Quick recap tonight, because I have a thing due tomorrow which needs a few more hours' work before it is presentable, dammit. But the quick recap is that the Astros earn their fourth consecutive series win, set themselves up for their second sweep, present themselves with an opportunity of going 8-1 on a road trip, and feast on the soft underbelly of the Padres bullpen in a 14-3 pounding.
I was impressed last night when the Astros scored six runs in the last 3 innings. Well, tonight they scored 8 in the last three, and 10 in the last four to start the "without Jed Lowrie era" in style. It was a party night for the Astros, and they sent the bill straight to the Padres bullpen.
On the Mound:
Roberto Hernández was solid, and perhaps a little unlucky. He has been a bit of a find for the Astros so far this year, and seems to have good control of his fastballs as well as his offspeed and breaking pitches. He was staked to an early 2-0 lead - thanks to a Gattis home run with an Will Myers assist - and he immediately gave one back on a Myers bunt single to third, a stolen base, and a Yangervis Solarte single to RF.
Hernández faced the minimum for the rest of the inning, and retired the side in order in the second. He allowed a 2-out single in the third, and a one out single in the fourth. A two out home run - absolutely smoked by Will Myers on an elevated and inside change-up - was the only scoring play of the fifth, then Justin Upton took him deep in the sixth for a leadoff bomb. Hernández missed arm-side-and-up with a fastball that was meant to be on the outside corner, missing in the middle of the plate to the wrong Upton.
Hernández threw 94 pitches in six innings, striking out 6 while walking one. He allowed six hits. Seemed to have trouble putting away hitters at times, but his strikeout of Matt Kemp to end the fifth - in an important at-bat - was a sight to behold.
Tony Sipp pitched a scoreless seventh, working around a 2-out error and walk. Will Harris pitched the last two innings (and had an at-bat, in which he never took the bat off his shoulder) and faced the minimum, throwing 22 pitches in the process. He has fired 10 scoreless frames this year, allowing 2 hits, walking four and striking out 11. His scoreless innings streak has reached 27.2IP, by my count.
At the Plate:
Waaaay too much to mention in detail here, which is a good thing. Valbuena singled with one out in the first, then Gattis (1-3, HR) hit a neck-high fastball to straightaway CF for a home run. It probably would have stayed in the yard, but it bounced off Myers' glove and hit the top of the fence. Gattis was getting the start in LF, and proved again that he is a strong, strong man. The Astros went in order in the second, and Jose Altuve singled and stole second in the third, but was stranded. That was the last inning in which the Astros didn't score.
In the fourth, Colby Rasmus walked on four pitches with one out, then stole second and scored on Chris Carter's opposite field single. Carter looked much better at the plate in this game. In the fifth, comical scenes as Roberto Hernández (0-2, BB) walked and clogged up the bases (channelling my inner Dusty Baker there) for Jose Altuve, who doubled off the base of the wall to deep, deep CF. Altuve is showing some serious pop recently, and this fly ball amazed me nearly as much as the sight of Hernández going first to third. Altuve had a triple if Hernández hadn't been in front of him. Valbeuna was HBP - it nicked his bottom hand on the bat while he was trying to get out of the way - and Springer grounded into a fielder's choice to score Hernández.
In the sixth, Chris Carter (2-3, BB, HR) homered on a back-up breaking ball to LF - it was a line shot that just cleared the wall. Jason Castro followed with a double into the CF-LF gap, and he scored on a wild pitch when Odrisamer Despaigne threw a breaking ball behind Jose Altuve. In the seventh, Luis Valbuena was hit on the foot by a breaking ball and George Springer drove him in by launching a low and inside breaking ball into the second deck of the Western Metals building in LF. Impressive drive - Springer's third of the year. Marisnick followed with a triple (still with no outs) but he was stranded on third by Rasmus' (0-4, BB, SB) fly out, a González pop out and a Castro groundout.
Jose Altuve (4-6, 2x2B, SB) and Luis Valbuena (3-4, 2xHBP, 2B) both singled in the eighth (with the latter advancing on an error) to put two in scoring position for George Springer, (2-5, HR, 5RBI, SB). Springer hit a clean single up the middle to drive them in. In the ninth, Marwin González (1-5, 2B) got in on the act and doubled to RF on the ninth pitch (impressive at-bat), with Jason Castro (1-4, 2B) driving him in with a sac-fly one out later. Jonathan Villar (1-2) then singled, Jose Altuve hit an RBI-double into the gap, Valbuena doubled on a badly misplayed ball, Robbie Grossman walked, and Handsome Jake (2-3, 2B, 3B) doubled to score a total of four runs. Will Harris (0-1, K) recorded the final out of the inning, as he stood there with his bat on his shoulder and watched three consecutive pitches float by.
The Astros are playing with confidence, and you don't want to let them score first. The turning point came early, when Evan Gattis was at the plate with a runner on second and two outs. A high fastball was thrown - about a foot lower than his game winning double however, and the ball carried out to the right of CF. Myers never got a good read on it, jumped to try and catch it, and had the ball go off his glove and bounce on top of the wall for a two-run shot. That started the hit parade, and the Astros were ahead for good.
Man of the Match:
Hard to go past a bunch of guys, but lets give it to Luis Valbuena. He has had a tough time of it lately, but tonight he reached base in 5 of 6 plate appearances, scoring 4 runs in the process. He had a double, and continues to play solid defence at 3B.
Goat of the Game:
No goat, due to the rule instituted last night. And I quote:
"No goats when a team manages six runs in the final three frames, and wins!"Well, tonight they managed to score eight runs in the final three frames. And won. So no goat.
Dallas Keuchel (2-0, 0.62) versus Andrew Cashner (1-3, 2.62)
3:40 Eastern, 2:40 Central.