Brett Oberholtzer (2-7, 4.66) versus Jake Peavy (1-7, 4.64)
In the second-last game prior to the All Star Break, the Astros had a chance to even up the series with the Red Sox and set up for a rubber match tomorrow at Minute Maid Park. The Sox ended the Astros' three game streak yesterday, and the Astros had a chance to send the Sox' three-game streak today. I am talking about chances, because although the Astros didn't take many of theirs, but neither did the Red Sox, and the upshot of it all was a tight 3-2 win to the Astros.
This could so easily have been a game that went the other way, and was also typical of many of the Astros' games in 2014. Enough power, adequate starting pitching, but also a youthful ignorance of the fundamentals of the game. But tonight, the 'Stros managed just enough in the way of clutch plays, and eked out a tight one. How did this happen?? Lets take a look!
But first, an obligatory Arrested Development link for Cockroach!
On the Mound:
Collin McHugh was pushed to the DL because his manicurist was a little careless. Or something. He has struggled with the skin on and round the fingers of his pitching hand for 5 or so weeks now, so it makes sense that he gets to go to the All Star Break on the DL, and hopefully allow for his fingers to heal properly, allowing for a hopefully solid second-half push.
Getting the start in his place was the only winning pitcher for the Astros against the Red Sox in 2013. Lefty Brett Oberholtzer got the call, and he worked effectively around a number of base runners, managing to record some critical outs at some critical times. However, he was deprived the win when he hit the wall in the seventh, and the bottom of the Red Sox order managed to get a couple of speedsters on against him, one of whom scored.
Obie started by allowing an infield single from Brock Holt in the first, but he went nowhere as the rest of the side went in order. In the second, he gave up two hits - both singles - but the first of those (by Xander Bogaerts) was erased on an outfield assist from Kiké Hernandez, who circled the ball well in left, and fired a strike to Jose Altuve for the out at second. In the third, Obie retired the side on order on a strikeout, a groundout and a flyout.
The next four leadoff hitters were to reach against Oberholtzer. The fourth inning started with a long Ortiz homer to Right on the first pitch of the inning. Castro called for a fastball down and away, Obie missed up and arm-side, and the ball ran right down the pipe. Ortiz has made a career out of mashing pitches like that, and he made no mistake here, sending it deep into the first level of the right field stands. Bogaerts was to reach on an infield single to third with two outs later in the inning, but the fourth was otherwise uneventful.
In the fifth, Jackie Bradley Jr singled to lead off the frame, and with one out, Brock Holt then Dustin Pedroia singled to load the bases. But Obie got Ortiz to roll over a change up down, Altuve fired to second, and they completed the double-play to end the frame. In the sixth, Napoli singled to left to lead off the inning, but didn't progress because Obie ended the inning with a strikeout, a flyout and a groundout.
In the seventh, Obie got into trouble that he could not escape. He allowed a lead-off single to Jackie Bradley Jr, who took a low-and-away slider, and flicked it right centre for a leadoff single. Mookie Betts then managed a clean single to centre to put runners on the corners with no outs. Obie's last batter was the lefty, Brock Holt, and he enticed him into a popup for the first out. Josh Fields relieved, and after an epic nine-pitch battle with Dustin Pedroia, the eventual outcome was a sac-fly, with the trail runner staying at second. Scores tied, 2-2. With two outs, and the go-ahead run on second, Bo elected to walk Ortiz and pitch to Napoli, who struck out swinging on a full count to end the frame.
Fields stayed on for the eighth, and he struck out Gomes and Bogaerts before getting David Ross to fly out to RF. Tony Sipp was asked to start the ninth, and he got Jackie Bradley Jr to fly out to CF, before allowing Mookie Betts to reach on an infield single and Brock Holt to single to left, putting the game-tying run at second. Porter elected to go with Qualls for (hopefully) the last two outs. Three pitches later, his decision was vindicated, as Pedroia grounded into a 6-4-3, and the game was over. The call at first was confirmed after a challenge.
Obie's line reveals how well he did with runners on base: 6.1IP, 11H, 2R/ER, 0BB, 3K, 1HR allowed. He threw 102 pitches, and the leadoff hitter reached in five of the seven frames that he started. Fields, despite allowing the game tying run to score (which earned him the win), also had another impressive outing: 1.2IP, 0H, 0R/ER, BB, 3K.
At the Plate:
Jake Peavy had it going tonight, but the Astros managed to scratch out three runs against him. He had thrown 67 pitches through five innings, and eventually threw 103 in seven-plus striking out nine while walking one.
The Astros' first baserunner was with two outs in the second, when Matt Dominguez (2-4) singled to right. In the third, Peavy recorded two outs on seven pitches, then the Astros managed something very un-2014-Astro-like. Jose Altuve (2-4, 2x2B, 2R) doubled to left, and Castro worked a 3-2 count on eight pitches. On the ninth pitch, Ross called for a fastball down and in, Peavy missed arm-side and up, and Castro hit a high fly ball that just cleared the fence to the right-field side of the Astro's pen. Mookie Betts, playing right, had the ball flick through the webbing of his glove while he was jumping at the wall, but he came up empty, and the 'Stros had managed two extra-base hits with two outs, resulting in two runs.
Normal transmission resumed in the fourth, with the 'Stros going in order on a Singleton K (0-4, 4K), a Carter grounder and a Dominguez grounder. The Astros un-clutch-ness was apparent in the sixth, when the Astros managed a lead-off double to Robbie Grossman (1-3, BB, 2B) who went to third on Kiké Hernandez's (0-3) fly-out to RF. But a Marwin Gonzalez K (0-3, K) and an Altuve grounder ended the frame without a run being scored.
The sixth was even more un-clutch. Castro, who had a super night, opened the frame with a triple to the Astros bullpen. He could have whipped out a deckchair and a cold stubby, and watched as the Astros left him high and dry on a grounder to short and two strikeouts. Those five outs in the fifth and sixth, all recorded with a runner on third, cost the Astros a much needed insurance run, and inadvertently cost Oberholtzer the win.
In the seventh, Grossman worked a one-out walk, and advanced as far as second, but was stranded. In the eighth, with the scores tied 2-2, Peavy was relieved by Andrew Miller after allowing an Altuve double to left to lead off the frame. A Castro grounder to the right-side allowed Altuve to advance, and Springer (0-3, BB) reached on an IBB. Singleton struck out, then Junichi Tazawa relieved to face Chris Carter (1-4, RBI).
On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Carter took a 2-1 low 96mph fastball and grounded it back up the middle. Brock Holt, playing deep, ranged across to his left and fielded, but was kind of facing into the outfield due to the speed of the ball. He tried to flip to second, but Pedroia was pulled off the bag a tiny bit, and Springer managed to slide into first before he could get his foot back on the bag. Springer was safe, Altuve scored from third, and Carter reached on a very unlikely infield single.
Dominguez then loaded the bases with another single, but Robbie Grossman struck out to end the frame. But it didn't matter, as the Astros and a 3-2 lead, and they managed to close out the game in the top of the ninth.
A number of plays were crucial late in the game, but the play that gave the Astros a chance to allow those plays to matter happened early. Jake Peavy had been pretty much nails to that point, but he went through a bad patch in the bottom of the third. Altuve managed a double to the corner, the Castro, on a full count, hit a towering fly ball that only just cleared the RF fence, bouncing off the glove of Mookie Betts in the process. The exact moment that the ball escaped Betts' glove was the turning point in the game.
Man of the Match:
Jason Castro has suddenly started stinging the ball to RF. A month ago, my grandmama could have got her fastball past him on the outer half, but recently, he has started catching up to pitches and pulling them. Seems to be seeing it better. His line: 2-4, 3B, HR, R, 2RBI.
Goat of the Game:
Toss up between Jon Singleton and his four strikeouts, and Marwin Gonzalez and his one strikeout. Both struck out with one out and a runner on third. I hates me some non-situational hitting, and these two Goats illustrated that beautifully.
Bradley J. Peacock (3-5, 4.30) versus Clay Buchholz (3-5, 6.11)
2 Eastern, 1 Central. Then four days off. Except for Jose Altuve, who has to work.