Tuesday, May 5, 2015

From the Office of the County Clerk - G26: Astros versus Rangers

Dallas Keuchel (3-0, 0.73) v. Ross Detwiler (0-3, 8.66)

The Astros entered this game with an active 10-game win streak, and a 7-game lead in the AL West.  When it all shook down, the streak was over, but the 7-game lead remained intact.  Dallas Keuchel was nails until the eighth frame, the offence was quiet throughout the game, and Chad Qualls gave up a run to wear the loss.  But really, this game boiled down to two throws from Jake Marisnick to home plate, with both throws probably in time, but both yanked toward the first-base side of the plate.  

Astros lose, 2-1.  The Angels and the Athletics also both lost.

On the Mound:
Dallas Keuchel entered this game as the reigning AL Pitcher of the Month due to his strong April, which involved five games, 37 innings, 3 earned runs, and three scoreless outing (including a 9 inning effort, which wasn't a complete game).  In those 37 innings, his WHIP was 1.00 - 11 walks and 16 hits - versus 22 strikeouts.  

And he opened up strong in this game too.  Shin Soo-Choo led off with a hit on the second pitch of the game - a fastball that missed over the plate - and Choo nearly drove it out.  The ball hit just below the yellow line in the LF-CF gap, and rebounded back into play.  Choo ended up being held at second with a stand-up double, and he was eventually stranded at third on an Andrus swinging strikeout and two groundouts.  Inning over, but so nearly could have been a run-scoring inning for the Rangers.

In the second, Keuchel struck out the side.  Kyle Blanks went looking on a fastball away - right where Conger's glove was - Adam Rosales went down swinging on a sinker away, and Robinson Chirinos went on a sinker in.  Those three strikeouts were on ten pitches - 9 strikes and one ball.  Keuchel continued his strikeout-happy ways in the third, sending Martín, Smolinski and Choo back to the dugout all swinging (on a fastball away to the lefty, Martín; changeup down on Smolinski and slider down and away to Choo).  In the fourth, Keuchel was brutally efficient, facing the minimum on six pitches, allowing a lead off single, then getting a double-play, then enticing Adrian Beltré to ground-out to second.

Keuchel retired the side in order in the fifth (including a wonderful Altuve barehanded play on Adam Rosales' grounder), then he allowed a lead-off double to Delino DeShields (replacing Martín) in the sixth.  The pitch to DeShields was a thigh-high fastball away, and he lashed it into the RF corner for an easy, stand up double.  DeShields advanced to third on Smolinski's foul-out (Springer made a fabulous sliding catch right over by the stands), but he wasn't able to score.  Prince Fielder doubled to left leading off the seventh, but he sat on second for the rest of the inning.

The eighth is where the game was tied.  The Astros were leading 1-0 to that point.  Keuchel started the frame by striking Robinson Chirinos out on a change up away, then Delino DeShields walked on a full count.  DeShields advanced to second on an odd play - Keuchel threw a breaking ball in the dirt, DeShields started to go, Conger threw behind him to Carter, then Carter tried to get him at second but he was a fraction too late.  It was misplayed by Conger a little, and that was enough to advance DeShields, which was critical because Smolinski then hit a line drive into shallow CF.  DeShields got a great read and jump, and he scored from second when Marisnick's throw - which was probably in time if it was pinpoint - crept up the first base line a little.  Smolinski slid into second, and the game was tied.  Keuchel ended the frame after a groundout and a walk by getting Prince Fielder to pop up to third.

Qualls came out to start the ninth, and he was in trouble early.  Adrian Beltré jumped on a 1-1 sinker that was thigh-high, and he pounded it to the bottom of the wall underneath the Conoco Pump in the LF-CF gap.  Lead off double, but he was only able to advance to third on a grounder through the hole into LF by Kyle Blanks because he waited to see if the ball was fielded.  Rougned Odor went down swinging on three pitches, then Chrinos took a first-pitch slider that Conger seemed to want in the dirt, and he popped it into mid-CF.  Marisnick settled under the ball - then had to readjust his feet after the catch to make the throw, and his offering to the plate sailed and cut a little up the first-base line.  The throw was in time but was offline, and Conger didn't even make the catch, with the ball going all the way to the backstop.  The Rangers took the lead, and that was enough to win the game.

At the Plate:
The Astros were facing probably the worst starting pitcher during their ten game streak - at least on recent results - so it is only fitting that their offence went quiet and did pretty much nothing all game.  Valbuena, Grossman and Conger got the starts, with González at short.  Ross Detwiler was in trouble in the first, but not really again, as the Astros bats went quiet.

Jose Altuve led off with a walk on a pitch in the dirt on a full count.  He went to second during the subsequent at-bat on a wild pitch, but Valbuena struck out on a low fastball.  George Springer then walked on a full count - that pitch was a sinker that just missed - then Altuve and Springer combined to double-steal third base and second base respectively.  A Gattis bloop off the end of the bat into mid-right field scored Altuve on the sac-fly, with Springer being held at second.  Chris Carter struck out swinging for the final out.  

The Astros went in order in the second, and in the third (with one out) Jose Altuve doubled into the LF-CF gap.  Martín jammed his wrist on the play diving to make the catch - he probably made the catch, but spilled it when his wrist was flexed and his bodyweight roll onto it.  In the fourth, González singled to left with two outs.  In the fifth, Grossman singled to right with one out, but Jose Altuve erased him on a double-play - a wonderful defensive play by Andrus and Rosales.  In the sixth, Evan Gattis doubled into the LF-CF gap with two outs, but Carter struck out to end the frame (how many times have I typed that this season already?).  The Astros went in order in the seventh and eighth.  And in the ninth, Carter struck out to end the frame.  Just for a change.

No baserunners after the sixth inning.  Gah!

Turning Point:
On a 1-0 pitch in the eighth, Kuechel throw a throw in the dirt that Conger corralled easily.  DeShields started to go, then stopped, and Conger threw behind him to first base.  DeShields kept going, and he made it easily into second, when Carter's throw was late.  I guess credit for solid baserunning to DeShields - especially after the initial lunge toward second had him hung out to dry, but Conger probably needed to hold the ball and get DeShields to commit before making the throw.  A weird play, really, but it was vital, as DeShields was able to score from second, and I am not sure he would have gone first-to-third on Smolinski's eventual single or scored from third on Choo's subsequent groundout.  But that is all speculative, as DeShields got to second, and scored the tying run.  His strong game after he replaced Martín would be sweet revenge on the Astros organisation.

Man of the Match:
Dallas Keuchel, for his solid pitching effort.  His line: 8IP, 5H, 1R/ER, 2BB, 8K.  One of the walks, however, scored the tying run.  

Goat of the Game:
Take your pick - Valbeuna (0-4, 2K) or Carter (0-4, 3K).  Neither were good.

Up Next:
The Astros try and keep their 5-series win streak alive.  To do that, they will need to beat Texas tomorrow.  Ex-stro Wandy Rodriguez (0-1, 4.82 on one appearance against Seattle) is the second straight LH starter the Astros will face.  To counter him, Scott Feldman (2-2, 4.31) will head to the mound.  

8 Eastern, 7 Central.