Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 0.00) versus Chris Rusin (2-1, 3.38)
BACK TO BASEBALL, PEOPLE!! There IS still a game going on between the lines, donchaknow. No need to distract ourselves with little baseball-related inter-organisation controversies. Lets focus on the baseball - at least for the next few minutes.
Another day game today, and by the time I get to recap these, the results have been widely published. But still, worth acknowledging another solid 8-5 win for the Astros, sweeping the Rockies in a 2-game series. Really, the series should be four games, so lets hold off on the sweep talk for now. The Rangers won, so the lead remains 2.5 games over Texas. The Angels also won, so they trail the Astros by 5 games.
On the Mound:
Vince Velasquez got the start, and he struggled through four-and-two-thirds. After the third inning, the Astros had a handy lead, but when the Rockies drew to within two runs in the top of the fifth with two outs, Hinch pulled Velasquez. The 'pen again combined to lock the game down, with four-and-one-thirds of 2-hit, 2-walk, scoreless ball. They struck out six.
Velasquez allowed nine baserunners (7 hits, 2 walks) while striking out seven. He allowed 5 runs, but got hit pretty hard at times. In the first, he allowed a Corey Dickerson double sandwiched around strikeouts as the only baserunner. In the second, he gave up three runs on a single-grounder-triple-K-double-single sequence - two more extra-base hits. The first ground-out was a hard-hit ball up the middle, but Correa dived, corralled it, and gunned the runner down at first - very impressive play. The triple was a straight fastball on the inside third - it was crushed, but bounced away from Marisnick in CF, just missing a home run when it hit off the Papa John's sign just to the left of where the yellow line drops down toward Tal's Hill. The double was off a rolling breaker that was mid-thigh - it bounced on the warning track in front of Tal's Hill. None of the hits given up to this point were cheapies - they were all crushed. Some of the outs were hit hard, too
But Velasquez bounced back in the third, striking out the side in a perfect frame, and he allowed only a walk in the fourth. Things continued to track pretty well in the fifth. Velasquez walked the leadoff hitter, but he was erased trying to advance on a fly out to CF - Marisnick's throw from in front of the visiting bullpen was in plenty of time. Then, with two outs, Tulo singled to CF off the fists, then Carlos González mashed a long home run to RF. The pitch was a low breaking pitch that caught the middle of the plate, and González hammered it off the upper deck in RF.
Will Harris relieved, and he allowed a double off the out-of-town scoreboard before striking out Ben Paulsen to end the frame. Brandon Barnes singled off Harris with one out in the sixth, and he stole second when Hank Conger decided to throw a slider to second base rather than a fastball. Tony Sipp got the seventh frame, and he gave up a long strike to CarGo, who was initially ruled to have hit a home run, but this was overturned on review. Chad Qualls walked two with two outs in the eighth then Luke Gregerson recorded a perfect frame in the ninth.
At the Plate:
The Astros again started well, with a George Springer topper to third base leading off the bottom of the first. Springer advanced to second on a balk (the pitcher threw over to first after starting his lead leg toward the plate), then headed home when Altuve singled after a Correa strikeout. Springer just beat the tag on a Brandon Barnes throw that bounced a few too many times. I never thought I would see Springer-Correa-Altuve bat in that order, but there you are. Also starting today was the all-right-handed outfield alignment of Domingo Santana, Jake Marisnick and George Springer. Hank Conger was behind the plate.
In the second, Luis Valbuena - starting against a lefty - hit the first of his two home runs with one out. The pitch was a mid-thigh fastball away, and Valbuena stuck it into the Crawford Boxes. Good to see him hit it the other way, and the short left-field porch helped him out a great deal.
The third is the inning where the Astros broke it open. With one out, Jose Altuve walked on five pitches, then Evan Gattis grounded one up the middle on the next pitch, sending Altuve to second. A Chris Carter fly-out led to the second out, but Hank Conger - who has looked very good at the plate recently - extended the inning by punching a down-and-away breaking ball through the 5.5 hole, scoring Altuve. Altuve looked hobbled running, but Barnes didn't throw home - he seemed to get the ball stuck in his glove. That brought Domingo Santana up - still looking for his first base hit in the major leagues - and he punched one the other way, dumping it in front of CarGo in RF for an RBI single. González's throw to the plate was in plenty of time, but up the third base line, and Gattis scored standing up.
That brought Valbuena to the plate with runners on the corners, and two outs. On the second pitch of his at-bat, he took a thigh-high fastball that missed arm-side-and-up, and he deposited it into the Astros' bullpen. That was his sixteenth home run on the year - he only has 41 hits, so 39% of his hits have been round-trippers.
In the fourth, a fabulous defensive play from Nolan Arenado erased Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve on a double-play. In the fifth, with one away, Hammering' Hank Conger - now batting from the left side - hammered a high fastball into the first row of the RF stands for a solo shot. Domingo Santana then took first on a HBP, then he stole second and went to third on the throwing error, but was marooned there as Valbuena walked, Marisnick flew out to shallow CF, and Springer struck out swinging.
The sixth was remarkable for Arenado's incredible defensive play on Gattis' grounder down the LF line. Aneroid fielded it cleaning, but had his momentum taking him toward the visiting dugout. He threw on the move - a high looping throw - but it was just in time to nail Gattis. Arenado really is something to watch - the number of fabulous plays he made in this game were incredible. His defensive highlights are here, so feel free to check them out
Only Luis Valbuena (2-3, BB, 2xHR) reached base three times, but a bunch of Astros were on base twice: Carlos Correa (2-5); Jose Altuve (1-4, BB); Chris Carter (0-2, 2BB); Hank Conger (2-4, HR) and Domingo Santana (1-3, HBP). George Springer went 1-5, Evan Gattis and Handsome Jake both went 1-4.
With two outs in the third, Hank Conger then Domingo Santana hit RBI singles to keep the inning going. That set it up for Luis Valbuena, who hammered his second home run of the game. It was a three run shot, and gave the Astros a cushion that they would not relinquish.
Man of the Match:
Luis Valbuena now has a fascinating triple-slash line of .188/.260/.436. He has hit a bunch of balls hard to RF that haven't gone out in the last week or two. He certainly hits homers in clusters, too. Sixteen on the year leads the team. Impressive.
Goat of the Game:
Every Astros got on base at least once, and the bullpen was solid. No goat.
On the Morrow:
The Astros play the Rockies at Coors Field tomorrow.
Brett Oberholtzer (1-1, 2.25) is coming off his best performance in recent memory. He faces Kyle Kendrick (2-8, 5.87). Kendrick's ERA is unsightly, but he has recorded two solid starts in a row.
Now, back to talking about computer hacking....
8:40 Eastern, 7:40 Central.