Wednesday, July 9, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk: G92 - Astros at Rangers

Brad Peacock (2-5, 4.38) versus Phil Irwin (0-0, 0.00)

The Astros County offices are empty at the moment.  I mean, what kind of media company allows an Intern who can't spell "centre" to run the office?  It is just me, and a bunch of tumbleweeds, and the tumbleweeds aren't very helpful.  The Constable took off on another extreme adventure, and now Cockroach has headed off fishing or camping or wrestling bears or something.

Thank goodness I have something good to write about.  The Astros run their winning streak to two, and compound the misery of the Rangers by offering up an 8-3 victory at Globe Life Park last night.  This win for the Astros positions them for a three game sweep, and they currently sit one game behind the Rangers in the loss column in the Battle for the AL West Basement.  Further more, the teams'  seasonal run differential has flipped from the beginning of the series, with the Rangers sitting at -86 (worst in the majors) and Houston sitting at -77 (not worst in the majors).  The Astros lead the Silver Boot 5-3, albeit with ten games to go.  The Rangers fall to 3-17 in their last 20 games.

On the Mound:
Brad Peacock delivered another solid pitching performance, and this time, Bo removed him before he exploded.  The Astros 'pen was solid, but not strikeout crazy like they were yesterday, but also not 8-run inning crazy like they were two days before yesterday.  As a unit, the pitchers held a stars-and-scrubs-and-ex-Astros lineup to 9 hits, 2 walks and 9 strikeouts.

Bradley J was solid through five-and-two-thirds, eventually departing after throwing 94 pitches.  Bo said afterward that the heat in Arlington was a factor, and he wanted to remove him before he melted (probably both literally and figuratively).  Bradley J allowed a home run (to deep shot to right for Leonys Martin) and a nearly-home-run-but-eventually-triple (to Adrian Beltre, right off the top of the right field wall, who later scored).  Peacock was assisted by one double-play, and he effectively allowed 5 baserunners on six hits (as the guy slowly jogging around the bases doesn't count).  He struck out five (three looking, all on well-spotted fastballs, down and away) and walked none (he has the third highest walk rate in the AL, minimum 50IP).  Good performance, much to the chagrin of some of the commentators on this site.

Peacock was relieved by Darin Downs with two outs and one on in the sixth.  Downs retired the lefty, Leonys Martin without problem, then opened the seventh by walking the catcher Gimenez and getting ex-Stro Carlos Peña to ground out (moving Gimenez to second).  Gimenez then scored on Jake Smolenski's first major-league hit - a hard-hit double to left off Josh Zeid, who only faced one batter.  Kiké Hernandez played the carom off the wall perfectly.  Tony Sipp then faced lefty Rougned Odor and walked him, but he retired Shin-Soo Choo for the second out.  Bo, protecting a (at that time) 2-run lead, then turned to Josh Fields for the final out of the inning, and he didn't disappoint, getting Elvis Andrus to fly out.

Fields stayed on for the eighth, allowing only a 2-out triple into the RF gap to Leonys Martin.  Chad Qualls pitched the ninth: he got Peña to ground out, allowed a single to Jake Smolinski, got another groundout from Odor, hit Choo with a pitch, then struck out Andrus to end the game.

At the Plate: 
The Astros rode some shaky starting pitching from Phil Irwin but also managed to continue to score off the Rangers 'pen.  The first inning was ominous for the Rangers.  Altuve singled to lead off the inning, then stole his 40th base of the year.  Grossman then struck out on a bounced curveball down-and-in, and he was slow to leave the box and head to first.  Gimenez, the catcher, seemed mesmerised by Altuve's presence on second, and his throw to first to complete the strikeout of Grossman was late, so everyone was safe.  Springer walked to load the bases, then, inexplicably, Altuve was picked off third by Gimenez on what seemed to be an arranged play with Beltre for a pretty important first out.  Singleton singled to right to drive in a run, Dominguez followed with a single to left to score another run, Carter was hit by a pitch to reload the bases with one out, but Corporan (starting at catcher in Castro's absence) grounded into a double play to end the frame.

Typical Astros inning, I thought as I was listening to the game.  Enough hits, stupidity on the bases, and threatening to make huge strides toward winning the game, but unable to finish it all off.

Springer led off the third with his only hit of the night, and one of the Astros three lead-off home runs.  Irwin tried to bust him down-and-in with a fastball, and Springer (1-4, BB, 2RBI, 2R) hit it well up onto the batting eye in centre/center.  Irwin finished the third inning off uneventfully, then allowed a 2-out single to Marwin Gonzalez (2-4, RBI) in an uneventful fourth.  He walked Grossman (0-4, BB, R) to open the fifth, and was relieved by the recently re-activated Neftali Feliz, who ended the fifth without problem.

At this point, it was a pretty tight game, with the Astros entering the sixth leading 3-2.  On the third pitch of the sixth, Chris Carter got a 91mph elevated fastball, and murderised it to left field.  It was recorded as 409 feet, but it hit up above the lowest deck of seats over the left field wall, and may have been still travelling if the stands hadn't intervened.  Astros led 4-2 at the end of the sixth.  Shawn Tolleson started the seventh by walking Altuve and getting Grossman on a flyout.  Altuve then stole second, and took third on a throwing error as the ball was knocked away just past second base.  Gimenez's throw to second was knocked away by Altuve as he slid to the bag, then Andrus' throw to third hit Altuve in the back of the head as he slid into that bag.  Springer then reached on an error, scoring Altuve on the groundout - he would have scored even if the play and been made.  The call caromed of Odor's glove into CF, and Springer was thrown out stretching for second.  Bo challenged the call, but to no avail.

In the eighth, Chris Carter (2-4, 2R, 2RBI) led off the frame, mashing a 95mph fastball down the pipe to straightaway centre for his second homer of the night.  The Astros managed two more in the frame after a Corporan infield single (fantastic play behind second by Odor nearly got him), a Kiké Hernandez double (1-4, 2B, R, rocketed a liner off the top of the LF wall - a foot higher and it was gone), a Marwin Gonzalez (2-4) infield RBI single (on a hard-hit ball that came off the pitcher and bounced back toward the plate), and an Altuve sac-fly.  Astros 8, Rangers 3, scoring completed for the night.

Singleton had another good night: 2-4, BB, 2B, RBI.  His double was off a lefty.  He is now hitting .195/.295/.397, but has managed two good nights work in a row.  Altuve also had a typical Altuve night (2-3, BB, R, RBI, 2xSB).  Watching his 2014 performance has been a rare pleasure. 

Turning Point:
Tight game, 'stros leading 3-2, with the Rangers' best available multi-inning reliever on.  Chris Carter hit a deeeeeep drive to LF to take the Astros to 4, which is all they would need.

Man of the Match:
Chris Carter had himself a good night.  2-4, 2HR, 2R, 2RBI.  His season line of .194/.274/.446 is an interesting one, but not without positives, especially given his 17 home-runs on the year.  Earlier in the season, I accused him of hitting a lot of popups and waving at a lot of air, but at the moment he seems to be stinging line-drives and fly-balls all around the diamond.  I have seen some loud out from him recently (including his grounder to third in this game), and I think that he could be lethal in a lineup that offered more protection and had the occasional hot-hitter.

Goat of the Game:
Not really a Goat, but a nod to Robbie Grossman.  He had an 18-game hit-streak at OKC, and I presented his impressive AAA triple-slashes earlier today.  However, after going 0-4 with a walk (and also reaching on a strikeout), he has an 0-for-28 ML streak going at the moment.  

On the Morrow:
The Astros may have dodged a Yu Darvish-shaped-bullet today, as he was mashed in the head by a Leonys Martin batting practice line-drive.  However, is is expected to make the start tomorrow, and while I wouldn't wish a concussion on anyone, I would perhaps consider wishing a teeny bit of performance-zapping concussion on Yu.  If he does play, the matchup looks like this:

Dallas Keuchel (8-5, 3.06) versus Yu Darvish (8-4, 2.63)

Three points:  Darvish has 134 K's on the year.  He has a streak of 56 starts where he has allowed 5 ER or less.  Marwin had better be starting at Ye Shortestop tomorrow.  Whilst I am excited to see if the Astros can sweep, this could also go horribly wrong.

8 Eastern, 7 Central.  #VoteKeuchel