Dallas Keuchel (14-6, 2.37) versus Ivan Nova (5-5, 3.72)
Ookaaay. So the Astros have scored barely any runs over most of August. To be more exact, they have scored (counting from most recent) 0, 3, 3, 3, 0, 3, 3, 2, 6, 2, 5, 2, 1, 4, 1, 1, 5, 3, and 3 runs total in their last 19 games. So when the Astros opened the ballgame against a solid Yankees starter (Ivan Nova) with a crooked number that was higher than or equal to the number of runs they have scored in all but one of the last 19 games, I was stunned. The BABIP Fairy is a fickle lass, but when she is liberally sprinkling her fairy dust in your dugout, it helps immensely. Astros win, 15-1.
Interestingly, the Astros won nine of the above-listed games, and that included the majority of a rough 2-7 road trip. So if they hold on to the AL West title until the end of the season, we could well look back on their decent results in this lean period as the reason why.
Taking a look around the division, Toronto eeked out a win over the Rangers with a two run ninth inning. So the Rangers drop to 4.5 games back of the Astros. The Angels managed a narrow win over Detroit on the road, so they remain 5 games back.
On the Mound:
Dallas Keuchel is all you need to know. He entered the game with a 5-0 lead, took a little while to settle in, then he dominated. A.J. Hinch saw no point in having him pitch past the seventh inning despite a favourable pitch count, so seven innings, three hits and nine strikeouts for no earned runs was his final line. The three hits were on two singles and a double, and the last of the hits was with two outs in the fourth inning.
I won't dwell too much on Keuchel's outing, even though it is probably the story of the game. He neutered a solid Yankees lineup in a stadium that is a tough one to pitch in. Keuchel opened the game by allowing a line-drive over the head of Carlos Correa, but then he bounced back to retire the next two, and strike Mark Teixeira on a fastball inside for the third out. In the second, Keuchel struck out Chase Headley on a changeup away before allowing a single on a line drive up the middle to John Ryan Murphy (the catcher), and strike out Gregorius on a check-swing slurve away. Keuchel ended the third by striking out Astros-Killer Chris Young on a fastball inside.
The fourth inning was notable for Kuechel's only hard-hit ball. With two outs, Carlos Beltrán took a cutter down-and-in, and he hit a fly ball to the LF-CF power alley that bounced off the fence about a foot short of being a home run. He cruised into second with a double, but he was a only spectator when Headley grounded to second for the last out.
That was the last Yankees baserunner - at least while Keuchel was in the game. The side went in order in the fifth and sixth, including strikeouts of Murphy and A-Rod. In the seventh, Keuchel struck out the side - Greg Bird swinging on a cutter down-and-in, Stephen Drew looking at a running fastball and Chase Headley chasing a change up away.
Vincent Velasquez relieved, and he set the side down in order in the eighth, including a couple of strikeouts. He ran into some trouble in the ninth, allowing a lead off single and hitting Chris Young with a pitch with no outs before allowing a couple of ground outs, including a run-scoring grounder. Stephen Drew struck out to end the game on high heat away. Velasquez has some serious life on that fastball when he is throwing well.
At the Plate:
The Astros put up big, crooked numbers in three innings, and hit the ball hard consistently throughout the game. The only "pitcher" that they struggled against was Brendon Ryan, who finished the game with two scoreless frames. Ivan Nova, the Yankees' starter, was lit up for five runs after recording the first two outs of the game.
Hinch ran out a new lineup tonight, with Altuve batting leadoff and Lowrie batting second. Both were retired in order to start the game. Then Carlos Correa walked on a full count and Colby Rasmus hit a soft liner into CF which Ellsbury got a late jump on. The ball landed in shallow CF after Ellsbury missed catching it on a dive, and Rasmus cruised into third base. Evan Gattis walked to put runners on the corner, then Carlos Gómez doubled on a line-drive off the end of the bat past the shortstop Gregorius, scoring Rasmus. Luis Valbeuna took a full count fastball, and he drove it the other way (!) over the head of Chris Young in LF, scoring two. Marwin González then singled on a line drive down the RF line, scoring Valbuena. Jason Castro walked, then Jose Altuve grounded it off the fists to third base for the last out. Altuve saw two pitches in the first inning, and made two outs.
The Astros kept hitting it hard in the second inning, but all the hard hits were caught. Ditto in the third inning, especially when Luis Valbeuna hit a hard liner to CF that Ellsbury successfully tracked down for the out. The Astros had two runners on in the fourth - a one-out Castro ground ball against the shift and an Altuve walk with one out, but a grounder and a fly out to shallow right ended that frame without incident.
The Astros were back at it in the fifth. Leading off, Colby Rasmus doubled, hammering a pitch the other way off the base of the LF-CF wall. Evan Gattis then ended Ivan Nova's night by taking a breaking pitch that backed up. The pitch caught the middle third of the plate thigh-high, and Gattis deposited it around 10 row deep into the LF stands, about 10 yards fair. That gave Gattis 20 home runs on the year.
The relief pitcher was Nick Rumbelow, and he got two quick outs before Marwin González hit the second home run of the inning. Rumbelow came with 94mph high heat up-and-away (the catcher was set up down-and-away), and González turned on it, and hammered it well out into the RF-CF power alley. Then Jason Castro doubled off the RF wall on the full, missing a home run by about two feet, Jose Altuve singled on a soft line drive to RF, and Castro scored when Jed Lowrie's routine grounder skipped between second baseman Brendon Ryan's legs. Rumbelow balked the remaining runners into scoring position, but Carlos Correa eventually went down on a check swing for the final out.
The sixth was largely uneventful, aside from Gattis' walk and Gómez's fly out to CF. Gómez's fly out was eventful only for a frustrated bat-flip after he made contact. When he was returning to his dugout, there was some chirping between the dugout and Gómez, possibly because the Yankees didn't like his display of frustration after he flew out. Gomez clearly mouthed "shut up" a few times, and Murphy, the catcher for the Yankees accosted him in the way past. Both dugouts emptied, both benches were warned, and the game continued.
The seventh was significant for the third crooked number of the night. Chris Capuano was on the mound for the Yankees. After Marwin flew out to CF, Jason Castro singled on a line drive to RF on a breaking pitch down the middle of the plate. Pinch-hitter Handsome Jake walked to conclude an eight-pitch at-bat - the payoff pitch bounced short of home plate. Pinch-hitter Chris Carter struck out for the second out - looking at a back-door breaking pitch that seemed to miss away. Carlos Correa walked to load the bases, then Colby Rasmus walked on a high breaking pitch to bring Castro home. Evan Gattis followed with a two-run line-drive single over the 5.5 hole on a breaking pitch down in the zone. Carlos Gómez then hammered a three run home run into the bullpen located in RF - the pitch was a low fastball that was meant to be away, and instead ran over the plate a little, and Gómez made no mistake. While it was funky revenge on the Yankees, Gómez didn't show anyone up at all, and rounded the bases at a good clip without doing too much talking.
Out of respect to Brendan Ryan, who is normally a middle infielder, we won't comment too much on the last two innings. González and Marisnick both hit hard grounders that eluded the corner infielders for singles, and Correa, Carter and Gómez all hit the ball hard into outs.
The damage was done down at the bottom of the order. The last six hitters (in order) included Colby Rasmus (2-5, BB, 2B, 3B), Evan Gattis (2-4, 2xBB, HR), Carlos Gómez (2-6, 2B, HR), Luis Valbuena (1-5, 2B), Marwin González (3-5, HR) and Jason Castro (3-4, BB, 2B). Altuve perhaps showed more signs of turning the corner (1-3, BB) and he sat for the last three frames. The second spot in the order went a combined 0-6 - Jed Lowrie had four of the at-bats, and Carter the other two.
In the first frame, Ivan Nova set the first two Astros down quickly before walking Carlos Correa. The Colby Rasmus hit a soft fly-ball that Jacoby Ellsbury tried to make a play on coming in. He ended up diving sideways to try and glove it, and it bounced past him. Rasmus headed to third base, then the floodgates opened. The next five batters reached on a walk, two doubles, a single, and another walk, and that was enough for Dallas Keuchel. The Astros also put a 4-run inning and a 6-run inning on the board - the six run inning equalled the most they have scored in any of their last 19 games.
Man of the Match:
Like... everyone. But especially Dallas Keuchel. He and Castro were awesome tonight.
Goat of the Game:
Can't really award a goat with a 15-1 win.
On the Morrow:
Collin McHugh (13-7, 3.96) versus Michael Pineda (9-7, 3.97)
Pineda is returning from the disabled list after a few weeks off for a forearm strain. Who knows how this will turn out.
1 Eastern, Noon Central.