Tuesday, August 26, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G133: Astros v. Athletics

Jason Hammel (1-5, 6.75) vs Dallas Keuchel (10-9, 3.12)

Chris. Carter. Is. A. BOSS. No man in the Majors had more than Carter's 18 home runs since July 1. Only three men in the Majors - Nelson Cruz (34), Giancarlo Stanton (33), and Jose Abreu (33) - had more than Carter's 31 home runs overall. Add one to both columns for cHRis tonight, and in so doing, add one to the win column for the Astros too. On one mighty swing in the bottom of the 8th, Carter turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 triumph, and the win is #56 of the season for Houston - tying their 2011 total and surpassing 2012, with 29 games left to go.

On the Mound:

*Unlike last night, when the pitching advantage clearly tipped in Oakland's favor, Dallas Keuchel was every bit as effective as Jason Hammel tonight. It was defense that had made the difference in the score - Keuchel's own error in the 1st led to an unearned run, while Jonny Gomes saved two runs for Hammel (and robbed Chris Carter) on a diving catch in the 3rd. Apart from that, Kid Keuchy was his typical dependable self, turning in his fifth quality start in his last six games, on a 7 IP / 5 H / 2 R / 1 ER / 3 BB / 3 K line. 118 pitches, 72 for strikes, and a typically extreme 17:2 GB:FB ratio.

*No Goatpen action tonight, as Josh Fields pitched a perfect 8th.

*Then staked to a lead, Chad Qualls came on and earned his 15th save for a perfect 9th with 1 K.

At the Plate:

*CHRIS CARTER. Homered for the second night in a row, for the 11th time in August, and the 19th time since July 1 - tonight another typical monster shot onto the train tracks in left. He should have had Houston in the lead even before the 8th, too, as he stroked a sinking liner to left with runners on second and third in the 3rd that seemed destined to become a 2-run double - but that's where diving Jonny Gomes came in. But no matter, Astros won anyway, and cHRis finished 1x4 with 2 K and 3 RBI.

*Dexter Fowler was responsible for Houston's other run, also on a home run, knocking a solo shot to right leading off the 4th, for his 8th HR of the year. Dexter ended up 1x4.

*Jose Altuve was 1x3 with a double, and a HBP preceding Carter in the 8th that also gave him a run scored.

*Robbie Grossman was 0x4, but reached on an error preceding Carter in the 8th, and therefore also scored once.

*Marwin Gonzalez went 1x3, Jon Singleton (0x2, 2 K) had a walk, and that was it for Houston's offense. So thank God for Chris Carter.

Turning Point:

CHRIS CARTER. Marc Krauss grounded out on Luke Gregerson's first pitch of the 8th, then two pitches later, Grossman reached on a missed catch by Oakland 1B Stephen Vogt. Gregerson's next pitch hit Altuve, then on a 1-1 fastball, CHRIS CARTER happened.

Man of the Match:

CHRIS CARTER. But Dallas Keuchel was pretty boss, too.

Goat of the Game:

For the second night in a row, Houston's 5-9 hitters (except Marwin) were held collectively hitless (0x11, BB, HBP). Castro & Co. gotta pick it up.

Monday, August 25, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G132: Astros v. Athletics

Jeff Samardzija (3-3, 4.07) vs Scott Feldman (7-9, 4.37)

Much like the last 4 games, the Astros couldn't manage much offense - only once now in 5 games have they scored more than twice, and that once took the gift of 4 unearned 9th-inning runs on Friday. Unlike the last 4 games, at least the bullpen made sure it didn't feel like another near miss... I guess? Scott Feldman pitched well through the 7th, Chris Carter gave Houston hope in the 8th, but the Goatpen struck back in the 9th to keep that hope short-lived. Since tying their 2012 win total, the Astros lose their third straight, tonight by an 8-2 final. They drop to 11-12 in August, and 55-77 overall.

On the Mound:

*Jeff Samardzija won the pitching duel tonight - that much is clear. But Scott Feldman still did rather well himself, in spite of 3 runs allowed. Those 3 runs came on 2 pitches - a Josh Donaldson 2-out double down the left field line in the 3rd, and a Josh Reddick 2-run line drive homer to right in the 4th. Feldman threw 104 pitches total - 71 for strikes - with an extreme 12:2 GB:FB ratio, and finished with his 5th quality start in his last 6 games. Not a bad day at all, and overall an excellent job of keeping his team in the game: 7 IP / 7 H / 3 R / 3 ER / 1 BB / 5 K.

*Josh Fields hit Josh Donaldson with an 0-2 changeup starting the 8th, then Dexter Fowler made a great running catch on Stephen Vogt for the first of three straight outs (1 K).

*The Astros finally got on the board in the bottom of the 8th, pulling within 3-2, and so they turned to trusty Tony Sipp for the 9th. But tonight, this night, Tony couldn't throw a damn strike. Four batters faced, four walks issued, four earned runs allowed.

*Jose Veras then was given an impossible situation by Sipp - bases loaded, no outs, and one run already in. He started okay, getting Alberto Callaspo to fly out not deep enough to let a run in, but a Josh Donaldson double plated two to make it 6-2 A's. After a Stephen Vogt K, Derek Norris singled to plate two more, finally closing the book on Tony Sipp's infinitely forgettable night. A Brandon Moss K then closed Veras' book, but with 1 R and 2 H charged to his ledger.

At the Plate:

*First of all, huzzah for cHRis Carter, or else we'd be discussing another Astros shutout. On a 2-out, 0-2 fastball in the 8th, Chris took Jeff Samardzija deep to right for his 31st HR of the season. He finished 1x4 with a K.

*The Astros have a 3-game losing streak, but Jose Altuve has a 3-game hitting streak (after back-to-back 0-fers), singling and scoring on Carter's home run, finishing 1x4.

*Marwin Gonzalez was the only Astro to really have Oakland pitching figured tonight, going 3x4 with 2 2B from the 6-spot, but no other Astro batting 5-9 had any hits at all.

*Robbie Grossman and Dexter Fowler each went 1x4 with a K apiece.

*Jonathan Singleton was the only Astro to work a walk, which he did twice, finishing 0x2.

Turning Point:

The Astros didn't actually have that many scoring opportunities, leaving only one man on second (Marwin Gonzalez in the 2nd) and one man on 3rd (Marwin again in the 9th). So in spite of the Goatpen's latest 9th-inning implosion, this one was really decided in the 4th. Derek Norris grounded out, Brandon Moss singled to left, then Josh Reddick hit his line drive home run to right. That paired with Oakland's run from an inning earlier gave them the winning margin.

Man of the Match:

Marwin Gonzalez. Nice night for Marwin, but no offense ahead or behind him meant that it didn't amount to anything.

Goat of the Game:

Tony Sipp. Because damn.

From the Office of the County Clerk - G131: Astros at Indians

The Astros had a chance to record a winning road trip and not lose a series on their latest jaunt through Boston, New York and Cleveland earlier today.  However, the Indians pitching did what the Indians pitching has been doing recently, and the Astros were restricted to one single run.  The Indians got to Brett Oberholtzer in three separate innings and they managed three runs in total, so the Astros lost by a score of 3-1.

I just want to say something about the Indians starters.  The Associated Press has reported via various websites that the Indians starters have allowed 15 earned runs in their last 79 innings, which is pretty good.  Fangraphs reports that the Indians have used six starters in August, and they combined for 2.9 WAR prior to this game.  That doesn't sound like much, but with a few games left in August, and remembering that the Astros led the AL in starting pitching WAR in May (with 3.2), it is fair to say that the Indians starters are having a good month.  I complimented their bullpen yesterday (they ran out the B-grade setup guys today, who were still pretty darn good), so their pitching is certainly their strength.

I will keep writing about the Indians pitching if this blog changes its name to IndianReservation.com or something, but because it is called Astros County, lets switch our attention back to our beloved 'stros.

On the Mound:
Getting the start was Brett Oberholtzer, who has been solid but unspectacular in his last 10 or so starts.  Obie threw 103 pitches, and recorded a quality start, yielding a 6.2IP, 10H, 3R/ER, 6K line.

In the first, Obie forced Bourn on a bunt attempt in a really nice defensive play between he an Jon Singleton.  He allowed a one-out single, the runner went to second on a one-out sacrifice, but the inning ended without further problem.  In the second, Trevor Holt reached on an infield single: he hit a ground ball back to Obie who thought he had in his glove, then he realised he didn't before locating the ball on the ground and trying to get the out at first.  Obie's throw got past Singleton and Trevor Holt was not interested in advancing any, but he got second base when the ball dribbled into the camera-well.  The Astros gifted the Indians a second free-out of the inning, with a one-out fielder's choice to third (Dominguez tried to catch the runner off second but was waaaay late for the tag), but Obie buckled down and retired the side with two strikeouts.

In the third, Bourn bunted to Dominguez at third (really more of a check-swing), then went to third on Jose Ramirez's double with no outs (which bounced off the wall, just over Krauss' glove).  A one-out sac-fly scored Bourn - nice throw from Marisnick was in time, but just on the first-base side of home plate.  Ramirez was TOOTBLAN'd at home on what was scored as a fielder's choice to end the frame after Obie threw a pitch in the dirt and it got away from Corp.  Ramirez tried to come home, but was toast when Corp recovered the ball on the third base line and tagged him.  Ramirez also left the baseline to avoid the tag - he was fully a fifth of the way to the mound at one stage - so I would think he would be called out regardless.

In the fourth, the Indians scratched another run across with two consecutive two-out hits: an Avila double and a Chisenhall single.  In the fifth, Obie allowed a two-out single to CF, and in the sixth, he (finally) managed to retire the side in order.

In the seventh, the game kind of got away - you got the feeling at that point that the Astros were not going to come back.  Chisenhall singled to RF to start the frame, and he was balked to second when Singleton came off the bag and started to walk to the mound prior to Oberholtzer's throw-over.  Chisenhall was then sacrificed to third, and a Bourn groundout straight back to the pitcher made it two outs with a runner at third.  However, Jose Ramirez - who had a fantastic series for the Indians - squeaked a two-out single just out of the reach of a diving Gonzalez to score Chisenhall, and after a Kipnis single to LF, Obie's night was done with runners on first and second.

Folty relieved, and he moved the runners up on a wild pitch, then walked Carlos Santana to load the bases.  But then he struck out the next four batters in a row to complete the pitching effort for Houston.  His strikeouts?  Check swing on an 83 mph slider, 0-2 count; 98mph fastball on a 1-2 count, down and in to a lefty; check-swing on an 2 mph slider on a 1-2 count and a 98mph elevated fastball on a 1-2 count.  Excellent!

At the Plate:
In the first, Jose Altuve (2-5) reached on an infield single, when Ramirez's throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, but the rest of the side went in order despite an Altuve steal of second.  Marc Krauss (1-4) was the final out of the inning - the first of two times that Trevor Holt robbed him in RF with diving catches on line drives.  In the second, Singleton (1-3, BB) worked a lead-off walk, then was cut down stealing second on a Marwin Gonzalez (0-3) K.  Corp (1-1, 2BB) then singled through the right side, but Dominguez (0-2) went down swinging on ANOTHER slider down-and-away.

In the third, Robbie Grossman (1-5) hit a long double to RF that bounced off the wall about 2 feet below the yellow-line, but he was stranded after two groundouts.  In the fourth, Bauer started by striking out Krauss and Singleton, then he hit Marwin Gonzalez with a pitch and walked Corp, but Dominguez struck out looking on a beautifully placed 96mph fastball down and away on a 1-2 count.  The next baserunner was a Fowler (1-5) single leading off the second, but he watched as Krauss was robbed in RF again, and Singleton and Gonzalez struck out.

When Bauer walked Corp to start the seventh (shortly after Corp nearly took him deep - the play was reviewed, but the ball was ruled foul after a reply - the Indians commentary team thought it was fair), he was pulled.  Atchison relieved, and he enticed Castro (who was 0-2, pinch hitting for Dominguez) into a GIDP, then allowed a single to Marisnick (2-4), but struck out Grossman for the third out.

The Astros' only run came in the eighth.  Marc Krauss was finally rewarded for his hard-hit balls with a single to left (through where a conventional shortstop would be playing), and he scored on a Singleton ground ball through a mostly-vacant left side.  He was sent home just before Aviles (sadly miscast as an outfielder) threw the throw home up the first base line.  In the ninth, the Astros threatened to make some noise after Carter walked with no outs, Marisnick singled with one out, and Altuve singled with two outs to load the bases.  However, Cody Allen managed to strike Dexter Fowler out on a fastball up-and-away (Fowler was a little late on it) and the rally was suffocated.

Turning Point:
The Astros were actually a little unlucky at times in this game.  Additionally, the game was close enough that a couple of bounces the other way could have led to a totally different result.  I thought that the turning point, however, was a bit of a TOOTBLAN.  Jon Singleton walked to open the second, and Marwin Gonzalez struck out.  Now Singleton is fast for a big guy, but not that fast, and when he slid into second, the ball had been waiting for him for about a second.  Carlos Corporan then singled, so perhaps a different outcome on the steal attempt or strikeout would have led to an inning with some scoring for once.

If this turning point does not suit you, then choose either the Grossman long double that hit just below the line, the Krauss near-catch in left on the Ramirez double, or the Corporan foul ball / near home run.

Man of the Match:
Lets go with either Folty (1.1IP, 4K) or Jake Marisnick (2-4)

Goat of the Game:
Matt Dominguez looks disinterested at the moment.  He is putting in bad at-bats and is making mental mistakes in the field (like the fielder's choice today).  He looks tired or pissed off to me.  He went 0-2, 2K today to lower his line to .225/.264/.347 on the year.

On the bright side, he represents an excellent bounce-back candidate for next year.  Always a silver lining...

Up Next:
The Astros head home to take on the A's, who have gone off the boil a bit lately.

Scott Feldman (7-9, 4.37) versus Jeff Samardzija (5-10, 3.27)

8 Eastern, 7 Central.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Note About Astros County

Many of you have been loyal readers of Astros County since I started the blog almost six years ago. We have been through a lot together: a lot of team losses, four managers, countless INTERGRITY columns and jokes, I personally have moved three times (Cooperstown to Nashville to Texas) and added a daughter to the roster. Astros County has been one of the most fun hobbies I ever could have pursued.

You have probably realized by now that there just isn't as much content here as there had been for the previous five and a half years. This isn't a knock - at all - on the other Deputies of Astros County; They're adults with full-time jobs, families, and social lives, too. 

Things are a little different now, though. For 12 years I worked in museums and museum education. But this summer i had a crisis of conscience and packed up my wife and kid to return to Texas and teach high school history at a school where 91% of the students are on free and reduced lunch. 

So we're in a transition period now. In my previous jobs, I have had the flexibility to add a post in the middle of the day, or head home for a day game, or obsessively follow the draft with the promise that I'll come in to work over the weekend. I could always get done what I needed to get done and still try to maintain The Brand. I could be a card-carrying Rovellian. 

Obviously in my new job, I'm not going to stop a class on the Renaissance to see what's happening with the Astros - no matter how appealing that may be. For the last couple of weeks I've been in teacher in-service, and just haven't been able to keep up with the team at a level that was fairly commonplace before. Any tweets you saw from the AC account came from the bathroom (no joke). 

I guess I'm asking you to bear with Astros County. We will not shut it down, we just need some time to figure out how it'll look in the future, and how I can write about the Astros and, you know, be a good teacher. We will produce #content and increase the reach of our #brand, it may just take a little time...

Hugs and kisses,
The Constable


From the Office of the County Clerk - G130: Astros at Indians

Frick on a stick... the Indians have some serious pitching talent.  For the second straight day, they threw out a starter (Danny Salazar) who pumps gas in the mid- to high-90's and has serious strikeout stuff.  And that is without even mentioning the 'pen, which has a hard-harder-hardest feel to it - kind of like the Astros' bullpen in 2003-2004, before the Dotel trade.  I know the Astros touched the 'pen up a little last night, but that was with the assistance of errors galore, and you kind of get the feeling that if the Indians are ever in a late-inning grind, they are perfectly comfortable just throwing relievers with a 1-point-something ERA and no clear platoon splits onto to the mound.  Or, at least, that is the way it looks from the last two games.

Regardless, we got to see the Indians pitching in full flight tonight - this time supported by adequate defence - and the result was a 3-2 Astros loss, with the winning runs coming in the bottom of the ninth.  Collin McHugh was solid, and the Astros worked around baserunners in scoring position in the throughout the game to remain in the contest.  But it was the Indians who prevailed with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth, with Jake Buchanan recording the loss, the third of his career.

Regardless, the point needs to be made that the Astros, with yesterday's win, secured a .500 road-trip record against the Champs (not for much longer, however), and two other contending teams.  The Astros are missing two major bullpen pieces and George Springer, who was having a nice wee season until his quad difficulties.  While this is nothing to celebrate on its own, it is a marker of progress, and progress is what we needed to see in 2014 after a miserable three years.  Things are about to get a little harder as the Astros now have to run the AL West gauntlet between now-ish and mid-September, so it will be interesting to see whether the Astros finish strong  (á la 2012) or fade (á la 2013).

To the recap!

On the Mound:
Collin McHugh has been solid since his blister problems have resolved, but he has not quite managed the 14-K dominance of his first few starts.  That said, he has been a serious find off the waiver-wire scrapheap this year - the kind of find that teams can only really dream about once in a while - and he looks to have some serious potential after he made some tweaks to his delivery, and stopped throwing a sinker.

He had a good night tonight, but he continues to have to work around a number of baserunners which, in turn, elevates his pitch count, and means that he cannot go deep into the game often.  Tonight he managed five-and-one-third of an inning, throwing 109 pitches, allowing 8 hits, 1 walk, striking out two, and allowing 2 runs which were both earned.  It is another gritty performance from him, and his ERA stands at 3.02 as a result of todays efforts.  He has managed nearly 120 innings this year thus far, so it will be interesting to see how far the Astros push him.

McHugh allowed a lead-off single in the first to Michael Bourn, but he was stuck at first as McHugh induced two fly-outs and a strikeout.  In the second, it looked like he would have runners on the corners with two outs, but Jake Marisnick gunned Lonnie Chisenhall down at third from RF.  In the third, McHugh got two quick outs, then allowed a double, an RBI single, a single, a walk to load the bases, then a line-out to short to allow a solitary run that cut the Indians deficit in half.  In the fourth, the Indians tied the game on a single, single, sac-bunt, RBI groundout, fly-out sequence.  McHugh retired the side in the fifth, and he got the first batter of the sixth (Zach Walters) on a pop-up to end his night.

Kevin Chapman relieved, and he retired every batter he faced (6) by inducing three ground-outs and a pop-out while striking out two.  He was relieved by Jose Veras, who promptly walked Carlos Santana, induced a fielder's choice (the runner was safe on an Altuve throwing error), another fielder's choice (runner out at home on another excellent Marwin Gonzalez play) and a strikeout.  Buchanan relieved to start the ninth, and that proved to be a bad move.  A lead-off single, sac-bunt, walk, wild pitch (runners advance) single sequence ended the game with one out, and Buchanan wore the loss.  He hadn't pitched for a week, so some of that may have been rust, but he looked like he was struggling to command his pitches.  The walk off hit was on a 3-2 pitch that caught the middle of the plate, and was driven over the head of the third baseman.

The Astros staff did well to work around baserunners all night, but it eventually was going to bite them, and it did so before extra innings started.

At the Plate:
Danny Salazar was dominant, striking out seven in six innings pitched, and allowing only five baserunners (3 hits and two walks).  The Indians 'pen allowed one further baserunner (on a walk) and the Astros offence - missing Jon Singleton and Matt Dominguez - was dominated.  That they managed two runs was a credit to some clutch hitting and a throw from the outfield that went all the way to the backstop - another Indians error that benefitted the Astros.

Robbie Grossman (1-3, BB) opened the game by singling to CF, but he was promptly erased on a Jose Altuve (1-4, RBI) GIDP.  Chris Carter had another rough night (0-4, 3K), and he recorded the third out of the first inning with his only non-K out of the night (a pop up).  In the second, the Astros went in order.  In the third, Marwin Gonzalez (0-2, BB) grounded out to start the frame, then Jake Marisnick (1-3) singled to LF, Petit (0-3) struck out swinging for the second out, Grossman walked, and Altuve singled to RF.  Marisnick was waved home on the play, and the throw was in time but Perez (the Indians catcher) whiffed on the catch, and the ball hurtled all the way to the backstop.  Salazar (the pitcher) hadn't bothered to back up, so when Perez had to turn and retrieve the throw, Grossman also scored - an unearned run, the fifth of the series for the Astros.  Carter ended the frame by striking out.

In the fourth, Dexter Fowler coaxed a lead-off walk off Danny Salazar, but he was stuck at first as the next three batters went in order.  The Astros also went in the order in the fifth, and Salazar ended his night strongly by striking out Carter and Fowler to end the sixth.  From there, only a two-out walk by Marwin Gonzalez in the seventh prevented the Indians 'pen from being perfect, and the Astros' offence was toast.

Turning Point:
Bottom of the ninth, tied game, one out, 2-2 count, runners on first and second.  Worst possible outcome??  Well, probably a home run.  That didn't happen, but what did happen is that Buchanan buried a breaking pitch in the dirt which got away from Castro, and the runners advanced.  Next pitch, Buchanan had to throw a strike, but he missed the outside corner and leaked it over the plate.  Jose Ramirez made no mistake, and the game was gone.

Truth be told, Ramirez's hit would likely have scored the runner from second regardless, but a quality 2-2 pitch may have led to a strikeout, which would have changed the complexion of things significantly.

Man of the Match:
Robbie Grossman.  On base twice (single and base-on-balls).  He also scored a run.  His triple-slash is up to .214/.333/.327 for the season, assisted by a .293/.423/.414 July triple slash (142 wRC+) and a .237/.352/.355 line in August (106 wRC+).

Goat of the Game:
Take your pick.  Chris Carter (0-4, 3K) or Jesus Guzman (0-3, 10 pitches).

On the Morrow:
Day game tomorrow to conclude the road trip.

Brett Oberholtzer (4-8, 4.01) versus Jack Trevor Bauer (4-7, 4.41)

1 Eastern, 12 Central.

Afterward, the 'stros head home to face the A's, starting Monday.

Friday, August 22, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G129: Astros @ Indians

Brad Peacock (3-8, 5.47) vs Carlos Carrasco (5-4, 3.27)

This is the very frustrating kind of ballgame to lose; TOOTBLANs on offense and errors on defense at crucial junctures gave the game away. Fortunate for Houston, then, that they were on the receiving end of the benefits from those mistakes. The Astros only managed three hits, and Brad Peacock was forced from the game with a forearm issue after five, but by Cleveland's generosity (and four unearned runs in the 9th), they win anyway on a 5-1 final. Houston improves to 11-9 in August and 55-74 overall.

On the Mound:

*The one dark spot remaining from this game, even with the win, is concern over Brad Peacock's injury. No, he hasn't always been particularly effective this season, but today he was very much so, turning in a 5 IP / 2 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 0 BB / 4 K line before he came out to begin the 6th. But discomfort in his forearm during warmup pitches ended his night early just as it seemed he had everything figured out. Here's to his health and hoping that he'll be back and dealing like this again on schedule.

*Kevin Chapman got the emergency call from the bullpen when Peacock couldn't continue, and he rose to the occasion, facing five batters and retiring four (1 K), with the only baserunner reaching on a fielding error by Jose Altuve.

*Josh Fields allowed a single in between a pair of strikeouts to end the 7th.

*Tony Sipp faced the minimum (and earned the win) for a bizarre but scoreless 8th inning. A Mike Aviles leadoff single put one runner on. A Tyler Holt sac bunt to Sipp resulted in a safe call at second, which put two runners on. Then Aviles was picked off and caught stealing third in a rundown, during which Holt moved up to second. Then Holt attempted stealing third, and he was caught too. Then Roberto Perez struck out to end the oddities.

*After Cleveland continued to harpoon themselves in the 9th, Chad Qualls took over and started with old friend Michael Bourn reaching on a Matt Dominguez error. A Jose Ramirez single pushed Bourn ahead to second, but then Chad got Michael Brantley on a F7, and Marwin Gonzalez turned a slick double play on Carlos Santana's grounder to end it.

At the Plate:

*Very, very little offense before the 9th. Pretty much only Marwin, actually, as his solo HR (6) leading off the 5th accounted for Houston's only earned run of the night. He later reached on a fielder's choice and scored again, finishing 1x4.

*Jon Homerton had the single biggest swing of the night, and all of Houston's other RBIs, on a 3-run blast to left in the 9th. It was Jonathan's 12th home run of the season, and he ended up 1x4 with 2 K.

*Jake Marisnick had the Astros' only other hit - an infield single in the 3rd - and he finished 1x3 with a K.

*Gregorio Petit never came to the plate, but he pinch ran for Chris Carter in the 9th and scored the winning run on an error - more on that to come.

*Carter (0x2, 2 BB, K), Jose Altuve (0x3, BB), and Jason Castro (0x3, BB, R, 3 K) also notched walks for the Astros. Dexter Fowler was 0x4, but reached on an error and stole a base.

Turning Point:

After Cleveland (literally) ran into trouble in the 8th, they gift-wrapped the game for Houston in the 9th. It started innocently enough, as Jose Altuve grounded to short. Chris Carter walked. Then the fun really began, as Dexter Fowler reached on a Carlos Santana throwing error and Carter chugged around to third. With the score still 1-1, Gregorio Petit pinch ran for Carter, and with Jason Castro batting, Fowler took off to steal second. But Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez threw the ball away, letting Petit scamper home and Fowler move on to third. Castro walked, then Marwin Gonzalez grounded to short, but Fowler was called out at home on a fielder's choice as the Indians finally got the second out. Then Jonathan Singleton put the exclamation point on the inning with a 3-run HR on a 3-2 count.

Man of the Match:

Brad Peacock. Come back soon, Bradley, me boy.

Goat of the Game:

Matt Dominguez. 0x4 with a K, and a fielding error to boot.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G128: Astros @ Yankees

Dallas Keuchel (10-8, 3.11) vs Brandon McCarthy (4-2, 2.30)

Well... at least it was quick? Dallas Keuchel and Brandon McCarthy both threw complete games this afternoon. Neither pitcher walked a batter. Keuchel had one inning of vulnerability. McCarthy had none. Houston did manage a couple of scoring opportunities, but neither ultimately amounted to anything, and so the Astros drop the series finale by a 3-0 final, in a brisk 2 hours and 7 minutes. Houston's three-game winning streak is snapped, but they still win the season series against the Yanks 4-2, while dropping to 54-74 overall.

On the Mound:

*For the fifth time this season, Dallas Keuchel went the distance, and it only took him 96 pitches (65 strikes) to do so. He faced the minimum in 5 of 8 innings, didn't allow a runner past first base in 6 of 8 innings, and didn't allow a run in 7 of 8. Even in the one scoring inning, he got three straight outs after three straight hits. By any measure, Kid Keuchy was great once again today. Today, Brandon McCarthy was just better. And so for the second time this year, Keuchel logs a complete game and loses, with a 8 IP / 7 H / 3 R / 3 ER / 0 BB / 5 K line.

At the Plate:

*Obviously there's not much offense to talk about when your team gets shut out. Robbie Grossman gave the Astros their first baserunner of the day with a leadoff single in the 4th, and he finished 1x4.

*Dexter Fowler doubled with two outs in the 4th, moving Grossman up to third, but Marc Krauss (groundout) couldn't get them home. Fowler finished 1x4 with a K.

*Chris Carter led off the 7th with a single, but was erased on a fielder's choice by Fowler in the next AB. Chris ended up 1x4 with 2 K.

*Then Krauss hit a ground-rule double with one out in the 7th that moved Fowler up to third, but Jonathan Singleton (K) and Carlos Corporan (F7) went quietly thereafter. So Krauss finished 1x3 with a K, and Houston's last threat died on the basepaths.

Turning Point:

It happened very quickly in the 2nd; everything happened very quickly in this game. Three pitches into the bottom half of the inning, Mark Teixeira singled to right. Three pitches later, Martin Prado doubled to left, moving Teixeira up to third. Three pitches after that, Chase Headley doubled to right, scoring both Teixeira and Prado. Headley would advance to third on out #1 by Francisco Cervelli, then score on sac fly out #2 by Ichiro, and thus the 3-0 final was set.

Man of the Match:

Gotta go with Dallas Keuchel. No shame in his effort today, even including a couple of nice plays with the glove.

Goat of the Game:

All the Hitters, though hats off to Brandon McCarthy, too. I guess we'll pick on Jon Singleton in particular - 0x3 with a K that came in Houston's best chance at scoring.

Have the Astros signed Brady Aiken yet?

The deadline? to let the Commissioner's office know that teams have signed their draft picks WAS at 7/18/2014 4pm Central. Here is a running update of updates.

UPDATE: UMMM, so this is interesting.
More details http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/08/astros-could-still-reach-deal-with-brady-aiken.html

We shall see

UPDATE: 4:15pm: Report that the Astros did not sign Aiken, Nix, or Marshall

 4:13pm: Jim Callis reports a source who said Marshall did not sign with Houston (https://twitter.com/jimcallismlb/status/490242739200884739)

4:00pm: waiting on word

3:55pm: No

3:50pm: No

3:40pm: No

3:30pm: No

3:00pm: No

2:30pm: No

2:00pm: No

1:30: No

1:00pm: No

12:30pm: No

12:00pm: No

11:22am: No

11:00am: No

10:30am: No

10:00am: No

9:30am: No

9:00am: No

8:30am: No

8:00am: No

From the Office of the County Clerk - G127: Astros at Yankees

Scott Feldman (6-9, 4.45) versus "Pine Tar" Pineda (2-2, 1.82)

The Astros, at this stage of the season, are playing for a combination of pride and (for some) ongoing individual survival in the big leagues.  I recently wrote about their tough upcoming schedule - running the gauntlet in the AL West, which this year looks like the strongest division in baseball.  This has surprised some pundits, with many pre-season predictions focussing on the AL East.  Rightly so, because 8 out of the last 19 champs have been either the Red Sox or the Yankees, with the AL East has contributing the AL representative in 11 of the last 19 World Series.

Regardless, in playing a storied franchise like the Yankees - who have been so dominant since the ’94 strike - the amount of pride to be gained if a team were to outplay them is not insignificant.  With a win tonight, the Astros would win (i) the current series (ii) the season series and (iii) an away series, and win both tilts against the Yankees in 2014.  

So it is with significant pride and not-insignificant amounts of joy that I report an Astros win, by a score of 5-2.  How did it happen??  Lets go to the game recap…

On the Mound:
Scott Feldman was the recipient of the season opening win against the Yankees, and he also has a funky little streak of his own going (which includes the Opening Day start).  Feldman has recorded four straight quality starts against New York, and a 2.30 ERA over that span.  Tonight, he threw 121 pitches (a career high) while working around 10 baserunners just under 7 IP.  His eventual line was a robust, keep-'em-in-the-game 6.2IP, 8H, 2R/ER, 2BB, 7K.

Feldman's work around baserunners was especially effective.  In the first, he allowed two consecutive 1-out singles, and both runners completed a double-steal on a strikeout that constituted the second out of the inning.  In the second, Feldman was again faced with runners on second and third with two outs after he walked Stephen Drew with one out, and allowed a double to Ichiro Suzuki with two outs.  No runners scored in either of these innings, partly thanks to Gonzalez's excellent defensive play on the run to end the second and nail the speedy Brett Gardner.  

Feldman managed the next five outs until Stephen Drew (with two outs in the bottom of the fourth) mashed a home run to RF the very pitch after Chase Headley was caught stealing second base (the second CS when Feldman was pitching this year).  The home run to Drew was on an 86mph fastball that may have cut a little - Castro asked for it down and away and Feldman missed up and glove-side - and Drew put a charge into it, clearing the wall in the RF power alley without difficulty.

In the fifth, Feldman allowed a lead-off single to Ichiro, who watched as Brett Gardner fouled out, then stole second and went to third on Derek Jeter’s grounder to third.  Then, with two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury laid down a perfect bunt along the third base line.  Feldman was quick off the mound for a big guy, but Ichiro was also quick down the third base line, and Ellsbury was quick out of the box, and no play was possible despite Feldman throwing home late.  Ichiro scored standing up and the Yankees took the lead by a score of 2-1 while playing a bit of small-ball.

Feldman rebounded to retire the side in order in the sixth on a groundout and two strikeouts.  In the seventh, he recorded the first two outs before walking Brett Gardner on a full count, and allowing a single to Derek Jeter on a 2-2 count.  Kevin Chapman relieved with runners on first and second, promptly allowed a passed ball that moved the runners up 90 feet, but he recorded three straight strikes on Jacoby Ellsbury (including a slider down the middle of the plate that was foul tipped for the third strike) to earn the final out of the inning.

At this time, the Astros were leading 5-2, so they were keen to shut the Yankees down.  Fields allowed only a 2-out single in the eighth, and Jose Veras came on for the save.  He hasn’t been as sharp this year as he was last year, and his first save of the year was… er… interesting.  He got the first two outs without too much difficulty (although the line-out to short by Ichiro could easily have found a hole), but then Brett Gardner singled and Derek Jeter walked to send the tying run to the plate.  Jacoby Ellsbury had a lash at the short porch in right on a pitch that caught too much of the plate, but he came up just short of the warning track, and the final out of the game was recorded.

At the Plate:
Bo again led off with Robbie Grossman, who now has his OBP up to .337 (as at the conclusion of this game).  Grossman’s second at-bat also marked the first Astros baserunner.  Grossman (2-5, 2RBI) singled to right to lead off the inning, and went to second on an Altuve (1-4) sac-bunt.  Grossman then got to watch as Carter (0-4, 3K) struck out on three straight whiffs, but he scored with Dexter Fowler (1-4), with two outs, lashed a low slider doubled down the RF line which bounced high off the wall for the first run of the game.  Fowler went into second standing up, then Castro (0-3, BB) grounded out to end the frame.

In the fifth, the Astros recorded two-out singles to Matt Dominguez and Jake Marisnick (both 2-4, R, and Marisnick added an RBI).  A Grossman groundout ended that rally.  In the sixth, Michael Pineda retired the 2 to 4 hitters in order.  Pineda came out of the seventh inning, but he walked Jason Castro in an 8-pitch battle, and his night was done.  He left the game with a 2-1 lead.

David Huff relieved, and he got Jon Singleton (0-3, BB) to strike out.  Marwin Gonzalez - batting righty - then eased a 2-1 pitch into left, sending Jason Castro to second, and prompting Joe Giradi to lift the lefty Huff, and bring Esmil Rogers in from the ‘pen.

The Astros were aggressive against Rogers, recording 4 base-hits in the next 6 pitches.  Matt Dominguez started the roll by lining the first pitch he saw to CF.  The runners were only able to move up one base, so this meant that the bases were loaded with one out.  Jake Marisnick then found himself down 0-2 before went down and got a low-and-away breaking pitch, and lined it over the third baseman into LF, scoring Castro and tying the score at 2-apiece.  The very next pitch, Robbie Grossman lined a 2-RBI single to CF on an elevated cutter over the middle of the plate and the runners scored as Ellsbury ranged over into the RF gap.  With runners on the corners, Jose Altuve singled on the first pitch he saw, driving in Jake Marisnick from third and scoring the fourth run of the inning.  Each of the RBI singles were recorded over the course of three consecutive pitches.  Chris Carter looked at a ball, then struck out on a 2-2 pitch, and Dexter Fowler also K’d on four pitches to end the frame, stranding the runners on first and second.

A Singleton walk with one out in the eighth was the only other Astros baserunner.  Esmil Rogers managed better luck in the eighth to record a scoreless frame, and Chase Whitley managed an uneventful ninth.  But the damage was already done, as the Astros ‘pen was in the process of suffocating the Yankees bats.

Turning Point:
A six pitch sequence proved to be the turning point of the game, as the Astros attacked Esmil Rogers early in the count.  With runners on first and second, Dominguez singled on the first pitch of his at bat.  Down 0-2, Marisnick singled to drive in the first run and leave the bases loaded.  Grossman hit a 2-RBI line drive on the following pitch, and Altuve dumped the first pitch he saw just short of Ellsbury in CF for another RBI.  

Man of the Match:
Some solid performances tonight, with my pick being Robbie Grossman with a vital hit in the seventh inning to push the Astros to a lead they wouldn't relinquish.  Dominguez and Marisnick with 2-4, with each of their hits setting up the four-run seventh inning.  On the pitching side, Scott Feldman battled bravely to record a solid outing.  Marwin Gonzalez quietly went 1-4 whilst managing some solid defensive plays.

Goat of the Game:
Whomever kidnapped Chris Carter and replaced him with an otherworldly robot during his hot streak, only to decide that the original Chris Carter is better, please stop playing with out sensibilities.  Carter didn't manage to redeem himself tonight with an 0-4, 3K night, and was the only Astro who didn't get to run the bases.

The Astros send Dallas Keuchel to the mound to pursue a sweep, and continue to seriously dent the Yankees' playoff hopes.

Dallas Keuchel (10-8, 3.11) versus Brandon McCarthy (7-12, 4.24, but a much better 4-2, 2.30 as a Yankee)

1 Eastern, noon Central