Tuesday, September 9, 2014

From the Office of the County Clerk - G144: Astros at Mariners

I jinxed it!!  My oblique referencing to the Astros possibly posting a winning record in 2014 by ending the season on a 20-game winning streak have directly resulted in a loss to the Mariners by a score of 4-1 today.  My fault.  That said, I must point out at this juncture that an 18 game winning streak will result in a .500 record.  There is nothing more to say on this topic.  I am not going to jinx it again.

Pitching mis-matchup today as the Astros' number five went against arguably the best pitcher in the AL.  Peacock did well, but left early, and a cobbled together 'pen of rookies, tired lefties and organisational spare parts were not able to keep the scores tied.  The Mariners scored three late on some nice hitting, which put the game away.  The Astros managed seven hits and six walks, but were largely unable to capitalise against a strong Mariners pitching unit.

On the Mound:
As mentioned above, Bradley J. Peacock got the start.  He worked around plenty of baserunners, but left the game with the scores knotted at nil-all after five.  He looked sharp at times, but also gave up 2 doubles and walked six.  His final line was a reasonable 5IP, 4H, 0R/ER, 2BB, 6K, 92 pitches thrown.

Peacock worked around a 2-out double in the first, a one-out double and a hit-by pitch in the second, getting the third out with runners on second and third.  He then allowed a leadoff walk in the third, followed by an IBB with one out and first base open (which I thought was a very interesting play early on in a scoreless game), and allowed a 2-out single in the fourth.  The fifth, Peacock's last inning, was significant only for a 1 out single.

Peacocks last four starts: 5IP, 0ER (tonight); 6.1IP, 3R/2ER (versus Angels); 5.1IP, 1ER (versus Oakland) and 5IP, 1ER (at Cleveland).  None of these starts have been against poor offensive teams.  This has all happened since the Astros worked out that he was tipping his pitches, and this rounding into late-season form is likely to result in another good look at the rotation next year (unless the Astros sign McCarthy, Lester and Scherzer, of course).

After Peacock left, things got a little.... er... ugly.  Downs relieved and retired Kyle Seager whilst nearly wearing a line drive for a cap.  He then walked Logan Morrison on 4 straight balls.  Jorge De Leon relieved him and struck out Mike Zunino before walking Michael Saunders, then allowing a single to Brad Miller for the first run of the game.  Jackson grounded out to end that frame.

Kevin Chapman opened the eighth, and he allowed a one out single then struck out the next two batters.  Chapman stayed on to open the eighth, and enticed Morrison to ground out to short.  Tom Lawless chose to relieve with Mike Foltynewicz, who walked Mike Zunino, then Tony Sipp came on, and he walked Michael Saunders to put runners on first a second.  Then Brad Miller (him! again!) went down and got a low fastball, hitting a line drive just past a shallow Jake Marisnick for a two run triple, and to put the Astros in a 3-1 hole.  Miller then scored on Austin Jackson's hit against Jake Buchanan (who relieved Phat Tony), but then Jake settled down and got the next two outs in order.

I note that Tom Lawless used all three lefties in the 'pen, and that Sipp will likely need a break after working 3 of the last four days (including today).  The Mariners have a noted weakness against lefties, and the next two starters for the Astros are righties - one of whom is a rookie making his first start.  Be interesting to see whether Collin McHugh and the Astros offence can put tomorrow's contest away early to save the 'pen, or whether someone like Josh Fields (who is tough on batters from both sides) will have to pitch multiple frames.  Bears watching.

At the Plate:
A few baserunners tonight for the Astros against King Felix, but Hernandez did well to spread the hits and walks around a bit.  Dexter Fowler (1-5) singled in the first with two outs, and Jon Singleton (0-2, 2BB) walked with two outs in the second.  Alex Presley (0-2, BB) worked a lead-off walk in the third, but was erased on a caught-stealing right before Grossman (3-5, 3B) singled to RF.  However, a pair of strikeouts ended that threat.  Marwin Gonzalez (1-4) doubled with two outs in the fourth, but was stranded after Singleton's strikeout.

The fifth and sixth innings represented the Astros' best scoring chances.  In the fifth, Matt Dominguez (1-3, BB) led off on an infield single, and went to second on Altuve's (0-3, BB) two-out walk.  Fowler struck out to end the frame.  In the sixth, Chris Carter (1-3, BB) singled to lead off, then went to second on a wild pitch.  Singleton walked with two outs, but again runners were stranded on first and second when Matty D grounded out.

The only Astros run was scored in the seventh on a fascinating play.  Robbie Grossman hit a deep fly-ball to right with one out.  Michael Saunders reached over the fence and brought it back, but the way in which it came back led the umpire to believe that it must have hit the fence protecting the stands which is less than a yard past the wall.  However, replays showed the Saunders caught the ball on the very end of the glove in a bit of a snow-cone, then kind of catapulted it back into the field of play, accounting for the odd return onto the playing surface.  The ball was eventually picked up around 15 yards from the wall by Austin Jackson after Grossman, who was running hard all the way, had rounded second.  The umps singled home run, but the Mariners appealed the ruling and were successful.  However, Grossman was awarded third much to the chagrin of Lloyd McClendon, who was ejected because of a lame tantrum, where he tried to argue that when the umps signalled home run, his awesome outfielders stopped playing, and chose not to gun Grossman down at third.  They would have totally had him!! (not!).  Altuve then chased Grossman in with a sac-fly to Saunders, with a fabulous slide into home by Robbie just beating the throw.

Carter walked leading off the eighth, and stole second with one out.  But all that did is afford him a better view of Marwin Gonzalez flying out to CF, and Jon Singleton grounding out to second.  In the ninth, the Astros again threatened with a Dominguez lead-off walk and a Grossman one-out single, but Altuve and Fowler went meekly.  If either could have got on, Carter would have been up with the bases loaded, but no luck today.

Astros hitters with RISP: 0-10, with Fowler 0-3; Gonzalez and Singleton 0-2; and Castro, Altuve and Dominguez 0-1.  Not a great night for the hitters.

Turning Point:
The Astros had at least one baserunner every inning, and were the victims of no double-plays.  So pick and inning where the Astros could have scored, and let's call that the Turning Point.

Man of the Match:
Brad Peacock and Robbie Grossman have been much maligned at times this year, yet they were the pitching and position player standout performers, in that order.

Goat of the Game:
Castro: 0-4, 3K.  Sipp gets a pass because (i) he has had an awesome season and (ii) he is looking tired, and has been ridden like a donkey lately: 29 pitches on 5 Sept, 14 pitches on 7 Sept, and 10 tonight.  He has 50 appearances on the year, and remember he wasn't in the Majors until early May.

On the Morrow:
Collin McHugh (8-9, 2.89) versus Roenis Elias (10-12, 3.90)

Remember that Seattle is where it all started for Collin McHugh.

10 Eastern, 9 Central.