Tuesday, May 20, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G45: Astros v Angels

Dallas Keuchel (4-2, 2.84) versus Garrett Richards (4-0, 3.02)

aka: the Battle of the Surprise Starters in the AL.

Garrett Richards has been garnering some press recently as a guy who has a heap of talent, but who historically has had low strikeout rate that has been holding him back.  Some technical changes, and boom, he has managed a fast transition to one of the best starters in the minors AL (damn jet lag).

Dallas Keuchel has been noticed around these parts as an integral part of the Astros starting rotation.  He has garnished a little attention in the national press.  But because he plays for the dis-Astros, and because a control lefty who has throughly dominated three straight good offensive teams (including tonight, and I include Texas because of their injury difficulties) doesn't fit the "they suck" press narratives, he has done it all relatively anonymously.  Keuchel has reduced his walks and home-run rate, slightly increased his strikeouts (compared to 2013, but doubled it compared to 2012), and has kept the ball on the ground at an elite rate (circa-65%).

If you expected this to be a pitchers duel, then you would be mostly wrong.  The Astros scored three in the first, one in each of the next two, then held on to win 5-2 over an hot Angels team (8-2 in their last 10, coming in to tonight's game).

On the Bump:

Well,  I have kind of given the game away.  Dallas Keuchel is the whole story tonight, with another ridiculous performance.  He dominated a strong Angels lineup, neutering the RH power that Albert Pujols and Mike Trout brought to the table.

Keuchel was filthy-nasty again, with a final line not quite reflecting the level of dominance that he achieved: 8.2IP (128 pitches), 5H, 2R/ER, BB, 8K.  He kept the ball on the ground again (14:2), and enticed Angels hitters into two double-plays.

Keuchel's last three appearances (against the Tigers, Rangers and Angels): 25.1IP, 18H, 4R/ER, 1HR, 1BB (!!), 22K, 46 ground balls, 17 fly balls, 3 wins, 1.42 ERA.  Wow.  In case you missed it - 1 walk in 25-plus innings.

He narrowly, narrowly missed another complete-game shutout, allowing a two-out infield single to Mike Trout, who only just beat the throw to first.  Albert Pujols then singled off the glove of a diving Matt Dominguez at third (into the right-side shift), bringing Bo Porter out of the dugout for the switch.  Josh Zeid then got to 1-2 on Howie Kendrick before Kendrick tripled to the RF corner, scoring both runners.

Zeid then ended the game by enticing C.J. Cron into a groundout to third base.

At the Plate:

The Astros O jumped all over Garrett Richards early, threatening to knock him out of the game.  To his credit, however, Richards persevered, and saved his 'pen for the rest of the series.

The Astros scored in the first three innings, jumping out to a 5-0 lead after three.  Opening the game, Altuve doubled, followed by a Springer wild-pitch walk, a two-base throwing error (to third base), a Fowler walk, a Castro RBI single, a Dominguez RBI single, then a fly out and a double play.

In the second inning, an Altuve 2-out single, a Springer single, and a Fowler single scored another run.  Fowler got thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double moment before Springer touched home plate, to restrict it to a one-run inning.

In the third inning, a Castro lead-off double was followed by a one-out Carter single.  Another Krauss double-play followed.

After that, the Astros managed two singles (Dominguez, Gonzalez) and one double play over the next  four, with Richards facing one over the minimum.  Hector Santiago finished for the Angels with two hitless innings, facing the minimum.

As a team, the Astros again managed double-digit (10) hits, and two walks, striking out only twice.  Four for seven with Runners-in-Scoring-Position, three LOBbies.

Turning Point:

Garrett Richards gave away more runs that he could afford in the first.  After giving up an Altuve double, then allowing him to advance to third on a full-count wild-pitch, Richards tried a pickoff move to third base that went horribly wrong.  The errant throw allowed Altuve to score, and Springer to advance two bases, where he would later score on a Castro single.

Thanks to Dallas Keuchel, the three runs that the Astros scored in the first is all they would need.

Man of the Match:

Dallas Keuchel reeled off another stunning start, neutering a potent Angels lineup.  Long may it last for the diminutive left-hander.

Goat of the Game:

If one were to use the retrospect-o-scope to assign a goat, then one could make an argument to give it to Bo Porter, who left Dallas Keuchel in the game, starting the ninth, at 107 pitches.  Personally, I would have pulled Keuchel with two outs in the ninth, after 116 pitches, thus accurately predicting that the next two batters would score to be the only two runners on Keuchel's line.

But, due to the beauty of today's win, no Goat!!