Jarred Cosart (4-5, 4.16) versus Josh Collmenter (4-2, 3.63)
Apparently the D-backs are the Astros' "Natural Rivals", according to the MLB marketing gurus. "Natural Rivals for what" one may ask. To which the witty respondee may reply: "the 1-1 for the 2015 draft... amirite??"
Bad jokes aside, with the Astros sliding across to the AL last year and MLB's insistence that line-dance-like pairings between AL and NL teams exists, the 'stros find themselves flying to Arizona for a 4-game home-and-home series with the Diamondbacks.
That said, there are some not-inconsiderable parallels between the Astros and the Diamondbacks in 2014. Both teams got off to a slow, awful start. The D-Backs have been at 1-7 (Apr 5), 4-14 (Apr 16), 5-18 (Apr 22), and 8-22 (Apr 29) this year. However, since April 29, they have managed a pretty decent 20-15 record entering todays contest. They weren't just playing powder-puff teams either: series' against the Padres (2), the Dodgers, the White Sox, the Cardinals, the Brewers and the Rockies.
Anyhow, I have been to a Diamondbacks home game. Sadly, not one at Chase Field. I went to their other 2014 home stadium. A picture of opening night:
Two things stood out from the opening series in Australia. Firstly, Yasiel Puig's base running is awful, but he is very big and very fast. Secondly, Paul Goldschmidt is really, really good. He went 2-4 in the opening game (with a double) and 2-5 in the second game. But he didn't strike out, and every ball he hit, I swear, was scalded into the cavernous outfield of the Sydney Cricket Ground. He hit the ball much harder than any other player, and consistently hard. Even my 70-something year-old father was impressed, and he ain't no scout.
Today's game was a fun game to watch. The Astros can score now runs, and they can now actually hold leads. For an Astros fan, that is not something that we have really seen for the last 3 or so years. There was a funky position switch, a bit of controversy, and the pitchers hitting (and I am guessing a lot of Astros fans were happy to see that occurring again!). George Springer was out with a knee-ouchie (get a number on it). Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3 - lets recap:
On the Mound:
Another Astros start, another quality start. The Astros have secretly been pretty good at churning out quality starts since the beginning of May. Cosart was plain dealing to start with, striking out five of the first 10 batters, all 10 of whom he retired. He ran into some difficulties in the fourth with a walk to Gerardo Parra, then an RBI double to Paul Goldschmidt (that really good player mentioned above), followed by a hard single to left that didn't score Goldschmidt. He started a nifty 1-4-3 double play to escape the inning.
Cosart then returned to action in the fifth, adding two more strikeouts, before he ran into more trouble in the sixth. He retired the pitcher on a groundout, then gave up a bloopy-type hit into left-centre to Didi Gregorius. A Geraldo Parra bloopy single to a charging Dexter Fowler followed, but I think Dexter had visions of gunning Gregorius down at third, 'cause he took a peek and didn't glove the ball properly. Gregorius is a fast as a hare, and he scored easily, with Parra heading to second.
Cosart wasn't going near Goldschmidt for the next batter, walking him on a 3-1 pitch. Miguel Montero then singled to the right of Altuve to score Parra, but Aaron Hill ended the inning with a groundout to Villar (nifty play, too).
Cosart's final line: 6IP, 5H, 3R/ER, 2BB, 8K (career-high). 10 ground balls to no fly balls. He threw 103 pitches, 65 strikes.
Because I love strikeouts, lets look:
First: Geraldo Parra, 80mph curveball inside, swinging
Second: Miguel Montero staring at a 94mph back-door cutter on a 2-2 count, Aaron Hill swinging at an 80mph outside curveball on a 2-2 count
Third: David Peralta swinging through a 93mph 4-seamer on a 1-2 count, Josh Collmenter (opposing pitcher) swinging at a 95mph outside cutter on a 2-2 count.
Fifth: Aaron Hill swinging on an outside 92mph cutter with wicked away movement, David Peralta looking at an 84mph change up on a 2-2 count.
Sixth: Martin Prado on a 93mph cutter, 0-2, swinging, again lots of movement.
Anyhow, Tony Sipp took the mound for the top of the seventh, and allowed only a walk in an otherwise uneventful inning. He stayed for the bottom of the eighth, and struck out Geraldo Parra to open the frame. Then the fun started, with Bo carrying an outfielders glove to the pitching mound. He sent Sipp out to RF, moved Alex Presley from RF to LF, and removed Bob-Mike Grossman from the game. Jerome Williams came on, walked Paul Goldschmidt (who was walked twice in the game, both with runners on), then departed for Tony Sipp to return from his RF exile, and strike out Miguel Montero. Alex Presley moved back to RF, and because the Astros carry only 4 outfielders (Chris Carter is NOT an outfielder) and one was out (Springer), they had to move Marwin Gonzalez to LF.
Sipp was relieved by pr0FF3ss0r_F4rnsw0rth, who got Martin Prado out in front on a change up in the middle of the zone. Then Chad Qualls, officially anointed closer, came out for the ninth. He got two quick outs, then CF Ender Inciarte doubled to LF (where Marwin was stationed, off his glove) for what should have been the last out. With the game-tying run at second, Qualls knuckled down and struck out pinch hitter, Chris Owings, on a nasty slider, to end the game.
At the Plate:
The Astros did their damage in the first two innings, scoring two in each. Josh Collmenter was on the ropes in the first and the second, but to his credit, bounced back to pitch 7 innings and save his 'pen.
In the first, the Astros sent eight to the plate. Dexter Fowler continued his hot form, hitting a hard single to RF to open the game. Jose Altuve singled into CF to move him to second. A Singleton fielder's choice moved them up one. Castro was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Matty D sac-flied to right, Mike-Bob Grossman reached on an error to score another, Alex Presley walked, then Villar struck out swinging.
In the second, more Fowler-Altuve damage. With one out, Fowler reached on an infield single to second, running out a ball that bounced off the plate over the pitcher. Jose Altuve hit a hard double to CF, scoring Fowler from first. One out later, Castro doubled into the RF gap, scoring Altuve. Matty D flew out to the warning track in RF.
The Astros had some chances late. Two one-out singles put a runner in scoring position in the eighth, only for Ender Inciarte to make a good catch on Villar's line drive to centre. In the ninth, Chris Carter pinch hit and hit a hard liner to third before Fowler doubled to deep centre. However, Fowler tried to advance on an Altuve ground ball to shortshop and was tagged out at third, allowing Altuve to reach. Altuve then stole second, and was tagged at home on Singleton's single to RF. Bo challenged and lost.
The most excellent batting lines were Dexter Fowler (3-5, 2B, 2R, K) and Jose Altuve (3-5, 2B, RBI, R). Also, Jason Castro reached twice (1-3, HBP, 2B, RBI), but he also made an out on an excellent play in the RF gap by Ender Inciarte. Castro hit the ball hard all day. Matty D was 2-3 with a sac fly.
Jose Altuve has a five-hit lead over Ales Rios (88 to 83), leading the AL. He is tied third in the AL in doubles, and has and AL-leading 24 stolen bases (with 3 CS) compared to Jacoby Ellsbury's 18. He has 18 walks versus 22 strikeouts. His overall line stands at an excellent .320/.360/.429.
Cosart was in a little bit of trouble in the fourth, protecting a 3-run lead, with runners on the corners and one out. Martin Prado grounded a curveball back to the mound, Cosart fielded, and fired to Jose Altuve covering second. His relay was in time to get Prado by two steps, and Cosart was out of his first jam without much damage. That saved run ended up being the difference in the game.
Man of the Match:
The 1-2 punch at the top of the order wins the MoTM. Fowler and Altuve went a combined 6-10 with two doubles. Runner up awards go to Jarred Cosart for his strong outing, and sometime-RF Tony Sipp, for his awesome versatility.
Goat of the Game:
Ender Inciarte robbed the Astros of multiple RBI's and a couple of doubles into the RF gap. He gets the goat, damn him.
On the Morrow:
Brad Peacock (2-4, 4.82) versus Bronson Arroyo (5-4, 4.50)
3:40 Eastern, 2:40 Central.