Monday, July 20, 2015

From the Office of the County Clerk - G94: Astros versus Rangers

Dallas Keuchel (11-4, 2.23) versus Yovani Gallardo (7-8, 2.62)

So the Astros and Rangers met in a rubber-game to decide the series after a couple of tense and emotional contests in the preceding days.  The Astros didn't allow much suspense tonight, pounding on the Rangers by scoring 10 unanswered runs.  The offence showed us how good they can look, and Dallas Keuchel struck out a career high 13 in seven shutout frames.  Astros 10, Rangers 0.

Switching to our shorter format for the multiple-hours-afterward recap of a day game:

What went right:

Dallas Keuchel was awesome, and he had a great night.  As mentioned above, seven shutout innings and 13 strikeouts.  He threw 102 pitches - hardly a taxing night pitch-count wise in the greater scheme of things.  The bullpen had the luxury of mostly resting, with Chad Qualls and Roberto Hernández getting an inning of mop-up each.

Keuchel's night deserves deeper analysis.  He allowed two hits.  One was a two-out first inning double to Prince Fielder.  On a 1-0 count, Keuchel missed arm-side and up with a fastball, and Fielder slashed it down the left field line, into the corner for a double.  Missed pitch location, and Prince made him pay - no one can argue with that.  The second hit was considerably more streaky - leading off the second, Keuchel had Josh Hamilton in a 1-1 count, and he hung a breaking pitch.  Hamilton was out in front, and he hit it off the very end of the bat, up the middle, and just over a leaping Altuve for a broken-bat single to CF.

And that is all in the way of hits... and baserunners.  Keuchel retired the next three hitters of the second frame, then the remaining Rangers in order until he was removed from the game at the conclusion of the seventh inning.  We have seen him get on runs like this before - for example, earlier in the year in San Diego, he gave up an early run then retired 23 of the next 24.  I wonder what odds Vegas is giving on Keuchel as the next pitcher to throw a no-hitter.

The season high strikeouts was also nice.  They are worth a look:

  • In the first, Adrian Beltré went down swinging on a low breaking ball slightly inside
  • In the second, Ryan Rua went down swinging on a cutter away
  • In the second, Elvis Andrus went down swinging on a cutter inside, foul tipped
  • In the third, Robinson Chirinos went down swinging on a back-foot breaking ball inside
  • In the third, Delino DeShields went down looking on a low fastball in the middle of the plate
  • In the fourth, Prince Fielder went down swinging on a cutter under the hands
  • In the fourth, Josh Hamilton went down swinging on a slider down and away in the dirt
  • In the fifth, Adam Rosales went down swinging on a flatter breaking pitch inside, which got under the hands
  • In the sixth, Robinson Chirinos went down on a check swing on a running fastball up and away
  • In the sixth, Delino DeShields went down looking on a low fastball inside
  • In the sixth, Rougned Odor went down swinging on a sinking fastball low and inside.  Keuchel stared him down as he walked off the mound in a rare show of emotion.
  • In the seventh, Prince Fielder went down swinging on another sinking fastball under the hands
  • In the seventh, Adrian Beltré went down swinging on a running fastball out of the zone away

Boom.

The Astros offence was much, much better today.  Yesterday, I wrote that Colby Lewis had success pounding the zone early in the count with solid strikes.  Not sure whether this was the plan from the Rangers (to get the Astros to chase early), but Gallardo got behind a lot in the game.  He faced a 2-0 count eight times (out of 22 batters) and those eight batters doubled (twice), homered, singled, walked, grounded into a fielder's choice and grounded out (twice).  Five of the eight reached base.  Gallardo's best inning, by far, was when he retired the side in order in the fourth, the same inning in which all three batters received first-pitch strikes.

Anyhow, the Astros had baserunners galore.  They banged out 13 hits, walked six times, and struck out five.  They laced 4 doubles and two 2-run home runs.  They loaded the bases three times.  The 2, 3, 4 hitters in the order scored eight runs between them, and drove in five.

A number of hitters had banner nights.  Luis Valbeuna, as you probably have heard by now, drove in 4 runners on a 4-5 night.  He hit two singles with the bases loaded.  Preston Tucker went 3-5 with a home run into the Crawford Boxes and a double into the RF corner.  Carlos Correa went 2-3 with two walks, including a third-inning double that got it all started.  Colby Rasmus went 1-4 with a walk and a home run.  Evan Gattis went 2-3 with a walk.

De-Fence!!  (On the odd occasion that the ball was put in play, that is...)  The Astros set the tone early with a stunning first inning play.  Delino DeShields grounded the ball up the middle.  Keuchel slowed it down by getting some glove on it (the ball also bounced off the mound and that slowed it up).  Jose Altuve ranged behind second, fielded the ball cleanly, but got a surprisingly strong throw off with his momentum heading away from first base to get DeShields in a nick of time.

Little need for defence when Kuechel mows down 13 by way of strikeout in 7 innings, however.

The Red Sox and Angels had the best possible outcome.  Firstly, it rained in parched California.  Secondly it rained so hard that the Angels-Red Sox game was called off.  That is the first time in 20 years and over 1600 games that the Angels have lost a home game to rain.

How does that matter??  Well, firstly, the Astros make up a half-game to the Angels, and sit only one back.  Secondly the Angels and Red Sox meet for a double-header tomorrow - two games in one day, with the second game being a late one (10 Eastern).  Then both teams get on flights - the Red Sox to Houston, and the Angels to Minnesota, where they both have games on Tuesday.

The only way that this could be more perfect was if both games went 14 innings, and Mike Trout ploughed into Albert Pujols trying to make a play in the outfield.  Or, alternatively, both teams lose multiple players to amphetamine suspensions because they need to "focus" for the Tuesday games.  Or, invent your own perfect scenario in the comments below.

That is, if they get to play.  More wet weather is scheduled in LA for tomorrow.

What went wrong:
Little went wrong, but lets get into some nit-pick-ery.

Evan Gattis' baserunning cost the Astros a run.  In the third inning, Gattis was on third and Valbeuna was on first when Jon Singleton lined out toward the LF-CF gap.  Ryan Rua made the play on the run, but he was off balance, and although the ball was not deep, a tagging runner should have scored easily.  Gattis wasn't tagging, and the look on his face was a sheepish one.  He mucked up, and he knew it.

Jason Castro struck out a lot.  Three times in four at-bats.  Some would say he was victimised, and I think a valid argument could be made there.  He went down looking twice on low strikes, similar to the pitches that DeShields was called out on.  Better to concentrate the strikeouts on one player, me thinks, so Castro perhaps wore one for the team.  Hank Conger is certainly the better hitting catcher at the moment, something which I find unsurprising given the minor league careers of both.

No Grand Slams.  The Astros are still sitting on zero Grand Slams for the year.  They loaded the bases three times tonight, but all they could manage was a couple of crappy singles, a strike out and a fly out.  Gah!

On the Morrow:
The Astros take the day off, while their next opponent has to play a double-header.

Vincent Velasquez (0-1, 3.91) has been announced as the Astros' starter.  He continues to search for his first big-league win.  He is opposed by Brian Johnson (0-0, -.--), who has an 8-6 record for Pawtucket, and is making his major-league debut.

8 Eastern, 7 Central.  On Tuesday, just to reiterate.

Stay tuned for AC's new writer, the County Mountie!

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