Sunday, April 17, 2016

From the Office of the County Clerk - G13: Astros v. Tigers

Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 3.38) v. Mike Fiers (0-1, 6.55)

Finally! On their third rubber match of the season, and fourth series of the year, the Astros at last came away with a win. Also, Ken Giles did not give up any runs (and neither did the rest of the bullpen). Also, George Springer and Jose Altuve both went deep and continued swinging hot sticks. And while it started out easy, then got a little close for comfort towards the end, it was still handshakes and high fives all around, as Houston wraps up their first homestand of the year with a 5-4 win. They finished the homestand 3-4, moving to 5-8 overall.

On the Mound:
Mike Fiers got the call for the third time today, after his first start (like all Astros starters not named Keuchel) was awful, and his second start - especially after the first three batters - was considerably better. Today's performance fell somewhere between those two, so while it wasn't great, it was at least good enough, thereby earning Fiers his first win of the year. He cruised through the first two innings in 6-up, 6-down fashion, then allowed a pair of singles in the 3rd, but also struck out two, so the offense amounted to nothing.

A one-out single by Victor Martinez was Detroit's only baserunner in the 4th, and by the time that Fiers came out for the 5th, the Astros offense had staked him to a 5-0 lead. So for the sake of suspense, that's when he began to make sure that the game stayed interesting. Jarrod Spellinghazard Saltalamacchia led off the 5th with a solo HR to right on an 0-1 fastball. 5-minute-Astro Anthony Gose grounded out to Tyler White, then Jose Iglesias singled and Ian Kinsler homered, and Houston's lead was cut to 5-3. Fiers got Justin Upton & Miguel Cabrera to end the 5th, and Victor Martinez to start the 6th, but then old friend (and Fiers' college 'mate) J.D. Martinez homered to right, and the Astros' advantage was down to 1. Fiers stayed on to strike out Nick Castellanos on a full-count changeup, but with Saltalamacchia already 2x2 against Fiers, A.J. Hinch went to the bullpen for Tony Sipp to turn the switch hitter around (.777 career OPS v. righties, .616 v. lefties). Altogether, Fiers finished his day with 5.2 IP / 7 H / 4 R / 4 ER / 0 BB / 5 K line, and 3 HR allowed.

Sipp struck out Saltalamacchia ending the 6th, then walked Gose starting the 7th, and Hinch called upon Pat Neshek. On two pitches, Pat got Iglesias to pop up to second; on two pitches more, Kinsler lined out to left. Then on a 1-2 slider, #jus10up10 took a called strike 3, tossed his bat, barked about it, and got himself ejected.

Bring on Hundred Mile Giles for the 8th, and all started swimmingly, with swinging strikeouts of Cabrera and V. Martinez. The inning should have been over soon after that, but a fielding error by Luis Valbuena let J.D. Martinez reach safely, and a single by Castellanos moved J.D. over to third. No drama this time, Giles got Saltalamacchia to ground out to second, for his second scoreless outing of the series.

Luke Gregerson got closer's duties as usual, and handled it in 1-2-3 order (1 K), securing his 4th save of the season.

At the Plate:
As has already been detailed, the Astros jumped ahead and held on, starting with Jose Altuve's 4th home run of the season, leading off the 1st. George Springer singled, Colby Rasmus walked, and Springer moved up to third on Evan Gattis' flyout for out #2. While Luis Valbuena was batting, Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez let loose a wild pitch, and Springer came home safely to give Houston a 2-0 lead after 1.

A leadoff double by Marwin Gonzalez went to naught in the 2nd, but a leadoff homer by Springer - his 3rd - but Houston up 3-0 in the 3rd. In the 4th, Marwin singled between outs #1 and #2, then Jake Marisnick singled and both runners advanced an extra base on Miguel Cabrera's throwing error. The very next pitch, Altuve singled to left, plating both Marwin & Jake, and the Astros' 5-0 lead was built. All of the damage was done against Anibal Sanchez.

It was all quiet on the offensive front after that, with only a pair of singles (Gattis in the 5th, Valbuena in the 8th) and a walk (Rasmus in the 5th) the rest of the way. But it was enough, and with the frustrating start to Houston's season, we'll take any win we can get. The Astros' offensive stars were Altuve (2x4, R, HR, 3 RBI), Springer (2x4, 2 R, HR, RBI), and Marwin (2x4, R), who started in place of Carlos Correa. Marisnick (1x3, R) got the start in center, and Carlos Gomez also got the afternoon off.

Turning Point:
The Astros took a lead in the 1st and never trailed, and Detroit never seriously threatened again after pulling within 5-4, other than Valbuena's error preceding two-on, two-out in the 8th. Though a one-run lead against this Tigers offense is never comfortable, so kudos to the collective Houston bullpen today...

Man of the Match:
...whom we'll honor with a collective MotM. For Sipp, Neshek, Giles, and Gregerson, the combined line was 3.1 IP / 1 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 1 BB / 5 K, with holds awarded the former three and a save to the latter.

Goat of the Game:
Valbuena, who went 1x4 but left 3 LOBsters stranded, struck out twice, and his error made Giles inning more interesting than any of us would have liked.

Up Next:
Off day tomorrow, as the Astros travel to West Louisiana to take on the Ramgers and begin again the battle for the Silver Boot. Also the AL West.

Scott Feldman (0-1, 3.48) v. Derek Holland (1-0, 2.31)

7:05 Central on Tuesday.