-one-game-sudden-death section of the playoffs in the hardest division in baseball.  So, the Angels are pretty good, and they deserve a fair chuck of credit for what happened in this game.

On the Mound:
"What could have been..." is the theme of this night.  Brett Oberholtzer took the bump to start, and he retired the Angels in order the first time around, striking out Calhoun, Trout, Kendrick, and Cowgill in the process.  But then what has happened to him all season happened - giving up runs in spots where he shouldn't, and the bats not bailing him out when he is in trouble.

Things went well until the fourth inning happened.  Obie quickly got to 0-2 on Kole Calhoun before the count was worked to 3-2.  Obie seemed to have trouble locating to the third base of the plate, and this at-bat was one example of this.  Anyhow, Calhoun reached out and flicked a single to right, in an impressive bit of 2-strike hitting.  This was followed by a Trout line-drive to deep right that split the gap, allowing Trout to cruise into second, and Colhoun to score easily from first.  The score at this point was 3-1, so the Astros were still looking good.  They looked better when Pujols struck out for the first out of the inning.  They looked worse when Howie Kendrick lined out to CF, Fowler was a little too casual in getting the ball into the infield and Trout, who had tagged from second, scored from third when the ball got away from Villar, the cutoff man.  The error was on Villar, but really it was a team effort with a large assist to Fowler, whose head simply does not seem to be in the game at the moment.  That was the second run of the inning, but at least the bases were clear, and Freese rolled over one to end the inning.

If you think that was bad, stop reading now, because it get a whole lot worse.  In the fifth, Erick Aybar led off with a single past Singleton to RF.  Chris Iannetta then flicked one the other way (against a pretty enthusiastic shift) to have runners on first and second, no outs.  CJ Cron struck out looking - Obie still looked in the game at this point - and the double play was in order, so one ground-ball could have ended the frame.

However, instead of grounding to short or third, Collin Cowgill elected to hit a line drive to the RF gap, but within relatively easy reach of Jake Marisnick.  However, Marisnick entirely bombed the catch - it bounced off the finger-side of his glove as he didn't centre it up properly and as he started to close it a little early.  Aybar scored, Iannetta went to third and Cowgill ended up standing safely at second.

That gave the Angels an extra out, and brought the top of the order up for the third time.  Obie had struggled to locate in the last few innings, as well.  If that is not a recipe for disaster, I am not sure what is.  Anyhow, Colhoun singled up the middle to score both runners - chasing Obie with Jorge De Leon relieving - Trout tripled to the LF gap, Pujols scored him on a sac fly (Marisnick caught this one!!), Kendrick singled and stole second, Freese homered, Aybar singled for the second time in the inning, Iannetta walked, and Cron grounded out for his second out of the inning, ending the frame.  Yikes. A seven run inning on five singles, a walk, a triple, a homer, a crucial error, a stolen base and a wild pitch.  Twelve runners went to the plate, and the outs were made by future HoF lock (on a sac fly) and by C.J. Cron, who made two of them.  Yikes.

Samuel Deduno got the last batter of the fifth, and he stayed on for the sixth.  He allowed two runs of his own on a single, a walk and a double over Fowler's head.  Mike Foltynewicz started the seventh (with most of the Oklahoma City Redhawks behind him by virtue of the plethora of substitutions, and his OKC catcher catching), and he worked around a fielding error (Marc Krauss at first) and a two out single to record a scoreless frame.  The might of the Angels lineup that Folty ripped though included Gordon Beckham, Efren Navarro and Tony Campana.  Told you this game looked like a spring training affair.

Jake Buchanan got the eighth, and he had the choice of pitching to Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick, or John McDonald, Luiz Jiminez and Grant Green.  He chose the latter, and retired them in order, showing that he has a few good spring training innings in his future, too.

At the Plate:
The Astros worked C.J. Wilson over early, to the point where he had thrown 95 pitches after 4 innings.  Not sure what is happening with Wilson at the moment, but he struggled tonight with a bunch of deep counts.  However, he hung in there - or the Astros were unable to get the big hit, whatever your narrative is - and ended up giving up just three runs, despite allowing 10 baserunners in five innings.  Stunningly, he walked away with the win, as he staggered through five innings on 108 pitches.

The Astros loaded the bases in the first when Jose Altuve (2-4) dumped a single into RF.  Fowler (2-4, 2B, SB) followed with a single to RF, then stole second on the first pitch of Chris Carter's (1-2, 2BB) at bat.  That was enough for C.J. Wilson to throw the next three pitches as intentional balls (in the first inning, with one out!), and the bases were loaded.  Castro  (0-4, 3K) struck out then Marisnick (2-4, SB) worked the count to 3-2.  He then hit a nubber out in front of the plate that Iannetta got his feet too close to when trying to pick up, and he tripped over trying to go to first for the force.  Altuve scored, Marisnick reached, and the first run was in.  Matt Dominguez (0-3) popped out to right to end the frame.

In the second, Singleton walked, stole second on Villar's (0-4, 3K) 3-2 strikeout, and scored on Robbie Grossman's (1-5) single up the middle.  Altuve then singled to send Grossman to second, but Fowler flew out and Carter struck out on a full count to end the threat.

In the third, Marisnick singled, but that was all.  In the fourth, Robbie Grossman reached on an Aybar throwing error (successful challenge by Tom Lawless on the tag), then stole second with two outs.  Dexter Fowler then doubled down the RF line, scoring Grossman.  Carter was the recipient of another IBB, but Castro was retired without incident to end that frame.

The next baserunner was Chris Carter on a one-out single in the seventh.  The next baserunner after that happened in the ninth on a Marwin Gonzalez walk and a Presley single (both with one out), but the rest of the side (at this point, L.J. Hoes and Max Stassi) went in order, and the game was mercifully over, just short of the 3:40 mark.

This was very painful from the fourth inning onward.  In addition to this, my broadcast had a weird 20 second delay between the visual component, and the commentary.  Not sure whether you other online viewers experienced the same, but it was annoying after initial amusement.

Turning Point:
Fifth inning, one out, runners on first and second, Astros holding a slender 1-run lead.  Collin Cowgill is the last batter before the lineup turns over.  He lined it toward the RF gap, and Marisnick and Fowler converge.  Marisnick perhaps hears Fowler's footsteps, perhaps not, but he drops the ball, the runners all advance two bases, and the floodgates open.  Thirty minutes later, the inning ends and the Astros are trailing by six.  Yikes.

Man of the Match:
The Astros started well, but were sloppy all night.  I am taking the MoTM trophy, and stashing it in my desk drawer so that I can give it to two Astros on the days they deserve it.

If you don't like that, then I think I will have to nominate Mike Trout.

Goat of the Game:
No shortage of worthy winners for this one.  Jonathan Villar and Jason Castro both went 0-4, 3K, the former with an error as well.  Matt Dominguez went 0-3, K.  Jorge De Leon gave up 3ER in 0.1 innings of work.  Obie, after dominating the first time through the order, forgot how to locate to the 3B side of the plate.  Sam Deduno poured petrol on the fire by giving up two earnies of his own.

I remember when Bo Porter first got hired prior to the 2013 season.  He, apparently, emphasised fundamentals.  It is painful watching the Astros in games like tonight.  None of them - aside from Marisnick and Villar 70% of the time - are above-average defenders, but making dumb errors, missing catches, lobbing throws in from the outfield, missing cutoff men and not gloving routine grounders gets really grating after a while.  Three errors tonight, and not many memorable plays made on D either.  This could keep them from being a .500 club next year if it isn't sorted out by then.

Up Next:
Scott Feldman (8-10, 3.99) versus Jered Weaver (16-8, 3.58)

10 Eastern, 9 Central.