Monday, May 2, 2016

From the Office of the County Clerk - G25: Astros in Oakland

Doug Fister (1-3, 5.56) versus Rich Hill (3-2, 2.42)

Last game of the road trip, and the Astros' 2-1 win turned a disaster of a road trip into a successful road trip.  The Astros won two games and lost four on the six-game hike through a couple of the AL West opponents, which I count as a success.  You see, two from six counts for a .333 win percentage, which is better than the .292 win percentage that the Astros entered the game with.  So a .333 road trip represents progress, people, for which we should be grateful.

I haven't managed to get to this recap until around 12 hours after the game started.  Plus, loyal masochistic Astros fans probably watched the game from or around the 3pm start time, and will already know the result, and how it was achieved.  So this column will take on a shorter, bullet-point format, just this once.

  • Early leads are good!! And that is what you get when José Altuve leads off for the Astros when they are on the road.  Altuve hit his fourth lead-off home run of the season off the tough opposing lefty, Rich Hill.  1-1 count, Hill came with one of his 17-or-so curveball combinations, he missed up and on the inner third, and Altuve hammered it just to the left side of CF.  The ball got out six-or-so yards to the CF side of the 388 marker, and it got out by plenty, so it wasn't a cheapie.  Boom, 1-0 lead.  Altuve went 1-3 with a walk (and the aforementioned HR) to end a slow series in Oakland - at least by his standards.  His triple-slash stands at a robust .306/.404/.633.
  • Doug Fister was good!!  When he last pitched (in Seattle), I opined he may be the best of the Astros starters at the moment despite his seven-walk night.  Fister bounced back from his messy outing to walk one and strike out five in six-and-two-thirds, allowing seven hits and one earned run.  Four of his hits came on anti-shift slow rollers that resulted in singles, and a fifth was a seeing-eye slow roller from Marcus Semien (see below).  He retired the side in order in the first, fourth and fifth, worked around a double in the third and a single in the sixth, and left with runners on the corners and two outs in the seventh.
  • A bunch of Fister's strikeouts came up in the zone on a four-seamer.  He seems to be doing well to pitch off two fastballs at the moment, and the four-seamer seems to contrast well with his sinker.
  • Fister escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second on a solid defensive play from Correa - Fister's fastball inside blew up Semien, who broke his bat while producing a spinning, looping soft line drive that landed on the infield dirt to the left side of second base.  The ball spun wickedly when it landed, and Correa gloved it, then flicked it to second for the force.  Very nice play from Correa, whose defence seems to have gone through a bad patch recently.
  • When Fister did give up a run, Marcus Semien drove it in with a seeing-eye grounder up the middle.  A little to either side, and it is a double-play ball, which would end the frame without scoring.  But, such is life.
  • Solid defensive plays in this game made it very watchable.  Semien looks like a much improved shortstop, and he made a nice play behind second base on a Preston Tucker grounder that ramped off the mound.  George Springer made a number of solid plays in RF, including a critical play running in to make the first out of the seventh (the inning in which the A's finally scored, and could have scored a bunch more if Springer didn't make that catch).  Correa's play was discussed above, and is best described as an awkwardly spinning ball which was well played.  So, yeah, attractive ballgame to watch.
  • The Astros only managed two hits, but walked seven times to obtain nine overall baserunners.  José Altuve's home-run was one of the hits (obviously), while the other hit was credited to Jason Castro (1-3, BB), who is now hitting .151/.286/.245 on the season.  Now look, that ain't a great triple-slash, but over the last six games, he has 17 plate appearances, resulting six walks, 4 strikeouts, 3 hits with one of those a double (.272/.529/.363).  Not the worst, but also, only six games.  All those frequent Castro commentators out there... answer me this: would you be happy with a  .200/.340/.320 line from Castro this season??  Comments below!
  • As mentioned above, only two hits - but lots of walks!  Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis both went 0-2 with 2 walks, and MarGo also worked a walk and then stole a base.  Colby Rasmus was credited with a sac-fly RBI in the third inning on an 0-3 night - he nearly knocked it out of there for his second Grand Slam of the season.
  • The re-jigged Astros 'pen did well.  No Ken Giles sightings.  Tony Sipp was perfect for the two batters he faced (including with runners on in the seventh), Will Harris allowed a single hit in his two-thirds of an inning, and Luke Gregerson struck out Marcus Semien on a peach of a sinker down-and-away to complete his perfect frame.
Tomorrow is a very special day for Astros County readers.  Jexas will be making her recap debut, covering the first of a three-game series with the Twins.  Minnesota (7-18) are the only team in the AL with a worse record than the 'stros.  A strong homestead could to a lot to erase an awful April.

Dallas Keuchel (2-3, 4.41) versus Jose Berrios (0-1, 11.25)

8 Eastern, 7 Central