Wednesday, July 23, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk: G100 - Astros at Athletics

Brett Oberholtzer (2-7, 4.50) versus Scott Kazmir (11-3, 2.38)

The Athletics aren't the team to take into extras.  They own a 10-5 record in overtime games in 2014, and their bullpen is just nails.  They have enough power that they can knock it out and walk off at any time, and they have a bunch of hitters who seem to hit .500/.600/1.500 every time the Astros roll into town.

But the Astros took them into extras, and stared them down in the twelfth in a game that lasted over four hours.  Tonight, it was the Astros 'pen that was nails, and the Astros hitters that knocked one over the wall.  An unlikely one too.  Little Chris Carter Jerome Hoes took a first pitch fastball out to left to score the go-ahead run in the top half, and Chad Qualls nailed it down in the bottom half - on the 10-year anniversary of his major-league debut.

It was a well pitched game, especially given the tight strike zone, and a tidy game from both teams in the field.  Which was especially pleasing for the Astros given how the series in Chicago ended.

On the Mound:
Brett Oberholtzer got the start to give Colin McHugh's hand a little more time to heal.  I don't know why he doesn't just use pine tar to protect his blistered fingers.  Obie normally throws well against the Athletics (2 runs allowed in 11 2/3 innings).  He also came into this game relatively hot, with an ERA just over three for his last five starts.

And Obie was good tonight.  He got stronger as the game went on, allowing two base runners in his last four innings (the fourth inning to the seventh inning) after allowing seven in the first three .  His eventual line was solid on 99 pitches: 7IP, 6H, 2R/ER, 2BB, 0K.

In the first, a two out Cespedes double followed by a Donaldson walk spelled danger, but Obie got out of it when Norris hit a soft liner to Kiké Hernandez in CF (Springer sat again due to his right leg).  In the second, Obie faced runners on first and third with no outs, but got Nate Freiman (remember him?) to ground out back to the mound.  Lowrie was too far off third and got caught in a run down, and Obie eventually escaped the inning with a pop-up and a foul out.  In the third, Craig Gentry stole second and third after a leadoff single, and he scored on a fielders choice for the first Athletics run of the game.

Obie then settled right down, and didn't allow a baserunner until the sixth, when the A's tied the game up.  Josh Donaldson doubled to CF, Norris followed with a single, and Jed Lowrie hit a sac fly to Robbie Grossman, whose throw home nearly hit Robert Ford in the press box it was so high.  Obie left after retiring the side in order in the seventh with a no decision.

I like-y me some change-up-happy Josh Fields.  He has been awesome lately, and that continued today with two perfect, striking out Reddick and Donaldson.  He may have thrown a couple of curves in his 26 pitches, but I can't remember any more than that.  He gave way to Phat Tony Sipp in the tenth, who pitched an inning, allowing a one-out single to Nick Punto, who advanced on a wild pitch (which was really only a block from Castro, and Punto happened to be going - not much of a wild pitch), but he was left stranded.

Jose Veras opened the 11th with two consecutive groundouts, then a single and a walk, but Darin Downs relieved and coaxed a groundout from Brandon Moss into the shift to end the frame.  And Chad Qualls mashed a couple of lefty hitters with his ridiculous sinker while recording a perfect 12th for the save.  Happy 10th year, Chad!!

At the Plate:
The Astros scored their runs in the third and twelfth innings only, but managed 13 base runners on 11 hits and two walks.  A bunch of excellent at-bats tonight, especially from Jose Altuve (3-6, R, CS to end his SB streak at 28), Chris Carter and Robbie Grossman (2-4, BB).  Jason Castro (0-5) and Jesus Guzman (0-4, BB) looked overpowered, and Kiké Hernandez (0-5) and Matt Dominguez (1-5) had better at-bats than their lines suggested.

Altuve led off the game with a single to centre, but was out stretching at second (and only just) when Craig Gentry was a little too casual getting the ball in (really, he was just the right amount of casual, 'cause he still got the runner, I guess).  The second was remarkable only for Jesus Guzman's lead-off walk.  Note is made that Guzman played pretty solid defence tonight - kind of a welcome change from "Lead-Glove" Singleton.

In the third, the Astros made some noise.  They got a leadoff single from Marwin Gonzalez, then Altuve hit a little chopper to third.  Josh Donaldson was worried about Altuve's speed, and his throw would have been in time but was just a little low.  Nate Freiman couldn't handle it, and Altuve headed to second and Marwin to third when the ball got away.  After a Hernandez chopper to pretty much the same spot at third (which held the runners), Chris Carter drove a clean single up the middle to plate two.  He was erased next pitch on a Dominguez double-play.

Robbie Grossman singled in the fourth with one out.  He was also the next baserunner the Astros would have - in the seventh.  He advanced on a wild pitch, but was stranded at second.  Carter smoked a two-out double in the eighth on the ninth pitch of his at-bat against Luke Gregerson, but he was left stranded.  Altuve reached on an infield single to third (Josh Donaldson will be having nightmares about him tonight!) in the tenth, but was caught stealing on a successful challenge from Bob Melvin.  Matty D hit a single with one out in the eleventh.

But all of that was window-dressing for L.J. Hoes' heroics.  Lefty and Ex-stro Fernando Abad was on the bump, and he retired Robbie Grossman for the first out.  Hoes ambushed Abad on the first pitch of his at-bat - a fastball down and in that missed a little higher than Jaso wanted - and he hammered it on a line just over the scoreboard at the 362' marker.  Not a cheapie.  Hoes floated around the bases, and the 'Stros had scored just enough to win.

Turning Point:
A bunch of important plays were part of this game, which made it so pleasant to watch.  I like Obie catching Jed Lowrie off third on a grounder back to the mound for the first out in the second.  That play kept them scoreless with runners on the corners and no outs.  At that stage, the Athletics were threatening, but that kind of allowed Obie to settle down, and pitch into the seventh.

(Wo)Man of the Match:
This story is being carried by every game recap, but it is kind of cool, so I will mention it too.  L.J. Hoes' mum, Gale, asked for a homer as a birthday present, and L.J. delivered his third of the year.  She is the inaugural Woman of the Match for the Astros.  Probably the only one for the next two decades until my knuckle-balling daughter makes her Major League debut, hopefully for the Astros.  She is a lefty, but has a good sized UCL, so things are looking good so far.

But seriously, I was really impressed by the at-bats from Chris Carter (3-5, 2x2B, 2RBI, K), and the pitching from the combined staff.   Carter's triple slash now stands at .212/.287/.472, but he has looked really good in the last few games.  He has worked a few deep counts, and seems to be able to foul off pitches away recently.  The Astros may be being rewarded for their patience.

Goat of the Game:
Jason Castro has scuffled all season, and his OBP is now less than .300.  He was hitting sixth tonight, after doing well in the 2-hole.  Some Springer protection seems like a good idea for him.

On the Morrow:
Bradley J Peacock (3-6, 4.39) versus Jesse Chavez (7-6, 3.14)

10 Eastern, 9 Central.