Collin McHugh (2-2, 3.48) versus Jered Weaver (4-3, 3.14)
The Astros try for their third series win in a row, with a rubber match against the 26-20 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels were four games back of the A's in the Al West, and the Astros were... um... a little more than that. Prior to this game, Jered Weaver had a .701 winning percentage at home, but Weaver also gave up four big bombs in his last outing against the Astros, all pretty much on hanging pitches.
This ended up as a tight one, with the Angels edging out the Astros 2-1. Albert Pujols continues to torture Astros fans, by hitting Career HR 505 tonight, which was also the go-ahead, game winning run. The Astros got the tying run on base in the ninth... but for more, refer to Turning Point #2.
On the Mound:
Collin McHugh has been a mixed-bag in May thus far, unlike his two April starts, which were dominant. His three May starts: 4IP/5ER, 6.1/2ER and 5.1/4ER, with two losses for the month.
Well, tonight McHugh was solid, recording another quality start, but was also handed the loss. His final line was 7IP, 4H, 2R/ER, 2BB, 7K. He threw 112 pitches, and kept the ball largely on the ground (9:5 GB:FB ratio). He recorded seven strikeouts, of which five (4 swinging) were with Uncle Charley. He was assisted with one great defensive play by George Springer in right - a running, tumbling catch in the right-centre field gap - and Jesus Guzman's heads-up play (see below).
He gave up the first run in the bottom of the third, and it was a little unlucky. He started the inning by striking out Collin Cowgill, then gave up a bloop single to CF to Efren Navarro, who moved to second on a Kendrick 2-out groundout. Erick Aybar then blooped a second hit to CF right off his fists, scoring Navarro, and giving the Angels a 1-0 lead.
There was nothing unlucky about the second run that McHugh gave up - hanging Cement-Mixer slider to Albert Pujols, and you-know-the-rest. Off the front fence of the Angels bullpen (the top one) in LF - a no-doubter as indicated by the immediate reaction of the crowd as soon as the ball left the bat.
pr0FF3ss0r_F4rnsw0rth then pitched a scoreless eighth, finishing by striking the aforementioned Albert Pujols out looking.
At the Plate:
No too much going on for the 'Stros at the plate tonight, with soft-tossing Jered Weaver throwing a 94-pitch complete game, walking one, hitting a batter, and allowing two hits. Weaver has been on a roll, giving up 2 or less runs in his last 7 starts.
Thankfully, one of the hits was a home run off the bat of George Springer on a hanging curve, which was deposited over the 390-marker in left centre-field. George also got HBP in the ninth.
Jason Castro got the other hit - a 1-out double in the 7th - but he was stranded when Matt Dominguez flied out, and Chris Carter lined out. Jesus Guzman drew a walk leading off the third.
Jose Altuve, who collected 21 hits in the last 10 games - the most by any player in a 10 game stretch in the Major Leagues this year - went hitless.
Kind of an unusual play ending the bottom of the fifth. Collin Cowgill was on first with two outs, when Howie Kendrick hit a hard grounder up the middle that Villar dived for and trapped. Villar's throw to first was in time, but was high and wide, pulling Guzman off the bag toward home plate. Guzman probably tagged Kendrick while spinning around, but Kendrick was called safe by the first base umpire Quinn Wolcott. Guzman turned to the Astros dugout to indicate that the play was worth challenging (as he thought he tagged Kendrick), then turned to Wolcott to protest. Meanwhile, Cowgill tried to advance to third, but Guzman gunned across in time for Dominguez to tag Cowgill. Not something you see every day, and perhaps the "fake protest" ruse becomes the go-to trick play in baseball.
Turning Point #1:
Albert Pujols. That is all.
Turning Point #2:
George Springer was the victim of a HBP with one out in the ninth. He duly trotted down to first base and watched most of Dexter Fowler's at bat from there. Fowler worked a 3-2 count, then Weaver threw over to get Springer leaning, resulting in a pick-off. The news may get worse for Astros fans, as he limped off with a possible right quad or hip flexor injury (although I cannot see an obvious mechanism of injury, and there is some suggestion that he was injured making the running catch in the second). More to follow (although he said he would be ok).
Man of the Match:
George Springer, for running down a Hank Conger gapper in the second, and for his home run to right-centre first pitch of the fourth.
Goat of the Game:
George Springer, for being the tying run on first in the ninth, then getting picked off. When Dexter Fowler popped out for the last out, Jason Castro (who has good numbers against Weaver) didn't get a chance to bat in the ninth.
Off to Seattle to face Roenis Elias, LHP (3-3, 3.88). The Astros counter with Jarred Cosart (3-3, 4.41). 10:10 Eastern, 9:10 Central.