Cockroach has called in sick to the Astros County offices tonight. He left a quick message with Cynthia and Betty, our Reception staff, saying that he had Smallpox, and despite the Disappointment of the Masses, can Masked do the game recap? Apparently, he will be back tomorrow.
Another one of those games for the Astros, tonight, as they lose a close one 3-2. The Astros don't have a heck of a lot of Elite Talent, and any Elite Talent they may have is not helped by a lineup with more holes than swiss cheese. What we did see tonight was what a small infusion of Elite Talent can do - the aforementioned talent was the difference in the game, but the Astros get close in a well-played ballgame. A number of plays could have turned it either way. Just missing a wee spark.
Notably, George Springer finally made contact with his first major-league home run. Pity he was wearing a glove at the time, rather than wielding a bat. Read below for more on Springer - the game of Baseball is not treating him kindly at the moment...
And, like some baseball games, a small smattering of Things That You Don't See Everyday. Like Batters Interference!! Read on for more information (... but not about Batters Interference).
On the Mound:
Brad Peacock got the start, and struggled early with fastball command. He threw 24 pitches in the first, but settled down in the second to go 6.2 innings in a total of 105 pitches. The best quick way of describing his lack of FB command?? Eleven out of 28 first-pitch strikes.
Mr Peacock got himself in an early 2-0 hole when he walked Ian Kinsler on a 3-2 count, then, with one out, Miguel Cabrera (Elite Talent) engaged in a bit of Professional Hitting, taking a low and inside sinking fastball from Brad Peacock, and depositing it just over the 365' sign in Right Centre. Springer nearly made the catch to rob Miggy, but the ball bounced off the little-finger side of his glove - I thought he made a great effort to get as close as he did.
The home run was a gut-punch for the fans (and very probably the players) after losing a close one yesterday. This made the predictable "you-can't-put-a-shift-on-Cabrera-unless-you-put-a-man-in-the-right-field-seats" low-blow from the Tigers broadcast team even more unpalatable. Yes, the Astros shift a lot. Who cares.
Note is made of the game-time drizzle that did not allow for on-field BP, and made the ball a bit wet for the first few innings. By the time it dried out, the Astros were in a hole from which they were not able to dig themselves out of.
Mr Peacock settled down, allowing 1 walk and 2 singles until the top of the sixth, when Victor Martinez (Elite Talent) involved himself in another piece of Professional Hitting. He took a letter-high fastball and put it about 4 rows into the RF seats. Bo Porter later said (words to the effect of) "how in the name of molasses did he even hit that pitch!"* 5 outs (and one walk) later, Mr Peacock's night was done. Final line: 6.2IP, 4H, 3R/ER, 4BB, 4K, 2HRs allowed. Another Quality Start without a win for an Astros starter.
* - not an actual quote
(as an aside, V-Mart is as good as any non-Tulo player in baseball right now. Last 7 days: 9-23 (.391), 5BB, 5R, 5RBI, 3x2B, 2HR. He is a Professional Hitter)
Then the 'pen
At the Plate:
The Astros scraped one across in the 3rd, and another in the 7th to draw within one run. The game finished with a Joe Nathan strikeout of Matt Dominguez with Jonathan Villar on third base, having pinch-ran for Marc Krauss and stolen second and third. (Villar's steal of third was awesome - he took the base standing up, and Alex Avila could have easily thrown it in to left field as Castellanos was slow to cover the base).
In the third, Marwin Gonzalez (getting the start for Villar at short) led off with a double which went all the way to the wall. He then went to third on a RF flyout (on an elevated curveball - a pitch that was asking to be punished) from Jose Altuve, and scored on a Dexter Fowler groundout to second.
In the seventh, Krauss smoked a ringing 2-out double, Dominguez then singled him to third with a ball that dropped just in front of Torii Hunter. Hunter then threw home, and it was a fairly weak effort that skipped away from Alex Avila, but was fielded by Rick Porcello, backing up. Krauss got a bad jump on Dominguez's sinking liner, and Dominguez failed to got to second when Hunter missed / made no effort to throw to the cutoff man. With the ball skipping away, he would have definitely been safe, but he would also run the risk of a two-out TOOTBLAN.
Seems all pretty insignificant until Marwin (involved in all Astros runs today) smoked a single through the right side, which would probably have scored both runs if Dominguez was standing on second. That said, the available TV camera angles gave no clue as to how far down the 1B line Dominguez was when Hunter was throwing home, but I believe he had made the turn at first. Who knows what could've been.
Marc Krauss (1-2, R, 2B, 2BB) and Gonzalez (2-2, R, 2B, RBI) had the best nights. Gonzalez also made a stunning play in the 6th on an Alex Avila broken-bat line drive in the 6th, running away from first whilst scooping behind second base, then firing a great throw to gun Avila down by a step.
Villar did a great job of stealing second and third when pinch-running in the ninth.
George Springer probably warrants his own mention here. I (somewhat unfairly) made a joke about him finally connecting with a ML HR above, but it was a fabulous effort to get to the point of nearly making the catch. He was also brutally unlucky on a foul-tip strikeout in the second, when the ball ran in and took the underside of the barrel of the bat on a check-swing. Avila somehow hung on. He hit a hard grounder for a single into the 5.5 hole in the fourth. In the seventh, he was the victim of a horrible, horrible check-swing call from the hole-plate ump, who declined to ask for help from the 1B ump. Alex Avila half-heartedly asked for an appeal to first - while Springer was enthusiastically rung up by HP Ump Seth Buckminster. I have no trouble with incorrect check-swing calls - you win some, you lose some - but I think it is borderline inexcusable when the HP ump gets them wrong whilst not asking for help from his comrades at first or third.
Anyhow, George looks like he is pressing at the moment, and while this just simply looks like another 1-4, 3K game, it could so easily have been a web-gem, multi-hit game. Hang in there George, and keep trying to have fun. Some days, you are the Mexican; other days, you are the Piñata.
The 'stros had something going in the 5th. Dominguez flew out, then Marwin walked on four straight. First pitch and Gonzalez is off and running for second. Altuve hits a solid line drive up the middle... but in a horrible it's-not-our-day moment, Kinsler breaks to cover second on Marwin's steal, then has the luxury of standing on second to field Altuve's hit, and lobs it to first to end the inning.
Who knows, Kinsler may have fielded it and flicked to short for the DP regardless, but if that line drive of Altuve's gets through, it is men on first-and-second, one-out, heart-of-the-order stuff. Frick!
Man of the Match:
Marwin is making a bid for more playing time, going 2-2 with a run, RBI, double and a web gem (although Alan Ashby says it is Altuve in the clip - Altuve was actually standing in shallow RF)
Hopefully Mr Roach is recovering from Smallpox, and will be back tomorrow. Thanks for reading.