Trevor Bauer (0-0, 0.00) versus Asher Wojciechowski (0-0, 0.00)
An early game today, but not a pretty one. Wojo struggled with his command, Bauer no-hit the Astros for six innings while walking plenty followed by the Indians relievers, who took the no-hitter down to the wire, but ultimately fell short as the Astros finally managed a hit in the ninth inning. Bauer was constantly in deep counts, and the Astros constantly swung and missed or allowed fastballs down the pipe to pop into the catcher's mitt. The game progressed... slowly.
On the Mound:
As was widely publicised, Asher Wojciechowski took the bump in his ML debut. His plan appeared to be to establish his fastball early by throwing it for strikes, but his command was off enough that he consistently caught too much of the plate, and gave up a bunch of early hits. He only managed one scoreless inning in 4+ frames, allowing 8 hits, 4R/ER, 2BB and 2K. He allowed five extra-base hits - two doubles, a triple and two home runs. The change-up appeared sharp, but the fastball and slider missed a lot, and often up.
In the first inning, Wojo missed with his first pitch (a fastball) to ex-Stro Michael Bourn. The second pitch was another fastball that was driven hard, landing about a foot or two below the yellow line in front of the Crawford Boxes for a double. The next pitch was a solid bunt as a sacrifice attempt, but it was perfectly placed on the third base side of the rubber, and Jose Ramírez beat out the throw. On the next pitch, a sac-fly scored Bourn from third. Four pitches, two hits, one run. Gah!
Wojo bounced back to strike out Carlos Santana, whose birthday ended at midnight, thankfully. Brandon Moss then popped out to first to end the frame, and Wojo's first ML inning was in the books.
In the second, Yan Gomes led off with a double, but Wojo retired the next two on a fly out and a strikeout without Gomes advancing. Then backup catcher Roberto Perez singled just past Altuve into RF, Springer charged the ball, and fired a throw to the plate that reached Handsome Hank on a short-hop. Conger's balance was all off - he was kind of twisted away from the mound, leaning toward the opposition dugout, and when Gomes cut back toward the front part of the plate, Conger was unable to twist around to tag him. Runner scored. Wojo retired Bourn to end the frame, but the Indians had hung two on the Astros in the first two innings.
Wojo worked around a one-out triple that took a funny bounce off the out-of-town scoreboard in the third to record his first ML scoreless inning. In the fourth, he allowed a long solo home run to Roberto Perez off the giant gasoline pump in left-centre on a full count - that ball was absolutely crushed. In the fifth, he allowed another home run to RF leading off the frame, then allowed a single and issued a walk to put runners on first and second. Wojo was done at that point, and left probably lamenting his command, especially of his fastball and slider.
Deduno relieved, and for most of the next two innings, he threw pretty much nothing but sliders and changeups. Deduno retired the next three batters in order (allowing none of the inherited runners to score), then proceeded to strike out the side (all swinging) in the sixth frame. In the seventh, Deduno walked Ramírez to open the frame, who then stole second, and advanced on two ground outs. A Brandon Moss double-play ended that frame. In the eighth, Deduno worked around a one-out double then a single to record a scoreless frame which ended on a Roberto Perez 6-4-3 double-play grounder.
Chad Qualls needed 19 pitches to get through the ninth inning unscathed, allowing a lead off walk to Michael Bourn and striking out Carlos Santana.
At the Plate:
The Constable has already written about this tonight - in a way only the Constable can. But lets just say that the Astros have not been good offensively this season. In this game, they struck out 16 times, walked seven, and thankfully, recorded one hit - a Jed Lowrie HR with one out in the ninth.
Trevor Bauer, the Indians starter, struggled all night, needing 111 pitches through 6 frames. He was sitting around 48 pitches through 2 frames. While he struggled to consistently throw strikes, he also threw some fabulous pitches (especially sliders) when he needed to. His fastball also had plenty of life, and the hitters seemed late on it all night.
But, again, not much good happened offensively. The middle part of the order again struggled, with Gattis earning a matching Golden Sombrero to go with the one he received last night. In order - Altuve walked one, Springer walked twice, Valbuena walked once, Gattis and Carter were 0-8, 7K combined, Lowrie hit a home run, Rasmus and Villar divided an 0-4 night equally between them, Conger walked twice (and looked reasonable at the plate in the process) and Robbie Grossman walked once.
And as a measure of the strangeness of the game, Bauer struck out the side in the first, but walked two. He walked two in the second. He retired the side in order in the third, fourth and fifth. He issued a leadoff walk in the sixth. The first two innings was very odd.
But it was ugly watching. Between Bauer constantly getting in deep counts, the Astros flailing away at breaking pitches, and Alan Ashby constantly lamenting the lack of early-count swings by the Astros hitters, this game wasn't as much fun as I had hoped. My loyalty has slipped a little... :-)
I thought the Astros could have gotten to Bauer early by striking with runners on in the first or second frames. Some of the big-boppers were up, too. But they didn't. So Wojo had no chance to atone for his early lack of control.
Man of the Match:
Jed Lowrie, the 2015 version of 2013 Marwin Gonzalez. Sam Deduno gets credit for a close second, as his 4 innings of long relief were pretty good, given the circumstances.
Goat of the Game:
Last night, it was Valbuena and Gattis sharing the honour. Tonight, it is Gattis and Carter splitting the Goatee Award. Relax, gents.
Astros at Rangers at the slightly odd time of 4 Eastern, 3 Central.
Collin McHugh v Derek Holland.