Roberto Hernandez (1-2, 4.25) versus Jered Weaver (0-4, 6.29)
Didn't see a pitch above 90 all night (from the starters), but it was one of the best pitched games of the year. Hernandez was solid, but he was the victim of some clustered hits, and a couple of pitches where he accidentally left the ball up. Weaver worked around some early baserunners, and effectively kept the hitters off balance by working both sides of the plate. Not much offence from either team - Astros lose, 2-0.
On the Mound:
Hernandez got the start, and he finished one out shy of a complete game. He gave up six hits - four in one inning - walked none, and struck out three. He allowed two runs, both earned.
Hernandez outpitched Weaver early. While the Astros were running into outs on the base paths, Hernandez wasn't allowing any baserunners. The Angels were retired in order in the first, and Hernandez faced the minimum in the second after a one-out single and double play. Johnny Giavotella reached on an error leading off the third, but Hernandez retired the next three to record a scoreless frame. The heart of the order was retired in the fourth on two fly-outs and a grounder, and perhaps that was the first sign the he started leaving the ball up.
The fifth inning was the decisive frame in the game. Hernandez allowed 4 hits - all singles - and two runs scored on a sac fly and an RBI single by ex-Stro Carlos Perez. What is it about these ex-Stros killing their former parent club?? First DDS, now Carlos Perez! The fifth started with two leadoff singles (Freese through the 5.5 hole and Aybar through the 1B-2B gap on a hit-and-run play) resulting in runners on the corners with no outs. Giavotella grounded in front of the mound, and Hernandez held the runner on third, and threw to first for the force for the first out. C.J. Cron flew out to 5 yards short of the warning track in right for a sac-fly, and Aybar also advanced to third on the play. Perez then recorded the hardest hit single of the inning with a grounder up the middle on an 0-2 count: the pitch caught waaaaay too much of the zone, vertically. Calhoun slashed one the other way into LF, but Perez only advanced as far as second, and Mike Trout popped up for the third out after Hernandez ran one in on the fists.
In the sixth, Hernandez allowed a lead-off single to that Albert Pujols guy, but he was erased on a 4-6-3 double-play. Villar has a cannon of an arm. Hernandez retired the side in order in the seventh, and he looked to be cruising in the eighth (thanks to a diving play by Valbuena) when he had Mike Trout at the plate with two outs and a 1-2 count. However, he ran a fastball a little too up-and-in, and got him on the front arm. It was a scary pitch, but no damage was done. Trout took first, Fields relieved, Trout stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error, and Pujols grounded out to end the frame with Trout on third. A solid performance by Hernandez, but he was annoyed that he didn't finish the game.
At the Plate:
Jose Altuve led the game off with a nice little bunt for a base hit down the third base line. David Freese isn't fabulously mobile there, so it was a savvy move, and he reached easily. What wasn't a savvy move was the caught stealing. Weaver and Perez combined well - the fastball was up and out of the zone - kind of like a pitch-out, really - and Perez's throw was right on the money. Altuve was erased on a really, really tight play, which was a pity because Valbuena bounced one up the middle later in the at bat for a single. The rest of the side went in order.
A Castro single was the only hit of the second frame, after Carter struck out on a perfect pitch down and away - spotted beautifully. Castro was unable to advance, however, because of a pop out and a fly out. In the third, Altuve again singled - this time to left on a line drive - and he again was caught stealing. He was going on first move, Weaver stepped off and looked over, and Altuve was unable to get back in time. Again, Valbuena followed by singling to the right side - a hard line drive, but Gattis flew out to end the frame.
Altuve was the next baserunner too, leading off the top of the sixth, when he reached on an error. He stayed put at first, and got to watch the next three hitters go in order. In the seventh, Carter struck out on another perfect pitch down and away (actually, this one was off the plate).
Near-drama in the eighth. With two outs, Jose Altuve was down 1-2, when Weaver threw a slider down and away, out of the zone. Altuve reached out and hit a line drive into RF off the end of the bat, which dropped well short of the fielder. Weaver threw up his hands in despair. Valbeuna looked good in his at bat, and he got into the fourth pitch, driving it to deep right. Calhoun had to head all the way back to the wall to catch it - another couple of yards, and the scores would have been tied.
Five of the six hits were recorded by Altuve (3-4, ROE, 2xCS) and Valbuena (2-4) at the top of the order. Sadly, Altuve was erased twice for Valbuena's hits. Castro (1-3) had the other single. Tucker went 0-3 with a strikeout. Carter struck out looking twice on fabulous pitches.
With no outs in the fifth, Hernandez was out pitching Weaver. Then he got singled to death. The Freese single was a clean single through the 5.5 hole, but a yard to two either side and it would have been hoovered up. The official turning point was the hit-and-run afterward that was executed perfectly. Altuve was heading toward second, and unlike his stop in the third inning (when he dived back toward first to get the ball and throw out the runner when he was covering second), he was unable to get to the hard-hit grounder. Freese kept running and stopped at third, and only two runners who scored in the game were on base with no outs.
Man of the Match:
Well, it ain't any of the hitters. Roberto Hernandez was strong tonight. He left a few pitches up, but aside from one inning, he neutered an Angels lineup and effectively controlled Mike Trout.
Goat of the Game:
0-fers from Gattis, Rasmus, Carter, Marisnick, Tucker and Villar. Effective pitching from Weaver, but 0-fers aren't good.
On the Morrow:
Dallas Keuchel (3-0, 0.80) versus Matt Shoemaker (2-2, 5.40)
9 Eastern, 8 Central.