Collin McHugh (4-7, 3.22) against Garrett Richards (9-2, 2.81)
This four-game set against the Angels has been fairly close, but for a couple of horrible innings' and ongoing offensive ineptitude. The Angels have been nails at home recently, and completed their tenth straight home win on an easy 6-1 win over the Astros. The stories of today's game were around another short outing from an Astros starter, more porous defence resulting in unearned runs, and more domination from another hard-throwing opposition starter. The positive Astros stories of the day were a good 2014 debut from David Martínez, two hits from Carlos Corporan, and no eight-run innings conceded.
With the Ball:
Collin McHugh continues to battle blister / nail bed problems, which started to emerge in the fourth inning warmups. He was pretty decent in the first two innings, allowing only a leadoff single to Kole Calhoun (on a play that could have been made by Jose Altuve, plus Calhoun was later cut-down in a strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play) and a walk to Astros Killer Albert Pujols.
In the third, McHugh ran into difficulty. He allowed a lead off single to Hank Conger through the right side, into where an un-shifted second baseman would be. John McDonald laid a bunt down the first-base line, and was either tagged out, or called out for leaving the baseline (most likely the latter). Calhoun (who had three hits on the day, including a later home run) flared a single to CF off the end of the bat - Conger to third, one out. McHugh then hit Trout in the side with an 0-0 pitch that might have got away - bases loaded, Albert (who had a heckuva series) up. Well, predictably, Pujols reached out and flipped a down and away off-speed pitch over the third baseman for a 2-run single into left. He had no business even making contact with that pitch. Josh Hamilton then lined one straight up the middle, which Gonzalez fielded, and flipped to Altuve, who stood on second and tried to throw to first to complete the double play, but Singleton muffed the scoop (the runner would have been safe anyhow) and Trout scored on the error. Angels 3-0.
In the fourth, McHugh said that he damaged his middle finger nail bed on the warm up throws. He escaped the inning on a double play (which he started). His night was done (4IP, 4H, 3R/2ER, 2BB, 4K), and David Martinez was summonsed for a relief appearance.
Martinez, in the fifth, allowed a one out walk and single, but struck out Pujols (on a back-up slider) and Hamilton, both with Calhoun on third. In the sixth, he retired the side in order. He allowed only a home run to Calhoun in the seventh (smoked to right field) for a pretty good line: 3IP, 2H, 1R/ER, BB, 4K.
Qualls then relieved, and... wasn't sharp. Single to Pujols, caught stealing (Albert can't be allowed to steal twice in the series), a walk to Hamilton, a single (Aybar) to put runners on the corners, then a run scored on an errant throw on a steal attempt of second base, with the trailing runner also advancing to third on the error. Aybar then scored on an awful fielder's choice throw-home from Marwin Gonzalez - which should have been in time to nail the runner. Bass relieved, and got C.J. Cron to GIDP to end the eighth.
With the Bat:
The Astros' offensive ineptitude wasn't helped by the number of pitches off the corner that were granted to the Angel's pitchers by the HP ump. Third strikes to Singleton in the fourth and Springer in the eighth were both clearly off the plate away by six inches. I am not sure whether the Astros pitchers got the same latitude, but I am guessing that umpiring on a hot day is hard, and they aren't perfect. Tomorrow may be different.
Other than that, the Astros got shut down. The third inning was especially galling: Corp singled to left leading off, Kiké Hernandez showed good plate discipline with a walk, then Altuve grounded into what should have been a triple-play, but McDonald's throw to second was rubbish and Kendrick did well to hang on and get the force at second. Inning essentially over - or it was when Castro lined out.
The Astro were retired in order in the first, fourth, and ninth, so they had some base runners. Just not all in the same inning. The lone run scored in the seventh then an Alex Presley one-out double was followed by a Carlos Corporan two out RBI single.
The worst offensive performers were Springer and Singleton, who were a combined 0-8 with 7K's. This led Bo to comment on the lack of protection for them given the fact that the Astros are the Astros and have few established players to protect them. Castro also managed two strikeouts in the 2-hole, so the 2-3-4 hitters combined for 1-12, 9K's.
Carlos Corporan had the best night (2-3, RBI), Kiké showed good plate discipline (0-2, BB), and Jose Altuve stole his 25th consecutive base (1-4, SB). Alex Presley had the only extra-base hit (1-4, 2B, R).
Scores tied, top of third, two runners on, no outs, best contact hitter at the plate. Grounder to third, should have been a triple play. But the Angels settled for two outs due to a poor throw to second. After that rally killing grounder, the Angels scored three in the bottom of the inning, and that is all they would need to sweep the series.
Man of the Match:
David Martínez - for chewing up some innings in relief, and not allowing the score to run up. Aside from one batter, it was a pretty effective outing. It is kind of fun watching the Angels beat the ball into the ground on the highlights package.
As an aside - combined Astros pitchers groundout to flyout ratio: 12:2
Goat(s) of the Game:
Springletons both need a better two-strike approach. If they do not improve they (Singleton and Springer, as well as Santana) may get called Generation K instead of something like Springletana. Which is bad, because I am hoping the Astros pitchers get called Generation K, or something.
The Astros head back to Texas for a three game set in Arlington. Jarred Cosart (8-6, 3.93 ERA) squares off against Miles Mikolas (0-0, 5.06 ERA). 8:05 Eastern, 7:05 Central. The Rangers are scuffling: 3 games ahead of the 'stros with a 38-50 record, 3-7 in their last 10, -76 run differential (the Astros sit at -87). A strong series from the Astros could see those numbers even up considerably.