John Danks (2-4, 5.69) versus Roberto Hernández (2-3, 4.77)
Ugly, ugly, ugly. The Astros squandered multiple run-scoring opportunities in losing a rubber game to the White Sox. This is especially painful for me, as my brother-in-law is a White Sox fan, and as a result, I owe him a dozen of the beers of his choice because the Astros massacred their chances to win this game. Happily, the beer he chose was Peroni, which I don't really care for, but also is way cheaper than a few of the vastly superior microbrewed beers available locally. Batguy would understand - he likes him some craft beer, and I am sure that he will be keen to comment further.
But no amount of Peroni / craft beer / moonshine / methylated spirits will remove the bad taste from my mouth about this game. The Frustr-Astros returned - they were essentially rendered impotent by the White Sox's third lefty starter in the row, and their own self-inflicted wounds. Danks is no-one's idea of an ace - his last complete game shutout was 2011, after all. And while we are talking about the Frustr-Astros, the 2014 Astros were subtly better against lefty starters than righties (.245/.318/.390 versus .240/.306/.380), but in contrast the 2015 Astros have been brutal against lefties: .227/.294/.381 versus .241/.312/.438. Almost made me wish for a Matty Dominguez return. Almost.
The Astros lose, 6-0.
On the Mound:
Roberto Hernández thought he pitched well, but his the raw data from his line suggested otherwise. He needed 95 pitches to go five-and-two-thirds, allowed 8 hits, walked one and struckout two. He allowed five runs (four earned) and due to the ineptitude at that plate, one run would have been enough to account for the loss.
Hernandez started well enough, retiring the side in order in the first on eight pitches. However, in the second, a one-out single from Conor Gillaspie (down the LF line on a pitch away), then back-to-back two-out singles from Gordon Beckham (dumped down the RF line) and Tyler Flowers (up the middle) resulted in Gillaspie scoring. Alexi Ramírez struck out on a ball at shoulder height between the first and second hits to help that frame.
In sending six batters to the plate in the second, the White Sox got to open the third with the top of their order. Adam Eaton singled on the fourth pitch of the frame (past a diving Carter), then Melky Cabrera doubled the other way to the base of the wall in left field, sending Eaton to third. Adam LaRoche walked, loading the bases with no outs. With one out, Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run single, and Alexi Ramírez grounded into a fielder's choice, scoring another run. That put the White Sox up 4-0.
Hernández settled down, allowing only one two-out baserunner in the next two frames. However, in the sixth, Alexi Ramírez led off with a grounder to Jonathan Villar, and Villar totally muffed the throw, allowing Ramírez to reach on an error. I defended Villar for his two throwing errors yesterday, but there is no defending him for this one. Ramírez scored later in the frame, accounting for the one unearned run that Hernández allowed. Tony Sipp retired Adam Eaton for the last out of the sixth.
Handsome Jake Buchanan pitched the seventh and eighth, allowing only an opposite field home run to Adam LaRoche. Buchanan was pretty efficient, retiring his six batters on a total of 24 pitches. Michael Feliz, however, was who the Astros fans really wanted to see, and he pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing an opposite field lead-off double to Carlos Sánchez (Tucker valiantly tried to make the play) before retiring Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche in order, stranding Sánchez at third base.
At the Plate:
This is ugly, and won't be examined in detail for fear of exploding in a fit of rage. The Astros' problems were mostly self-inflicted today, with multiple baserunning errors the major culprit, and generally flatness and bad luck the minor culprit.
The side went in order in the first two frames. The Astros loaded the bases in the third on a Castro single to deep RF, a Marisnick bunt single (just past the pitcher, and first baseman LaRoche had to field), and a Springer single (clean through the 5.5 hole), but Jose Altuve grounded into a double play that was initially ruled safe, but overturned on review. Chris Carter doubled with two outs in the fourth, but Valbuena flew out to the graveyard in CF to end the frame.
The fifth was where the most criminal of the baserunning problems occurred. Jonathan Villar led off with a line drive that Adam Eaton misplayed in CF. It went over his head, and literally rolled all the way to the wall, stopping at the top of Tal's Hill. Eaton fired a strong and accurate throw to the cutoff man, who was throwing to the plate as Villar rounded third. Tyler Flowers, the White Sox catcher, had the time to corral the ball behind home plate, and wait as Villar slid into the tag. He was out by miles and Gary Pettis made a terrible error in waving him around third with NO OUTS.
Anyhow, the problem was compounded when Castro drilled a shot to the warning track in right. Villar would have scored from third if he commando-crawled on his stomach. Marisnick then hit a two-out (should have been one-out) double to deep LF, before George Springer struck out to end the frame.
Danks faced the minimum in the sixth after Altuve singled leading off the frame, and Evan Gattis GIDP to end the frame. Jonathan Villar then doubled to the scoreboard in left with two outs in the seventh, but then he committed an "Evan Gattis" on third base - casually rounding the bag too far, and getting caught on a run down after Castro reached on a single. The ball bounced away from second baseman Sánchez at just the right angle, and he regathered and made a heads up play. Sigh. Rookie frikking mistake, just for once.
The Astros threatened to make some noise in the ninth, when Evan Gattis doubled down the LF line, and Chris Carter worked an honest walk in another solid at-bat. But Luis Valbuena had dinner plans or something, so he GIDP to end the game. Somehow, John Danks had thrown a shut out, but the Astros had to really, really use their imagination to invent new ways of getting erased on the basepaths.
The Astros had 10 hits and walked once. Jonathan Villar, Jason Castro and Jake Marisnick each went 2-3, with Villar and Marisnick doubling and Villar tripling. Chris Carter went 1-3 with a double, but he added a walk as well. Gattis, Altuve and Springer went 1-4
Altuve's GIDP in the third. The Astros were down 4-0 at the time, and the Astros had the bases loaded with one away. Anyhow, a wayward throw - on the home-plate side of first base - meant that Adam LaRoche had to dive for the ball. He did very well to keep his foot on the base - a tremendous play, really. Altuve was initially ruled safe, but it was overturned on appeal. Double play, no run scored, and the White Sox had a lead that the Astros were never going to eat in to.
Man of the Match:
Let's be clear - there is no MoTM being awarded to a hitter today. Jonathan Villar would be a candidate with his 2-3, 2B, 3B night. Don't look now - his triple slash sits at .280/.329/.373. Another error in the field and a baserunning boo-boo combined to make him ineligible for the MoTM.
The MoTM goes to Michael Feliz, who worked around a lead-off double to record a scoreless frame in his ML debut. He sat at an easy 94 most of the night on the stadium radar gun. He will return to Corpus and continue his assault on AA, making space for Obie to make the start tomorrow.
Goat of the Game:
Gah! Gary Pettis. Man, what were you thinking, sending Villar in the fifth. Not that it made a difference: thank your lucky stars that the deficit was 6 runs, not one, else you would be in trouble.
On the Morrow:
Astros versus Orioles. Ubaldo Jiminez (3-3, 3.14) versus Brett Oberholtzer (0-0, 3.00). The Orioles are coming off a series loss at home versus Tampa.
8 Eastern, 7 Central.