Doug Fister (lots of zeros) versus Wily E Peralta (0-1, 9.00)
Luck or good pitching does not seem to have been on the Astros' side over the last three games, which has played a part in their first multi-game slide of the season. The happy news is that (i) the pitching is highly likely to get better, mostly because it cannot get much worse than a number 2 starter with an ERA of 135.00 and (ii) no one in the AL West has gotten off to any kind of a good start. At the completion of todays games, the Astros - with a measly 2-3 record - sit a half-game off the pace set by the Rangers and A's, so it isn't like the Astros are spotting any of the other teams in the division a decent lead.
But after a promising rally was snuffed out last night on the technically correct application of a new rule designed to protect middle infielders, the Astros sorely needed a good performance. They got an adequate performance tonight - one that was good enough for a 6-4 win. They certainly aren't in mid-season form, but they head to their second rubber-game of the season with their ace taking the mound, so perhaps that is something. A win tomorrow sends them home with a .500 road trip - something that was a rarity last season.
On the Mound:
Doug Fister, the Astros' nominal fifth starter, took the bump tonight, and was immediately staked to a two-nil lead, which is discussed in more detail below. He looked good early, too, retiring the side in order in the first, and allowing only a leadoff walk to future-'Stro Jonathan Lucroy in setting the side down in the second as well. It was a promising start.
Entering the third inning, Fister carried a 3-0 lead. He scuffled a little in that frame, however. Wily Peralta - the opposing pitcher - opened the frame by flying out to deep LF, pretty much to the warning track. Then number nine hitter Jonathan Villar hit a hard single through the right side, and strikeout-machine Domingo Santana walked, putting runners on first and second with one out. Scooter Gennett became the third straight Brewer to reach when he hit a hard single to the right side. Springer made a good read, attacked the ball, and threw a hard throw home that was cut by first baseman, Tyler White. White summed up the play well, threw to second behind Santana after looking Villar back to third, and the tag was successfully applied. Villar headed for home and scored, however, but the second out was recorded (instead of having the bases loaded with one out), and the next batter (Ryan Braun) compounded the mistake by striking out swinging on a full count.
The the fourth, Jonathan Lucroy against led off by reaching base, this time on a double to deep CF. But Fister bounced back to strike out Carter and Nieuwenhuis, and retire Aaron Hill on a first pitch grounder. Starting the fifth inning, Fister was staked to a 6-1 lead, but he allowed a lead-off two-bagger to double-switch insert and third-baseman Yadiel Rivera, who advanced on Villar's grounder and scored on Santana's grounder. The Brewers weren't done for the inning after that, however, as Scooter Gennett mashed his second home run in as many days to RF on the following pitch. Castro called for a first-pitch curve away, Fister missed glove-side by a foot or so, and Gennett did a great job of getting underneath it, and mashing it over the bullpen in RF.
That made the score 6-3, and it became 6-4 when Pat Neshek retired the first two guys in order, then grooved a fastball down the middle. It was a 2-2 count, the sixth pitch of the at-bat, and Castro called for a fastball away. Neshek missed glove side and over the plate, and Nieuwenhuis hit a wall-scraper just over the RF wall for the second Brewers home run in as many innings.
Will Harris came on, and he allowed only a single to Jonathan Villar in recording a scoreless inning. Giles got the eighth, and while that has been a recipe for disaster in 2016 so far, he sliced through the heart of the order (Braun, Lucroy and Carter) without allowing a baserunner. Gregerson had an easier assignment in the ninth, and after retiring the first two hitters without problem, he allowed a single to deep CF, then walked Villar, putting the go-ahead run at the plate. That happened to be Domingo Santana, and we all know how much power he has, but on the second pitch of his at-bat, he grounded it to Carlos Correa who completed the force out without drama. So aside from Pat Neshek's oopsie, the Astros 'pen looked much more like the 2015 version today, unlike the 2013 version they have looked like so far this season.
At the Plate:
The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the first on two broken-bat singles, and a walk. Sac-flies to Colby Rasmus (deep to the LF power alley, not too far short of the wall) and Tyler White (deep to CF) both drove runners in and gave viewers a glimpse of the future. The second inning looked promising, with Luis Valbuena singling the other way, and Jason Castro bunting the other way for base hits, putting runners on first and second. But Doug Fister was the next batter, and he bunted it just to the left of the mound, but Peralta gathered it quickly and made a good play in forcing Valbuena at third. The inning ended scorelessly on a José Altuve double-play.
In the third, Colby Rasmus took a first pitch breaking pitch and deposited it over the CF wall, in a very similar location to his sac-fly. The pitch was meant to be a breaking ball down and away, but Peralta missed over the plate, and Rasmus hammered it. Tyler White followed with a walk, but it was to no avail as Carlos Gómez struck out swinging on a pitch located in the left-handers batters box.
Jason Castro worked a walk in the fourth - he was stranded at second when Altuve struck out. In the fifth, the Astros scored the decisive runs of the game. George Springer walked to lead off the inning, stole second, and advanced to third when Scooter Gennett couldn't glove Lucroy's tailing throw down to try and get him. Rasmus was the next up, and he absolutely unloaded on a 3-0 fastball down the pipe, mashing it into the second deck above the RF power alley. It was an impressive shot - a long way back, and well into the upper deck. The sound the ball made as it hit the bat was impressive, and Peralta and Lucroy just stood and watched. It was estimated at 431 feet.
Tyler White was the next batter. On an 0-1 count, Lucroy called for a fastball low and on the inside corner. Peralta missed glove-side, and White hammered it to deep CF, very close to where he hit the sac-fly, at least in terms of line. The ball hit the batting eye on the full - it also wasn't a cheapie, estimated at 423 feet. That took the lead at the time to five.
The Brewers 'pen faced the minimum for the rest of the match. That was despite a Carlos Gómez bunt single to the replacement third baseman Rivera, who promptly threw it away. It got past Carter, and Gómez dug for second, then third. Carter retrieved the ball, threw a strike to Jonathan Villar covering third, and Gómez was out relatively easily as he slid into the bag. Marwin González singled to CF in the ninth, but he was erased on a José Altuve GIDP - his second of the day, and third of the season (if you include the GIDP that ended the game last night, which officially is not credited against Altuve by rule).
Tyler White had a solid night (1-2, BB, SF, HR, 2RBI), as did George Springer and Jason Castro (both 1-3, BB). Gómez and Valbuena both went 1-4. Correa reached once on a walk while going 0-3. But Colby Rasmus was clearly the top offensive performer of the night, with a 2-3, 2HR, BB, SF, 4RBI effort, his first two home runs of the season. He has looked impressive so far this season, making a lot of hard contact.
Back-to-back jacks put the Astros out of reach in the fifth. The two home runs combined for around 850 feet.
Man of the Match:
So far this year: Correa, Correa, White, White.... Rasmus! A couple of Colby Jacks in the cheese capital of America. Awful joke, I know. Apologies.
Goat of the Game:
Hard to find a goat, but I think I need to draw attention to Carlos Gómez's performance thus far. He seems... overenthusiastic so far this year. If he keeps going at this pace, he will either run out of energy, or do himself some damage. Chill, bro, and let the game come to you sometimes.
On the Morrow:
Wrapping up the, uh, cheddar in Milwaukee. Apologies, my jokes aren't very gouda.
Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 2.57) versus Jimmy Nelson (0-1, 2.45)
2 Eastern, 1 Central.