Sunday, August 31, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G137: Astros versus Rangers

The Astros managed to bring the Boot back to Houston for the first time since 2006 by beating the Rangers tonight, and in the season series.  The Astros recorded their tenth win of the series of the 15 games played so far.  The two teams play the final game of this series tomorrow, then have a late-September 3-game series at Arlington.  It should be pointed out that the Astros have managed a quite different record to the 2-17 record they managed in 2013 (and remember, one of those two wins was in the opening game, so after that they went 1-17 for the rest of the year).  I am not sure who would have predicted the Rangers' collapse, but it has been spectacular, and the relative win-loss records between 2013 and 2014 involving these two teams reflects that.

While the Silver Boot is not exactly a playoff berth, note is made that the only thing that the Astros fans have had to celebrate for the last few years has been number one draft picks and top-3 farm systems rankings.  Little else, aside from the occasional 4-game away sweep.  It has been lean pickings as an Astros fan recently, and perhaps the Boot is a salve for some of those wounds.

Astros win, 2-0.

On the Mound:
This game was all about Scott Feldman, who was involved in a pitcher's duel early, was efficient in throughout the game, and he closed it out for this second career shutout, and his second complete game of August.  He threw 115 pitches, allowing 4 base-runners on three hits and a walk while striking out five.  This continues a solid late-July through August run for Feldman, who has given up 1ER in 7IP, 1ER in 9IP, 3ER in 6.1IP, 7ER in 5.1IP, 2ER in 6.2IP and 3ER in 7IP in the six games prior to his appearance today.

Feldman was perfect through four-and-a-third, when he allowed a one-out single to Ryan Rua.  He allowed a lead-off single in the sixth to Rougned Odor, who was later erased on a caught stealing (thanks to a fantastic catch-and-tag by Gregorio Petit).  He walked Beltre with two outs in the seventh, and he allowed a one-out single to Leonys Martin in the ninth.

He was assisted by a couple of tremendous defensive plays.  Robbie Grossman (in LF) made a nice low catch on a sinking line drive coming in and to his right in the first.  Gregorio Petit, subbing in for a sore Marwin Gonzalez, make an excellent diving stop behind second base in the sixth.  He caught the ball behind him a little bit, so he had angular momentum that took his legs toward the infield, and his body toward the outfield.  He continued the spin, got to one knee with his body aligned perfectly, and threw out the speedy Martin by a step or two.  In the seventh, Matt Dominguez made a good play on a hard hit grounder by Ryan Rua with one on and two outs, and he threw him out by plenty (partly thanks to a great catch from Guzman).

Feldman was assisted striking out Michael Choice looking three times.  He also struck out Andrus swinging, and Odor looking.

At the Plate:
The Astros were not much better than the Rangers early on in terms of offence.  Robbie Ross Jr got the start, and he had a no-hitter (allowing three walks) through 5.  He was lifted at 70 pitches, mostly because he threw 42 in the minors 2 days ago.

The Astros' first hit was off Phil Klein in the sixth - an Altuve (1-3, BB) double down the LF line.  Altuve leads Melky Cabrera in hits in MLB by 17, and Victor Martinez in average by 4 points.  Adrian Beltre is a further three points of batting average behind Martinez, having a typically solid season.  Altuve's double ultimately meant little, however, has he watched from second as Carter (0-3, BB) struck out, and Fowler (0-4) grounded out.

The only runs of the game came in the next inning.  Jesus Guzman (1-2, 2BB) walked to lead off the frame.  Guzman got the start against lefty Ross, but he stayed in the game to face the righties Klein and Tolleson.  Carlos Corporan (1-4, 2B) then doubled down the LF line - a slicing shot that kicked off the warning track that landed just past where the 3rd base stand juts out.  The ball kicked into the stand.  Then, with runners on second and third, Marisnick hit a high chopper back to the mound, Klein gathered and decided not to throw home (Guzman was only a little more than half-way down the line when he caught it, so he would have had a play) and instead tried to get Marisnick at first.  However, Ryan Rua had left the first-base bag when he saw the chopper, presumably with the intention of coming in to field it, and in his rush to get back to the bag and field the throw, it got past him and all the runners advanced a base.  Guzman scored on what was ruled as an infield single, and Corporan scored on the throwing error, with Marisnick ending up at second.

Marisnick advanced on Dominguez's (0-2, BB) flyout, but was stranded at third when Petit (0-3) struck out.  The Astros managed to get two on with two outs in the eighth - a Carter one-out walk and a Guzman two-out single - but Corporan struck out to end the frame.

Turning Point:
Phil Klein's misplay was the big play here.  When Marisnick hit the high chopper, Steve Sparks opined that no one was directing the infield as to which base to throw to.  This meant that Klein didn't know Rua had come off first, and Telis was waiting at home for the throw to try and get Guzman.  The throw got away, and the only two runs of the game scored.

Man of the Match:
Scott Feldman, for all the reasons outlined above.  Jesus Guzman also walked twice and singled, so he deserves a mention.

Goat of the Game:
Gregorio Petit and Robbie Grossman both that 0-fers, but both made great defensive plays.  Dominguez and Carter both had 0-fers, but walked.  Fowler had an 0-fer, but his season line stands at .274/.374/.409, so he is insulated from the Goats for a while.  Therefore, no goat -  not on Silver Boot Saturday, anyhow.

Up Next:
Houston try to win three of the four games in the series.  Nick Martinez (3-10, 5.31) squares off against Dallas Keuchel (10-9, 3.05).

Day game - 2 Eastern, 1 Central.