Kyle Gibson (10-9, 4.13) versus Brett Oberholtzer (4-7, 4.05)
There is a saying in this part of the world: "it's Sydney or the bush". I could write a few words in explanation here, but why type a poorly constructed essay when I can explain by means of an excellent Peanuts cartoon (what's more, a baseball themed one):
The reason that I bring up this saying is because it kind of describes Kyle Gibson. In 23 starts (including this one) he has allowed 1 or fewer earned runs in 12 of them, and 5 or more earned runs in 8 of them. He had a fabulous streak in June when he threw three straight starts of 7IP, yielding no runs in any of them, and giving up a total of 10 hits. He can certainly turn dominate at times, but at other times, he gets lit up, and wears the loss.
The anti-Kyle Gibson is Brett Oberholtzer. Like many of the Astros starters, he can dominate at times, but he tends to compete by keeping his team in the game and not have many disastrous outings. Look at Obie's last six starts (including this one) - a minimum of 6.1IP in each start, and 12 total earned runs given up. No shutouts, no more than 3ER given up each time.
So, I guess if one was to try to predict this game, there would be two likely outcomes. Either (i) Gibson dominates, and Obie gives up a run or two, and the Twins win or (ii) Gibson struggles and gets knock around a bit, while Obie gives up a run or two and the Astros win. Either way, the game seemed destined to be decided by Gibson's performance.
And decided by Gibson it was. He had a great night, holding the Astros offence down for 7.2 innings and escaping from some jams along the way with his filthy running-sinker. Brett Oberholtzer gave up an earned run, and was credited with the loss despite the Astros scoring the same number of runs that he gave up. Josh Fields was the worst pitcher of the night. The Astros lose by a score of 3-1, losing the series 2-1 and splitting the season series 3 apiece.
On the Mound:
I have kind of spoiled the "Mound" section by previously stating that Oberholtzer was pretty darn good and Fields was pretty darn shaky. Oberholtzer's line was a robust 7IP, 6H, 1R/ER, 0BB, 4K. His only blemish was on a Joe Mauer home run into the Astros' bullpen in the sixth inning. Obie was asked to make a pitch down-and-away, and he missed with a fastball arm-side-and-up, catching the inner third of the plate thigh-high, and Mauer made no mistake.
In only two other innings did batters make it to third against Oberholtzer (the first and the fifth) and they were both stranded there, mostly because they arrived at third with two outs.
Josh Fields relieved to start the eighth and loaded the bases with no outs on an infield single from Danny Santana, and a hard-hit double to Brian Dozier after being up 0-2 in the count. He was then asked to walk Joe Mauer to load the bases (first base was empty), then a ringing single from Kennys Vargas drove in two. Fields rebounded to strike out Plouffe, Tony Sipp relieved, and retired the side without further incident (including Jordan Schafer on a popped-up bunt that was most likely a safety squeeze).
Chad Qualls finished off, allowing 2 hits in the process, but throwing only 14 pitches. Marwin Gonzalez made an excellent play at the plate on a throw home to keep the score at 3-1.
At the Plate:
Kyle Gibson had a good outing, and much of the credit should go to him for his performance on the night. However, he escaped a few jams, including runners on first and second with one out in the first and fourth innings, and first and second with no outs in the seventh. So he wasn't totally dominant, and made good pitches when he needed to.
His only earned run was in the eighth inning, on a two-out Altuve (1-4) infield hit, a wild pitch (moving Altuve to second), and a Chris Carter (2-4) single to the LF-CF gap.
The Astros only managed six hits and two walks, so no one else really did much. Other notable performances with the bat included Mike-Bob Grossman (1-4), Dexter Fowler (batting cleanup in his first game back: 1-3, BB) and Carlos Corporan (1-4, with a couple of deep foul balls down the RF line). Jon Singleton walked (0-3, BB).
Two other incidents are worthy of note. In the first inning, and with Kyle Gibson looking like he had good stuff, Robbie Grossman led off with a single. Altuve grounded to third, Brian Dozier made an excellent play and Altuve was called out. Bo Porter challenged, and the appeal was denied most likely on the basis that there was no conclusive evidence that Altuve beat the throw. I also thought that if Altuve had been called safe, that call wouldn't have been overturned either. Regardless, runners on first and second with no outs would have been gold. Interestingly, later in the inning, Carter dumped a single just in from of Eduardo Nunez in LF, but Grossman couldn't advance because he thought the ball would be caught, so either Altuve or Grossman may have been forced out on that play regardless.
The second noteworthy incident is also the...
Turning Point of the Game:
Opening the seventh, down 1-0, the Astros got 2 on with no outs on a Singleton walk and a Corporan single. In totally predictable fashion, Matt Dominguez hit a perfect double-play grounder to his counterpart at third, and the rally-death was completed one batter later when Jake Marisnick flew out to CF.
Man of the Match:
Brett Oberholtzer threw his sixth consecutive quality start since he returned from the minors shortly before the All Star Break. Chris Carter also had two hits - but not two home runs, sadly - to be the best of the Astros hitters again.
Goat of the Game:
This was a well played game, with no one really standing out as the goat. However, Matt Dominguez - for his 0-4, GIDP night - and Josh Fields - for his 0.1IP, 2ER nights (even if the first hit was a bit soft) deserve special mention, and therefore can share the award.
The Astros fly to Fenway to face the Red Sox.
Scott Feldman (6-8, 4.14) versus Allen Webster (2-1, 4.91)
Thanks for reading.