Scott Feldman (4-5, 3.86) versus John Lackey (9-6, 3.84)
The Red Sox visit Houston for the first time this year. The Sox had a 42-50 record with a -53 run differential, and had won two in a row. Their outfield has been awful from an offensive perspective this year, and the right side of the infield has also been pretty average. They sport an 18-25 record on the road.
The Astros were coming off a typically bipolar Astro road trip, where they lost 4 in Anaheim, and swept in Arlington. They feasted off the starting pitching that the Rangers dug up off the waiver-wire, and managed to climb out of the AL West basement on percentage points. Potentially, the Astros could make some noise against an under performing Red Sox outfit.
The series hasn't started well, however, with the Red Sox running out winners 8-3 last night. The Astros were missing George Springer with a knee owie - he is listed as day-to-day - so the outfield alignment went Kiké Hernandez - Robbie Grossman - L.J. Hoes from left to right. That alignment reflects the content of my nightmares during the offseason, except for Kiké Hernandez. I dreamed that the Astros had re-signed Preston Wilson for left, and Carlos Lee was playing first. Shiver.
On the Bump:
Scotty Feldman got the start, and perhaps pitched better than his line indicated. However, watching the game, my overall impression was that his pitches weren't sharp enough to get strike three past the hitters (not actually true, as I have recorded all two-strike fouls below, and there weren't that many). However, Bo Porter echoed these sentiments in his post-game comments, stating that when he was effective, there was a little more bite to all his pitches. It seemed like the Red Sox hitters were able to square him up often, but they also just missed and hit a lot of foul balls at times too.
And that is how the game started for Feldman, anyhow. He got to 0-2 on leadoff hitter Brock Holt (possibly the brother of Steve Holt), but Brock Holt touched him up for a double. Holt was later caught stealing third with one out, and the inning ended uneventfully. The second hitter of the inning, Pedroia, fouled off two two-strike pitches before flying out.
In the second, Feldman got to 1-2 on Carp and lost him, allowing a leadoff walk. Daniel Nava singled, but a strikeout and double-play ended the frame without scoring. Feldman struck Drew out to start the third inning, then Vazquez managed to flip his first ML hit to CF on a well-placed curve down and away that came off the end of the bat. Brock Holt tripled to the Astros 'pen (after fighting off two two-strike pitches), and Pedroia followed with a double to drive in the second run of the frame. Another walk later in the inning, but Feldman managed to coax a flyout with runners on the corner to limit the damage to two runs.
In the fourth, a leadoff single, then the second double-play of the night for Xander Bogaerts led to a 2-out, none on frame. But then a Drew triple and a Vazquez ground-rule double on a fastball right down the pipe, and the score was three-nil. Feldman bounced back to retire the side in order in the fifth, but ran into serious trouble in the sixth.
Nava led off with a single on a 3-2 count. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a single on a 2-2 count (one 2-strike foul), then Bogaerts fouled out to third. Drew was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Vazquez hit his second double of the game to right on a fastball in, scoring two, and Feldman was done for the night. His eventual line: 5.1IP, 11H, 7R/ER (all of his inherited runners scored), 3BB, 3K, 116 pitches. He gave up no home runs, but did allow 4 doubles and two triples.
Darin Downs relieved, and immediately walked Brock Holt to re-load the bases. Pedroia lined out for the second out, then Ortiz smoked a double on a mid-thigh fastball away (Castro seemed to want it just off the plate, but it didn't miss by much), and the bases emptied. The Red Sox took an 8-1 lead.
David Martinez relieved, and he was excellent. His overall line was 3IP, 0H, 0R/ER, BB, 2K. He finished out the last three innings on 36 pitches. This marks his second 3-inning outing in a row, and he has given up 1ER over those two outings. But I still miss Jerome Williams' pink glove. I guess I can tune into Rangers games now to watch Williams' glove if I wish.
At the Plate:
The Astros, as an offensive unit, managed 7 hits and six walks, so it wasn't like they had no base-runners in the game. A Matt Dominguez (1-4, BB) walk was the only baserunner in the first, and the side was retired in order in the second. L.J. Hoes (0-3, BB) walked with one-out in the third, but he only managed to advance to second before the inning ended.
In the fourth, Singleton (0-4, BB, R) worked a one-out walk on the tenth pitch of the at-bat, and Grossman (0-2, 2BB) walked with two-outs, bringing Kiké (1-3, BB, RBI) to the plate. He singled on a fastball away to bring Singleton in, but the inning ended a batter later when Marwin (1-4) grounded out to first.
In the fifth, Castro (1-5, 2B) managed a 2-out double. In the sixth, Carter hit a flat line-drive to left that clanged around in the front row for the Crawford Boxes. The catcher Vazquez set up down and away, Lackey missed arm-side and up, and Carter got under it just enough to hit it out. The Astros managed to get two on with two out later in the inning, but L.J. Hoes grounded out to end the frame.
Nothing else happened until the eighth, when Carter mashed a second home run off the foul pole in left with one out. In doing so, he made 27-thousand new friends a little less hungry. Lefty Craig Breslow, on a 2-2 count, missed up and away after Vazquez set up very much down and in, and the ball bled over the middle of the plate. Carter, again, didn't miss it, and this one hit a third of the way up the "fowl" pole for his second solo shot of the night, and his 19th on the season.
The Astros managed a walk later in the eighth, then had two on with two-out in the ninth, but the game ended on a Singleton swinging strike.
You gotta hand it to the Sox. When the time was right, they managed to get an extra-base hit to drive guys in. Overall, they were fairly efficient. The game disappeared for good when, with two outs, David Ortiz mashed one to the base of the wall near the Houston 'pen to clear the bases, giving the Bo Sox a 7-run lead.
Man of the Match:
Nod to David Martinez here, but clearly it is going to be Chris Carter. I know Cockroach does funny things with the HR in his name, but I am much more mature and refined than that, and will not comply. Carter's line was impressive: 2-4, 2HR, 2R, 2RBI. The game could have been a lot closer if the four batters above him didn't go a collective 3-18 with 2 walks.
Goat of the Game:
Every position player was on base at least once, so the Goat falls to Scotty Feldman. Bo's comments seem a little ominous: "It just looks like there is not a lot of finish. When he was really good early on in the year, there was finish to the fastball, there was late life, there was sharpness to the breaking ball."
Feldman seems to have been the worst of the starters lately, and with some guys in AAA looking to have a go before the end of the year, and the rest of the rotation appearing relatively healthy, he may find himself with a change of role perhaps. But probably not.
On the Morrow:
Brett Oberholtzer (2-7, 4.66) versus Jake Peavy (1-7, 4.64)
Obie was the only Astros pitcher to record a win against Boston last year, and he gets the start with thanks to the fingernail of Collin McHugh. Jake Peavy has been a little disappointing - I remember him well from his Padre days, when he always seemed to pitch well in Minute Maid.
4:10 Eastern, 3:10 Central.