Thursday, June 18, 2015

From the Office of the County Clerk - G67: Astros in Colorado

Brett Oberholtzer (1-1, 2.25) versus  Kyle Kendrick (2-8, 5.87)

The Astros continued their home-and-home series against the Rockies, riding a three-game win streak, and putting the recent losing streak further into the rear-view mirror.  The Astros continue to be offence happy - they finally seem to be stringing hits together on a consistent basis, and as a team they have really started to string good at-bats together, working the opposition starters over by grinding them down.  Mistakes from the pitchers have been getting punished with power recently.

Of course, it helps that lefty starters aren't involved, and it helps that the arms they have been seeing recently are mostly less-than-top-tier pitchers.  Except Felix Hernandez, that is.  But tonights game was about getting on top early, holding the lead after a come-back from the Rockies, and pulling away late.  The Astros doubled up the Rocks, winning 8-4.  That secures a winning record in the four-game series, and keeps the Astros 2.5 games ahead of the Rangers (who are doing a number on the Dodgers) and increases their lead to 5.5 over the Angels.

On the Mound:
Obie got the start, and he put another solid one together, pitching into the seventh inning.  Hinch removed him after 86 pitches, which may have been a nod to (i) the length of his last outing and (ii) the lack of oxygen at altitude.  Regardless, Obie went six-and-one-third, allowing 8 baserunners (all hits), and striking out five.  He allowed three earned runs.

Obie dominated the first time through the order, allowing a lone single in the first and third innings only.  In the fourth, he ran into difficulty, allowing two runs on a single, a double, a sac-fly and a single.  Arenado was responsible for the second single, and he was thrown out at second after Chris Carter made a nifty cut-off play, and first base was covered behind Arenado.  Aside from that TOOTBLAN, the Rockies knocked Obie around pretty good that frame, with three clean hits and a line-drive sac fly off the bat of Carlos González right at Preston Tucker in LF.

Obie rebounded to retire the side in order in the fifth, and allow only a lead-off double in the sixth.  In the seventh, however, a second straight lead-off double and another one-out double chased him, and Josh Fields relieved.  Fields set down the next two hitters in three pitches, stranding Nick Hundley (I so keep wanting to write Todd Hundley) at second base, and closing the book on Oberholtzer's night.  At that point, the Astros led 6-3.

Thatcher opened the eighth, and he retired the only pitcher that he threw to (lefty Charlie Blackmon). Pat Neshek relieved, and he set down the two hitters that he pitched to, including a strikeout of Troy Tulowitzki.  When Chris Carter homered in the top of the ninth, the Astros took an 8-3 lead, so Luke Gregerson sat, and Chad Qualls got the assignment in the ninth.  Aside from a very long home run on a slurvy breaking ball in the middle of the plate, Qualls set the side down without incident.  Qualls took four pitches to record three outs after CarGo's homer.

So the 'pen pitched two-and-two-thirds, allowing only one hit, and stranding Obie's last runner at second.  Chad Qualls is struggling to keep some of his pitches down at the moment, and Hinch is trying to give him low-pressure opportunities to get out of it.  He was the only blemish on another dominant night from the relievers.

At the Plate:
The Astros again went with the Future Is Here Lineup, with the first four spots in the order occupied by Springer, Correa, Altuve and Tucker respectively.  It worked well to start with - George Springer singled on a 1-2 pitch into CF, after fouling off three pitches to lead off.  Carlos Correa took an 0-2 fastball that was off the plate inside, and he launched it into the LF bleachers.  His home run was estimated at 428 feet, and a Must-C segment is here.

So the Astros took a 2-0 lead without recording an out.  The pitch was nearly in Correa's batting box - it was an impressive bit of hitting.  The only thing that you could say is that it may have been a wind assisted shot.  It was very clean, however, and a no doubter as it left the bat.

A Chris Carter double kept the pressure on in the first inning, but the Astros had to wait until the second inning to add to the lead.  Jake Marisnick walked leading off, and he was caught stealing right before Jason Castro walked.  Brett Oberholtzer - not a total dud with a bat in his hand - sac-bunted Castro to second for the second out, then George Springer singled on a hard grounder right back up the middle, scoring Castro.  The Astros led, 3-0.

After the Rockies got two back in the bottom of the fourth, Preston Tucker extended the lead with a home run to the RF power alley.  The pitch was a fading change-up, at the knees and off the outside corner, and Tucker hit a hard line-drive to the Rockies bullpen, 30 yards or so right of CF.  He looked to have been slightly caught out in front.  Tucker is a strong guy, and he stayed with the pitch, barrelling it up and driving it out.

Handsome Jake continued the homer barrage leading off the sixth.  He was facing the lefty reliever, Christian Friedrich, who was so impressive against the Astros two nights ago.  Jake got a fastball down-and-in that actually missed further down-and-in, and he drove it to the left side of the CF batting eye.  Another nice piece of hitting.  The next batter was Jason Castro, and he singled to CF, with Obie again sac-bunting him to second.  One out later, Carlos Correa hit his second extra-base hit of the night when he drove an elevated breaking pitch to the warning track in the RF power alley.  The ball bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.  Two runs scored in the frame on a homer and a double.

Fast forward to the ninth, and the Astros put further hurt on the Rockies with their fourth home-run of the night.  Marwin González (who replaced Altuve at second in the third inning) doubled to LF with one away.  With two outs, Chris Carter was the grateful recipient of a hanging breaking ball in the middle of the plate from closer John Axford.  Carter drove it deep to RF, and Chad Qualls made a nice catch in the Astros bullpen.  Sadly, for the Rockies, Qualls is not one of their outfielders.  That brought González home from third (he had stolen third during the previous at-bat), and resulted in the seventh and eighth runs of the night being scored.

Springer and Correa both had strong nights (3-5) with Correa having a home run and a double as well.  Jason Castro was on base three times, going 2-3 with a walk.  Chris Carter went 2-5 with a double and a home run, and Handsome Jake went 1-4 (HR) with a walk.  Tucker hit a solo home run in a 1-5 night, and Luis Valbeuna went 0-4.  Overall, 4 walks (one to Oberholtzer, who went 0-0 with a walk and two sac-bunts) and 13 hits, with seven of the hits going for extra bases.

Turning Point:
Carlos Correa turned on one in the first.  Wow.  The guy has a future in the big leagues.

Man of the Match:
Carlos Correa also gets the MoTM.  Impressive night at the plate, and his promotion seems to have been associated with the Astros offence getting a good roll on.  He is hitting .359/.375/.641.

Goat of the Game:
Seven XBH = no goat.

Up Next:
The Astros conclude their home-and-home four game series against the Rockies by sending Collin McHugh (6-3, 5.08) to the bump against David Hale (2-1, 4.56).  McHugh is an ex-Rockie (although not a very good ex-Rockie) so perhaps he can channel some of that experience into a solid bounce-back start at Coors Field.

3 Eastern, 2 Central.

After that, it is on to Seattle for a three-game set, before heading down to Anaheim to meet the Angels.