Monday, August 18, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G125: Astros at Red Sawx

This matchup pitted Collin McHugh (5-9, 3.08) versus Joe Kelly (0-0, 2.08), and came in a day game which was the final episode in a four game series between Houston and Boston.  Boston was leading the series 2-1, and the season series 4-2, so the Astros had a chance to earn an away-split and their second win ever at Fenway.  Sadly, the season series is gone.

I would have done a game recap yesterday, but I decided to try and stick a knife into my abdomen instead, as it was less painful than watching Brad Peacock blow a series of handy leads.  But the Astros had a good one today, so that gets me suitably motivated to engage in a bit of recap-ery, even if it is from my hospital bed in a surgical ward after having my spleen removed.  Sitting the laptop gently on my stitched abdomen... here I go...

Astros win, 8-1, thanks to an important overturn after a challenge on an egregious attempt at a force by Xander Bogaerts, with subsequent discussion on whether this constituted the neighbourhood play or not.  It may have met the criteria for the "postcode play", but as Marc Krauss was not close to the neighbourhood, and Bogaerts got Marwin Gonzalez at first after the "force" by about 5 steps, the neighbourhood play was not seen as appropriate.  The umps eventually determined that Boegaerts did not need to release the ball prior to stepping on second, overturned the call and ... well, it worked out to be important.

On the Mound:
As mentioned above, the Astros sent diamond-in-the-rough and awesome waiver wire acquisition Collin McHugh to the hill today.  The brief story was the he opened strong, scuffled through the middle a bit, and finished relatively well.  He did what he has done well all season - not allow hits with runners in scoring position - as the Red Sox had a bunch of baserunners (11 in six innings against McHugh), and only scratched out one run against him.  McHugh's final line was a slightly fortuitous 6IP, 7H, 1R/ER, 4BB, 6K on 109 pitches, but note must be made that he battled and hung in against a solid lineup missing Dustin Pedroia.

McHugh started well enough, allowing a hard hit lead-off single to left against Brock Holt in the first, but stranding him there.  McHugh missed in the middle of the zone, and Holt flicked it over Dominguez's head into left with a hard liner.

The next three innings saw a total of 8 Red Sox baserunners for a yield of one total run: in the second, two two-out singles were stranded on a fielder's choice to the left side of the infield.  In the third, a lead off walk scored on a Daniel Nava double, who TOOTBLAN'ed himself into getting run down between second and third.  This was followed by a 4-pitch walk, a pop-up single into "Marisnick territory", a wild pitch, then a strikeout and a groundout.  In the fourth, two consecutive singles with no outs put runners on the corner for a pop out, a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning without troubling the scorers.

McHugh then had his only frame when he retired the side in order - the fifth - with 2 strikeouts.  In the sixth - his last inning - he allowed a leadoff walk, then a missed a double play opportunity to first, then allowed a walk, then coaxed a double-play on a grounder to third by Dan Butler, who remains yet to record a hit in the Bigs.

Sipp relieved against the top of the order - Brock Holt, righty-killer and switch-hitter Daniel Nava, and David Ortiz, and he retired the side in merciful order.  Mike Foltynewicz was handed the eighth, and he allowed one baserunner on a single to right field.  Chad Qualls then set the side down in order in the ninth, and the Astros managed to nail down a win.  The 'pen allowed only one hit over the last three, in contrast to McHugh's generosity earlier in the game.

At the Plate:
After a Jose Altuve single in the first (followed by a Carter (0-5) double-play), the events of the second inning unfolded.  Dexter Fowler (2-4, BB, HR, 2R, 2RBI) led off with a single into CF, and Jon Singleton followed with a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second.  Carlos Corporan - playing today to give Jason Castro two consecutive days off - then followed with a hard single to right past the dive of the second baseman, Brock Holt.  Marc Krauss (2-3, BB, R, RBI) then followed with a "single" to LF on a horribly misplayed ball by Cespedes, who never picked up the easy fly ball which eventually landed right behind him, coming off the wall about a yard or so off the ground.  It was somehow scored a single - not the Marc Krauss is complaining - but this must have resulted in a massive collective flashback from the Boston crowd to the days of Manny Ramirez and his LF misadventures.  If one was to generous to Cespedes, a hypothesis that the ball was lost in the sun could be advanced, but as there were no shadows out during the play it seems that no kind of bright light could have caused this difficulty.  More likely a white ball against a grey cloud.  Normally the kind of thing that a Chris Carter or Marc Krauss in left would do for the Astros, so nice to get something back.

Regardless, the runners were able to move up a base each, so the bases remained loaded when Matt Dominguez (0-3, GIDP) hit a long fly ball to the RF-CF gap, which scored Singleton (1-3, 2BB, HR, 2R, RBI) for the second run of the inning.  Krauss was unable to move up from first, but that was fine, as his lack of pace was the catalyst for the next play.

Marwin Gonzalez (0-4), with runners on the corners, hit a hard ground ball that deflected off the back of Joe Kelly and rebounded toward Bogaerts at a conventional DP-depth short.  He gloved the ball easily, and ran toward second to make the throw, but clearly released the ball well before he touched second.  At the time of his release, Marc Krauss was around 5 yards away and about to start his slide, and Bogaerts' throw beat Marwin to first by another five yards.  Both runners were called out, but Bo came out to argue, and the umpires kicked it to the New York crew to determine whether (i) the neighbourhood play applied, and (ii) whether Bogaerts touched second before releasing the ball.  The review was in favour of the 'stros, and they got another batter with runners on second and third and two outs.

Grossman (1-4, BB) followed (back to the top of the order) and he had another excellent at-bat which resulted in a nine-pitch walk to re-load the bases.  Jose Altuve then took a ball, and with Dan Bulter asking for a cutter down-and-away, Joe Kelly missed arm-side-and-in, the ball took the inner third of the plate thigh high.  Jose Altuve drove the ball to the top of the Green Monster, depositing it next to a guy wearing a giant bulldog head for a Grand Slam - Altuve's first Slam and the fourth of the year for the Astros - and the Astros led, six-nil.  John Farrell raced out of the dugout and got tossed, still upset by the call, but really he should have been upset by Cespedes' misplay in left that extended the inning such that the double play was needed.  Perhaps that is what he was complaining to the crew chief about - how rubbish the Red Sox LF have been defensively recently.

In the third, Fowler drove the second pitch of the inning - a fastball in where the catcher wanted it - over the visitors bullpen for a solo shot.  The Astros got two more baserunners - first and second with one out - but Dominguez and Gonzalez were unable to score them.  In the fourth, the Astros loaded the bases with two outs on an Altuve single, a Fowler walk and a Singleton walk, but Carlos Corporan (1-4, BB) struck out on an 83mph change for the third out.

The fifth went uneventfully - Craig Breslow threw that frame for the Sox - and in the sixth, knuckleballer Steven Wright allowed two consecutive singles to lead off the inning before getting Carter on a deep flyout, and striking out Fowler and Singleton.  A Dominguez GIDP erased a Krauss single in the seventh, and the side went in order in the eighth.  The ninth was notable for Singleton's eleventh home run of the year - a towering shot on an 0-1 knuckler that was deposited 10 rows back into the RF stand over the bullpen.  This homer was measured at 436ft, so wasn't a cheapie by any stretch, and hopefully this will give Singleton some confidence heading into Yankee Stadium and the short RF porch there.

Turning Point:
Bo Porter's successful review extended the second inning.  Good at-bats by Grossman and Altuve followed, and the Astros got enough of a cushion to allow Collin McHugh to attack the hitters when he needed to.

Man of the Match:
I wanted to go with Jon Singleton here - his 1-3, 2BB, HR line was good - and I really wanted to point out his excellent defensive play.  He made a great play on a short-hop to end the third inning with runners on second and third, and McHugh got to first in time to allow an easy feed.  He also made a solid sliding play in the ninth to end the game - good to see some good defence from the Astros infield, who often seem to grant extra outs when put under pressure.

But Jon Singleton goes home empty-handed, because of Jose Altuve's night.  His line: 4-5, HR, 4RBI, and his first career Grand Slam.

Kudos, also, to the Astros 'pen, and Collin McHugh for battling through six innings.

Goat of the Game:
Interspersed in the Astros' 11 hits and 6 walks was Chris Carter (0-5, GIDP), Matt Dominguez (0-3, GIDP) and Marwin Gonzalez (0-4).  Matty D may find himself job-sharing with Gregorio Petit - a key figure in this series offensively and defensively - for the rest of the season if he doesn't get it going soon.  His line of .227/.268/.354 has probably been the most disappointing aspect of the season for the Astros.

Up Next:
The Astros have a day off and get to go shopping in Manhattan tomorrow - I am picking that they will hang out at American Apparel or Gap or something - before launching into a three game set against the Yankees, who are also off tomorrow.  Brett Oberholtzer (4-8, 3.87) versus Chris Capuano (1-3, 4.13) in a battle of the lefties.  7 Eastern, 6 Central on Tuesday.

Apologies for the spelling of "neighbourhood".  Thanks for reading.