Wednesday, April 23, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G21: Astros @ Mariners

Collin McHugh (0-0, 0.00; Career: 0-8, 5.86) v Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 7.50)

Boom Boom!!  The Astros dip into their lucky-pitcher-grab-bag and draw a winner.  Collin McHugh, blogger extraordinaire deservedly gets his first major-league win by throwing 6 2/3 scoreless.  Second 2-game win streak of the year!  To the recap!!

On the Mound

* Collin McHugh is the story of the night, with an equally efficient and nasty performance.  In 89 pitches, he managed 6 2/3 innings, with an impressive 12 strikeouts, no walks and 3 hits.  Mr McHugh is the new game-score season-record holder (80), threw 61 strikes, and kept the ball on the ground 50% of the time.  He was helped by Alex Presley twice in the 2nd, who gunned down a gimpy Corey Hart at second for the first out, and then ran down a fly ball into the left field corner for the third out.  He was also helped by Jason Castro in the 5th, with a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double play to end the inning.

But the story was really the strikeouts.  Nasty, nasty strikeouts.  From Gameday, he was hitting both sides of the plate, and hitting the strike zone down with both breaking balls (slider to RHB, curve to LHB).

He started by striking out the side in the first: 88mph cutter to Almonte, swinging; 92mph 4 seamer to Ackley, looking; 93mph 2-seamer to Cano, up and away, swinging.  He also struck out the side in the third: 86mph cutter to Saunders, swinging; 93mph 4 seamer to Zunino, swinging; 93mph 2 seamer on Miller, swinging.  More nasty on Ackley in the 4th - foul tip on an 87mph cutter, then Seager on a 73mph curve to end the fourth.  In the fifth, Zunino on a well-placed 84mph slider, with Castro also making a great play to throw a strike to 2nd.  First strikeout looking in the 6th (Almonte, looking at an 86mph cutter), and poor Ackley again (6K's in the series so far) swinging on a 74mph curve to end the 6th.    His last strikeout was on the 240-million-dollar-man, Robinson Cano, on a 73mph curve, chasing down and away.

* Raul Valdes came in with two outs in the 7th, and may have been thinking that Collin McHugh's fingernails were a little too long.  He promptly walked Kyle Seagar, then gave up a long home run to LF over the visitors bullpen to Justin Smoak.  That reduced the lead to two, and put the Mariners back in the game.  Put some tension back into the contest as well, likely making Collin a little nervous.

* But Anthony Bass came in, ended the 7th on one pitch, then worked around a one-out double in a scoreless eighth.  Quietly having a nice season - now sporting a 2.45 ERA and 3.04 FIP.

* Josh Fields earned his second save in as many nights by striking out Robinson Cano on a full count, and retiring Corey Hart on a line drive to centre, and Kyle Seager on a soft grounder.  He now sports an ERA of 2.00, FIP of 1.93

* Astros right-handed pitchers combined for 14 K's, adding to the 14 from last night.  Astros left-handed pitchers: walked one.

At the Plate

* Most of the damage happened early.  Jose Altuve flew out on the first pitch, Dexter Fowler walked on a full count, then Jason Castro drilled an 0-2 elevated fastball the opposite way, just over the LF wall, for a two run homer (his fourth).  Fowler ended the night 1-4, BB, 1R, 2 LOBsters, whereas Castro went 2-4, BB, HR, 2 RBI.

* Next inning, Chris Carter banged a hanging slider down the left field line into the upper deck for an 0-2 one out home run.  He finished 2-4, 2 RBI, K, after also being the architect of a bases loaded, one-out single to CF in the 8th.

(Credit to Erasmo Ramirez at this point.  He managed 6 innings total, managing to sort out his early issues with a flat-breaking ball.  He saved a pretty exhausted 'pen for the Mariners.  Kudos.)

* Matt Dominguez was back at 3rd base, and hit home run to right CF (his fourth) that kept cutting away from Abraham Almonte in the 7th.  He finished 1-4, HR but 4 LOB.  Still, trending in the right direction.

* Alex Presley, 2-4, had a nice night offensively and defensively (with the abovementioned outfield assist and running warning-track grab).

* Altuve 0-4, BB; Springer 0-4, BB, 3K; Krauss 0-3, 3K... 'nuff said.

Turning Point

Erasmo Ramirez's inability to bury an 0-2 slider to Chris Carter (does he not know about his more mild-mannered alter-ego, Kris Karter??) led to a lead the Astros would never relinquish.  This resulted in one of those impressive HR swings that Carter seems to bust out 50-odd times per season (I imagine that some of them go foul).  He barely looks like he is swinging, yet the ball fangs off his bat like it was launched from a cannon.  Then Carter nonchalantly waltzes around the bases with a kind of relaxed, neutral expression on his face.  We saw it a bit in 2013.  Only seen it once in 2014 - very seductive power.

Carter's HR landed up where Zunino's long strike landed last night, which got some recognition in the blogosphere for it's distance.  To wit:

"Zunino just absolutely destroyed a ball that went foul that may have been fair that was challenged and found to be foul after all, possibly. Most watching said it was probably the farthest hit ball to that part of Safeco they had seen."

Well, Carter just hit one there as well.  And it looked easy.

Man of the Match

Twelve filthy K's (presented above in detail), first ML win, subbing in at short notice for an injured ace... Collin McHugh busted out a great, slightly unexpected performance.  Plaudits.

Goat of the Game.

The RHP's were great.  Not so much the LHP.  Would have been nice to (i) issue no walks as a team and (ii) shut the evil Mariners out.  Raul Valdes has had a rough start to the 2014 ML season.

Please note for those of you out of the blackout zone tomorrow and with a decent inter-web connection, Astros (& brooms) v Mariners, 3:40 ET, Game of the Day.