Rubby De La Rosa (8-5, 4.52) versus Scott Feldman (4-5, 4.54)
Opening game against the in-form Diamondbacks, who, after dropping to 42-48 three games after the All Star Break (and 44-51 seven games after the ASB) have quietly reeled off 7 wins in their last 10, and five in a row to improve to 49-51 entering this series. The Astros, however, have feasted on the NL this year, going 8-1 in interleague games.
No walk-off magic tonight, anyhow. The Diamondbacks took an early 1-0 lead, the Astros countered with a four-run fifth inning, then the D-Backs chipped away in the top of the sixth and seventh to draw even. The Astros closed regulation by getting Marwin González picked off first base, then promptly gave up two solo homers in the top of the tenth. They were unable to counter in the bottom half, and the end result was Diamondbacks 6, Astros 4.
What went well:Scott Feldman, for the most part, had a reasonable night. Entering the top of the sixth, he held a 4-1 lead, had given up one run on five hits, walking none and striking out three. However, in the top of the sixth, a single against the shift, followed by a gapper into the RF-CF gap that both Rasmus and Gomez converged on but didn't catch meant that he faced two runners in scoring position with no outs. Feldman allowed an RBI groundout, then Qualls did the same, so both runners scored. He allowed three earned runs tonight in the final washup.
Interestingly, Feldman may be throwing a little harder. He busted out 93 tonight - only about 4mph above what I would consider his normal "peak" velocity.
Jason Castro hit his second three-run shot in as many nights. This one was an opposite field home run into the second row of the Crawford Boxes. The pitch was a fastball away, Castro went with it, and the two runners that had fortuitously reached base ahead of him both scored. Valbuena singled off Jake Lamb's glove - Lamb is a third baseman who was shifted into a second base position - on a blooper into shallow CF, and Marwin González reached on a nice sac-bunt.
Carlos Correa followed with his own Crawford Box shot - this one a no doubter. De La Rosa missed up with a slider or cutter, and Correa mashed it to left. He leads AL shortstops in home runs after hitting his tenth.
What didn't go well:
Carlos Gomez... rough night. 0-5, one K, dropped fly ball in the RF-CF gap. He had the play made, but overran it a little. Heading toward the gap, he would have had to have reach back across his body to make the catch, but he wasn't able to. Perhaps Rasmus distracted him, running the other way.
Marwin González is getting some starts at first base due to his hot bat. He does everything pretty ok, does Marwin, with this main strength his versatility. Well, tonight he went 2-4, and reached base on an error. The error occurred in the ninth, and the pitcher, Daniel Hudson, flat dropped the ball covering first on a routine groundout. González, firstly, had pulled up running down the line, but he was able to make it to first before Hudson regathered and stepped on the base. But that was only a temporary reprieve. With Castro - the guy with two three-run home runs in the last two days - facing Hudson, González got flat picked off. Hudson stepped off and threw to first, Marwin was toast, and he was easily run down by Goldschmidt, because he was forced to break for second. Castro didn't get to complete his at-bat until he faced Brad Ziegler with a deficit in the tenth. Ziegler has a WHIP of 0.85, so Hudson was the guy that Castro would have wanted to face. This wasn't an obviously costly TOOTBLAN, but I could kind of see Castro getting a hit off Hudson, and he (Castro) was waaaaay overmatched against Ziegler (as was Altuve and Gomez).
The Bullpen... Harris, Gregerson and Fields did their jobs well, but Qualls threw a first-pitch slider to Yasmany Tomás with a runner on third, and the resulting ground ball scored the Diamondbacks' third run of the game. Tony Sipp faced a lefty with a runner in scoring positions, and he immediately gave up a hit to score the tying run of the game. And Pat Neshek... he gets his own entry.
Pat Neshek... uncharacteristic outing - 2 home runs on consecutive batters, neither of them particularly cheap. Gah! He wore the loss.
Patchy Offensive Performance... The Astros had eight hits and one walk. The hits were again clustered toward the bottom of the order - Valbuena went 2-4, González went 2-4, and Castro went 1-4, but his one hit was a home run, and occurred immediately after Valbuena and González managed hits. The Astros were actually pretty efficient in scoring four runs in an inning where they had four of their hits. However, they weren't able to consistently get guys on base, and the o-fers killed them. Altuve and Gomez went 0-5, Gattis went 0-3 with a walk, and Rasmus went 0-4. Tucker went 2-4, and Correa 1-4 with a home run.
Turning the calendar to August, we have
Jeremy Hellickson (7-6, 4.60) versus Dallas Keuchel (12-5, 2.32)
7 Eastern, 6 Central.