Wednesday, May 6, 2015

From the Office of the County Clerk - G27: Astros versus Rangers

Wandy Rodriguez (0-1, 4.82) v. Scott Feldman (2-2, 4.31)

The Astros have been getting the odd bit of praise in the press - deservedly so for their hot start, and the seven-game lead that they have built in the AL West.  This is a storyline that will certainly add some spice to May and June.  But today was all about ex-Stros, not Astros.  Sadly, one of the ex-Stros was pitching against Houston, as waiver-wire signee and much beloved Wandy Rodriguez wandered to the mound and shut the Astros down.  And ex-Stro Carlos Perez had his first major-league hit - and it was a biggie - after being called up to replace Drew Butera on the Angels' roster a few days ago.  Perez might get some looks with the Chris Iannetta's struggles so far this year... but I digress (and for good reason, because this game recap is best avoided)!!  

Astros lose 7-1.

On the Mound:
Scotty Feldman took the bump for the 'Stros, and he struggled from the get-go.  I don't think I am spilling any state secrets by saying that Scott will never overpower hitters, and he relies heavily on location, throwing his breaking pitches for strikes, and mixing it up.  Some outings he will get lit up, others he may be surprisingly effective.  Tonight was very much the former.

For the second straight night, Shin-Soo Choo led off with a double to left.  Feldman's 2-2 fastball was meant to be inside, but it leaked over the plate and was thigh-high, and Choo did what he should do to pitches like that.  Elvis Andrus then laid down a sacrifice that Feldman circled like it was a live hand grenade, expecting the catcher to make a play on it I imagine.  Andrus reached without the ball being picked up.  Runners on the corners, no outs.  Prince Fielder then slashed another elevated pitch the other way into the LF corner, and both runners scored.   After a Beltré pop out, Kyle Blanks then singled up the middle, and Handsome Jake showed that he rediscovered his throwing mojo overnight, gunning Prince down at the plate from shallow CF.  Blanks took second on the throw, but it didn't matter when Carlos Peguero took a cut fastball that missed glove-side and leaked into the LH hitters wheelhouse down-and-in.  It headed out to RF, three rows into the stands.  Carlos Corporán then singled into right, but wanting to be generous to his old team, he tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt, and was thrown out easily by Jason Castro at second.

In the second, Feldman retired the side in order.  In the third, Elvis Andrus singled, then was ruled to have stolen second.  He was out, but González dropped the ball on the tag.  Andrus went to third on a Fielder groundout, and scored on an Adrian Beltré double into the LF corner (that part of the field took a bit of a hammering tonight) on a low-and-inside fastball that looked pretty flat.  Kyle Blanks then singled to right field to move Beltré - who had been holding on the play in case Springer made the catch - advanced to third.  Springer muffed gloving the bounce, and Blanks went to second.  Carlos Peguero walked after Feldman was at 0-2 on four straight balls to load the bases.  Then our old friend Corp floated one to CF off the end of the bat to score Beltré on a sac-fly.  DeShields struck out on a check swing to end the frame, and Feldman was pulled after 77 pitches.  He gave up nine hits, 6 runs/earned runs, walked one and struck out two.  Texas led 6-1 at this point.

Kevin Chapman did a stellar job, throwing three innings and 46 pitches.  He picked off Rougned Odor in the fourth, and gave up a solo home run to Kyle Blanks in the fifth that hit the wall between Tal's Hill and the Conoco Phillips pump.  The pitch missed glove side for the lefty Chapman and was supposed to be low and away, but was pulled over the plate a little.  Blanks had it just clear the yellow line in deep CF for a solo shot.  7-1.

Fields got the seventh and eighth, and he didn't allow a baserunner, partly because George Spinger ran into the RF wall making a catch on an Adrian Beltré liner.  Springer was removed from the game, and has been assessed for a concussion.  Fields looked ok - I thought his velocity was down a little, and he got into some deep counts, but he often rears back and throws an elevated fastball past someone if he gets in trouble.  Joe Thatcher struck out two in a scoreless ninth.  

At the Plate:
Gosh, this will be short.  Wandy struck out Altuve on a curveball away for the first out, Valbuena took a fairly straight low fastball (leaked down and in, much like Peguero's home run) and pounded it 400 feet into the upper deck in right field, Springer flew out on the first pitch, Gattis flew out for the third out.  In the second, Marwin González singled with one out through the 5.5 hole, then Castro doubled with two outs.  Wandy missed inside, Castro slashed a slicing fly ball down the LF line, it dropped on the line and bounced off the padding of the stand that runs parallel with the LF line.  Marwin cruised into third.  Mike-Bob Grossman worked a walk to load the bases, then Jose Altuve - on a 2-2 count - hit a swinging bunt in front of the plate that Wandy pounced on and fired to first in time to get Altuve by a step.

And, I hate to say this, but Grossman was the last baserunner for the Astros.  They spent the rest of the night flailing at Rodriguez's curveball, and Wandy gave them pretty much nothing elevated in the zone to hit.  Shawn Tolleson got the ninth, and he struck out one while finishing the game in a 13 pitch outing.  Three hits (Valbuena's HR, a double from Castro and a single from Marwin González) and one walk (Grossman) were the only baserunners.

Turning Point:
Feldman was clearly struggling in the first, but with two outs, he missed with a cutter that Carlos Peguero didn't miss on.  Two run home run, and four runs in the first was the end result, and the Astros' suddenly-cold bats were unable to recover.

Man (Men) of the Match:
The non-Feldman pitchers (Chapman, Fields and Thatcher) allowed 2 hits, walked one, and struck out 9 in six innings.  Chapman's 46 pitches will see him need to rest for a while, and I wonder if he gets sent down for, perhaps, Jake Buchanan, who could be up in long relief with perhaps a spot start for a stint.  And while we are speculating on potential transactions, I can't help but notice that Jonathan Villar does not seem to be getting much playing time, including two non-starts at short or third against left-handed pitchers (which he is supposedly better than González against).  

Goat of the Game:
Feldman.  He will probably put together some starts like this from time to time, and he may have an injury that he and the Astros staff aren't talking about.  Time will tell, but he needs to bounce back if the Astros' AL West lead is going to be a lasting feature in 2015.

Up Next:
The Astros have been involved in three straight series sweeps, and tomorrow could herald the fourth. Sadly, it could be the wrong kind of sweep for the Astros on this occasion.  

Colby Lewis (1-2, 3.00) versus Sam Deduno (0-0, 2.70)

After tomorrow's game, the Astros head to Anaheim.  Perhaps for the fun-parks.