Wednesday, August 20, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G126: Astros at Yankees

Brett Oberholtzer (4-8, 3.87) versus Chris Capuano (1-3, 4.13)

The Astros and Yankees squared off in a tight one in the Bronx in the first game of the three-game series.  This set marks the last time the Astros play against the AL East, but is only the second-last 2014 trip to New York for the Astros, as they finish the season with four against the Mets.  Opening the series were two soft-tossing lefties hoping the neutralise the effects of the short right field porch.

Both starters opened strong, then struggled through the middle innings, with the score eventually tied 4-apiece at the conclusion of the sixth inning.  The Yankees turned to their pretty awesome pen, and all was fine until the ninth, when Chris Carter learnt to spell R-E-D-E-M-P-T-I-O-N (after striking out four times earlier in the game) and the Astros broke out with three runs, sending nine batters to the plate.  Chad Qualls managed an uneventful save, and the Astros won by a score of 7-4, ensuring at least a season split with the Yankees because they lead the second series 3-1.

On the Mound:
Brett Oberholtzer got the start, and looked record his sevently consecutive Quality Start.  He started well enough, working around a pair of two-out singles in the first, striking out two in the second, and working around a lead-off single in the third to keep the game scoreless through three.

However, Oberholtzer ran into problems in the fourth, allowing a 2-out Prado single to left, followed by a McCann homer into the second deck in right on an 0-2 count.  It was a genuine no-doubt shot on on a hanging breaking ball that caught waaaaay too much of the plate.  It was a mistake pitch from Obertholtzer, and it means that this article on Fangraphs is now out of date as it was a long shot that would have been out in any stadium around the traps.

Oberholtzer then retired the side in order in the fifth, after the Astros scored a run in the top-half of the inning to halve the deficit.  In the top of the sixth, the Astros added three more runs to the tally, so Oberholtzer entered the sixth with a 4-2 lead.  He promptly allowed a hit to left to Jacoby Ellsbury, who took second on a balk when Oberholtzer's spike caught on the mound, so he couldn't complete his pitching motion.   He rebounded to strike Teixeira swinging on a 1-2 count, and got Beltran to the same 1-2 count before walking him.  Martin Prado then doubled on a full-count fastball down the pipe into the left field corner, and Marisnick was slow to get the ball in because (i) he slipped on his heels (landing on his butt) when he hit the warning track, and (ii) he had trouble getting a handle on the ball when it rebounded off the wall away from him.  This allowed Beltran to score from first, meaning Prado had managed to tie the game with a 2-run, 1-out double.

Brett Obertholtzer's final line was the worst one (in terms of runs allowed) since his 5ER outing on 3 July against the Angels, and his shortest since he lasted on 4.2IP on 30 April against Washington.  His final line:  5.1IP, 7H, 4R/ER, BB, 7K.  He threw 94 pitches, and allowed the one home-run to McCann and a double to Prado.  The pitches to Prado and McCann were both elevated, and he can't live there pitching off a 90mph fastball.  Still, not a discouraging outing, and it wasn't like he was lit up.

Tony Sipp relieved: he had been warming up and Steve Sparks thought that Prado would be Oberholtzer's last batter regardless, given that Brian McCann was looming large in the on-deck circle.  Sipp retired McCann on a pop-up, and got Headley swinging, both on full counts, and comments were made on the radio broadcast that Sipp did not look that sharp.  However, he returned for the seventh inning, and retired the side in order on two fly-outs and a ground-out.

Fields then relieved, and he threw a scoreless, yet shaky inning.  The inning started badly when Altuve misplayed a sinking liner hit right to him by Jacoby Ellsbury.  It probably should have been scored an error, but was instead recorded as a hit, and another of those plays that the Astros infield has managed to not parlay into outs this season hit the books.  The inning improved for Fields when Teixeira struck out on a high fastball, but milliseconds afterwards it worsened when Ellsbury, who was running on the strikeout pitch, slid into second, and had Castro's throw bounce off his leg, going behind second base in the process.  Ellsbury took third, and the Yankees had the go-ahead run in scoring position with one out and with Carlos Beltran at the plate.

Beltran then took a ball with the infield drawn in, then Fields fired a strike on an elevated curveball away which Beltran grounded right to a drawn-in Marwin Gonzalez.  Ellsbury was going on contact and because it was a relatively hard-hit grounder right to short, Gonzalez had the luxury to taking his time to cut the runner down at the plate.  Beltran took first on the fielder's choice, and moved to second on the second single of the inning from Prado, was was stranded there when McCann flew out to CF.  The eighth ended tied, 4-4, despite two singles (one leadoff), a stolen base and an advance-on-error play, then a TOOTBLAN which was due to the go-on-contact called from the dugout.

Qualls then relieved for the save (the Astros took the lead in the top of the ninth) and retired the side in order on 12 pitches, with a strikeout, groundout and flyout.  The Astros 'pen combined for 3.2IP, allowed 2 hits (both to Fields, and one could have been scored an error) but struck out three while walking none.  Sipp also stranded Oberholtzer's last baserunner at second.

At the Plate:
Hits were spread all over the order today, with only Jake Marisnick (0-5) failing to get on base.  The Astros were held down for the first half of the game, as Capuano managed to restrict the Astros to a solitary baserunner per inning for the first four frames.  Altuve (1-3, 2BB) reached on a single in the first, then was erased on a runner's fielders choice when he tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt.  In the second, Dexter Fowler (2-4, BB, 3B) walked to lead off, but he was erased on a fielder's choice from Matt Dominguez (1-5, 3K) and the rest of the inning ended uneventfully.  In the third, Gregorio Petit (starting at shortstop and going 2-2, 2x2B) mashed a 1-out ground-rule double, but was stranded on a line-out from Grossman (1-4, BB) and a groundout from Altuve.  In the fourth, Castro (2-5) singled with two outs, but was left stranded on first.

The Astros entered the top of the fifth trailing 2-0, and they managed to halve the deficit.  Singleton (2-4, BB, with both of his hits to LF) struck out to lead off the frame, and Marisnick followed with a flyout.  Petit then doubled to left, and scored when Robbie Grossman hit a little liner off the end of the bat into shallow RF, and Petit narrowly beat the throw to the plate.  

In the sixth, the Astros erased the deficit and took a 4-2 lead.  Dexter Fowler hit a stand-up triple to the LF gap to lead off the inning - he is pretty quick when he gets going - and he scored on Jason Castro's groundout to the right side.  Matt Dominguez then singled to CF, and Singleton followed with a single to left.  Marisnick grounded out to move the runners to second and third, and with two outs in the inning, and Bo chose to pinch-hit with Marwin Gonzalez for Gregorio Petit against the right-hander who had relieved Capuano.  Gonzalez managed a clutch base-hit on an 0-1 slider that caught too much of the plate, and Ichiro misplayed the ball, allowing Gonzalez (1-2) to get to second.  He was still credited with 2RBI on the play as Singleton would have easily scored from second regardless.

The Yankees bullpen controlled the seventh (Shawn Kelley struck out two) and eighth (Dellin Betances struck out one, allowing a 2-out single) before David Robertson relieved to start the ninth in a 4-4 tied game.  Marwin Gonzalez flew out to CF, then Robbie Grossman walked on a 3-1 count for the first baserunner of the frame.  He promptly stole second on a blown hit-and-run: Altuve swung at a pitch about a foot outside and in the dirt, but McCann's throw sailed well wide of second and was successfully corralled so that Grossman could not advance further.  

Then, with a 0-1 count, and Grossman on second, Altuve dug himself deeper in the hole when he swung at another breaking ball in the dirt.  He fouled off the third pitch of the at-bat, then took four consecutive balls to work a walk.  The 2-2 pitch was a front-door slider that looked for all the world like a strike on the inside corner, but McCann was setting up outside and had to reach back across the plate, and the umpire called it a ball.  The 3-2 pitch was well inside, and Altuve took first on the base-on-balls.  The result of this was that first base was no longer open should Robertson want to walk Chris Carter, so if Carter was to walk, Grossman would head to third with only one out.

And a walk to Chris Carter would not have been the worst idea in the world, especially after Robertson fell behind 3-0.  Robertson tried to get a 90mph cutter over the plate for a cheap strike, but Carter crushed hit to deep LF for a 436ft bomb that flew into the second deck of the power-alley (Alan Ashby: "Watch it at the wall..." - it cleared the wall by a mile).  The swing was short and sweet, and it was a no-doubter the instant it left the bat - Carter took a bit of a look as he strolled out of the box which makes me wonder whether he will catch one in the ribs tomorrow.  The end result was that it was a three-run shot and that Chris Carter would become the hero, despite also managing the Golden Sombrero.

Turning Point:
2-2 pitch to Jose Altuve looked pretty good to me, but Paul Emmel may have been fooled by McCann having to reach back across the plate.  Altuve walked on the next pitch, and four pitches later, the Astros led 7-4 thanks to Chris Carters' retooled swing and new approach.

Man of the Match:
I kind of feel silly giving it to a guy who had the Golden Sombrero, but Chris Carter (1-5, HR, 4K, 3RBI) gets a leg-up on the MoTM because he is the reigning AL player of the week.  He also mashed his 30th HR of the season, and sits two HR behind Jose Abreu for the AL lead.  Those not wanting to heap love on the exploits of Chris Carter could choose to prefer the efforts of Dexter Fowler (2-4, BB, 3B, R) or Jon Singleton (2-4, BB, R) who were both on base three times.

Goat of the Game:
Jake Marisnick - 0-5, K - and a bit of a misplay in the LF corner.

The Astros look to secure the season series in the second game of the set tomorrow.

Scott Feldman (6-9, 4.45) versus Michael Pineda (2-2, 1.82)

7 Eastern, 6 Central.