Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Morning Reset

The Astros fell to two games back of the Rangers after Carlos Correa hit a 433-foot double (stupid Tal's Hill) and Evan Gattis came within inches of a walk-off homer, the ball just going foul in the 9th. And also because the A's are completely useless, blowing a 4-1 lead at home to the Ramgers. The Twins also won, so the Astros lost a game to everyone that matters in this race. 

Rangers: -
Astros: -2
Twins: -4
Angels: -4.5

The Astros' playoff odds took a little bit of a tumble, the division odds falling 14% to 27.2% and the playoff odds taking an 8% hit to 80.3%.

The game started out rough for Lance McCullers, surrendering home runs to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. But it's hard to get mad at a rookie pitcher for giving up jacks to Trout and Pujols. Still, in his first 15 pitches of the game, McCullers is allowing a .293/.374/.505 slash line (I haven't broken it down farther than this, but I'm going to guess you can thank the Rangers and Angels last night for that). 

McCullers settled in after getting down 3-0 in the 1st, retiring 19 of the final 21 batters he faced, hitting David Freese to lead off the 2nd and allowing a 7th inning lead off single to Pujols. The game was really two bad pitches for McCullers...

...and a whole bunch of wasted opportunities for the Astros' offense, who were 0x8 with runners in scoring position. Marwin Gonzalez had runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs in the 3rd and grounded out; they had Springer at 1st and Altuve at 2nd with nobody out in the 5th and didn't get a run across; Correa was on 2nd after hitting the longest double in major league baseball (just about everybody noted on Twitter last night that next year, when they get rid of Tal's Hill, Correa's knock would have tied the game at 4-4) and the Angels walked Lowrie to get to Gattis, who ripped the walk-off just foul before striking out to end the game. 

The 8th was a weird, characteristically frustrating inning all around. With the Angels leading 3-2, McCullers was lifted after XXX pitches in favor of Chad Qualls, who promptly allowed a double to Chris Iannetta and a dumb infield single to 46-year old David DeJesus that got Iannetta over to third. Erick Aybar did an equally stupid thing in either trying a squeeze play where Iannetta didn't score, or just sac bunted DeJesus to second for the first out. Then Hinch brought in Joe Thatcher, who allowed a bloop single to Kole Calhoun, scoring Iannetta to make it 4-2 and ending Thatcher's night after one batter. Neshek came in, hit Mike Trout, and then got the next two batters to end the threat.

So the Astros come up to bat, now down 4-2 because of an infield single and a bloop single. Loire singled to lead off the inning, Gattis grounded out and moved Lowrie to second. Rasmus pinch-hit for Marwin, and walked, putting runners at 1st and 2nd with one out. Hinch had lefty Preston Tucker up to hit for Chris Carter, and Scioscia changed pitchers, going to the lefty Jose Alvarez. Hinch decided to pull Tucker back in favor of Matt Duffy, who grounded into a fielder's choice, moving Lowrie to 3rd and erasing Rasmus at 2nd. Hinch pulled Castro in favor of Jonathan Villar, and then Scioscia pulled Alvarez in favor of Huston Street. Hinch once again pulled Villar for Valbuena (during whose at-bat Street threw a wild pitch, scoring Lowrie to make it 4-3 Angels), and Valbuena was intentionally walked to get to Marisnick, who struck out swinging to end the inning.

We had our guys in position. I was happy with how we matched up really all throughout the night. September baseball can get a little bit wacky with six, seven players coming off the bench on each side, but that's the rules we play under.

We know how important wins are now. But right now if we keep playing well...we can stay close enough, keep pressuring them. Maybe we can't do it all ourselves and get a little bit of help. But every game is going to be important, no doubt about that.

*McCullers said that the Angels helped him focus from the 2nd-7th innings:
They were chirping at me a lot the whole game. It didn't really get under my skin, but it lit a fire underneath me. I got punched in the mouth early and I really wanted to put forth a great effort for the guys, keep it close and give us a chance to win. But them jabbing at me most of the game kind of fired me up a little bit.

Oh my God, that ball was killed. This might be the only park that ball is not out of. We caught a break there.

*Luhnow discussed how the Astros are going to approach replacing new Brewers GM David Stearns this off-season.

*Hey whaddayaknow, Carlos Gomez hasn't swung a bat with much effort yet. 

*The Rangers moved Hamels' next start up to Thursday against the A's instead of Friday against the Astros in order to give him three more starts over the remainder of the season, instead of two if he had started Friday. 

*Tom Verducci wrote about how the Astros have stayed in the race.

*Correa's 21st birthday brought his family in from Puerto Rico, and they went to the Breakfast Klub where Correa ate: order of fried chicken and waffles, a banana and pecan pancake, French toast, a side of scrambled eggs mixed with ham, cheese and spinach, orange juice, and water. =