Sunday, May 8, 2016

From the Office of the County Clerk - G31: Astros versus Seattle

Nate Karns (3-1, 3.81) versus Dallas Keuchel (2-4, 5.11)

In a fractious game that resulted in two Astros being ejected and constant barking by both teams at Home Plate ump Ben Hall, Robinson Canó and poor hitting with RISP again proved the difference as the Astros went down in extra innings by a score of 3-2.  Both teams' starters recorded more than a strikeout-per-inning, which may give you a clue as to the width of the strike zone.  Carlos Gómez got himself ejected walking out onto the field to open the tenth inning, A.J. Hinch also got run, and the Astros were the victims of another short win streak (1) to continue to their poor early season form.

On the Mound:
With Keuchel's Korner and Keuchel bobbleheads both mustering extra support for Keuchel, one may have expected a bounce-back in form.  Perhaps there was a subtle form-related bounce-back, but Dallas Keuchel also gave up two solo home runs, and departed the game on the hook for the loss.  Some ninth-inning heroics got him off that hook - more on that later - so he recorded only a no-decision.  But in a game where the Mariners started four lefty hitters and the strike zone looked like this, one may have reasonably expected Keuchel to prosper.

His final line was not all bad: 7IP, 8H / 1BB, 2R/ER against 8K.  Solo home runs to the red-hot Robinson Canó and Kyle Seager (who is coming off a poor April) represented his only blemish in terms of run-prevention.  Keuchel also had some BABIP hard luck, with a couple of the hits recorded against him being of the infield variety, but none of those scored.  

After allowing only a single to CF in the first, Keuchel allowed a 1-out home run to a suddenly-hot Kyle Seager.  On the first pitch of the at-bat, Seager got a fastball down-and-in, and he hit a fly ball that barely caught the bottom of the screen on the foul pole down the RF line.  It certainly wasn't an upper-deck shot, but it was enough.  Keuchel seemed to locate the pitch where he wanted it, but Seager managed to just put enough on it to get it out.

With two outs in the next frame, Keuchel gave up his second home run of the game.  This was also a first-pitch home run, after Castro called for a slider away.  Keuchel missed glove-side, and the ball was low and inside, allowing Robinson Canó to elevate it enough to put it about 5 rows deep into the RF stands, right over where Springer was playing him.

Keuchel bounced back to keep the Mariners scoreless for the next four innings.  He worked around a Correa error in the fourth, retired the side in order in the fifth, and worked around three singles in the six (being ably assisted by a double-play).  In the seventh, a couple of infield singles put runners on the corners with one out, but a pop out and a harmless ground-out to MarGo at second base ended that inning and Keuchel's night without the runners scoring.  At this point, the Astros trailed by one.

Josh Fields worked around a lead-off single (erasing that runner on a double-play) and a two-out triple (off the top of the wall to the RF side of the home bullpen) to record a scoreless frame.  Fields seemed to debut a little baby-slider tonight, which he used to strike out Dae-Ho Lee to open the ninth inning. Hinch had been ejected at this point, so Trey Hillman opted to go to Tony Sipp to get the last two outs of the ninth, which he managed without problem.  Sipp then started the tenth inning, striking out Ketel Marte to open the frame.  He then faced Robinson Canó, and after working him over down in the zone, Sipp reached back for a 2-1 fastball that was meant to be up in the zone.  Perhaps he missed a little over the plate - it wasn't by much, but Canó just beat him to the spot, and he hit a fly ball that landed about 8 rows back in the CF side of the Crawford Boxes.  Gregerson took over for Sipp, and he retired the last two batters without incident.

At the Plate:
George Springer assumed lead-off duties with Altuve having a rest.  He was the first of three strikeouts in the first, with only MarGo (batting behind Springer) breaking it up with a single to RF.  The Astros went down in order in the second, and Springer walked with two outs in the third, before the Astros went down in order in the fourth.  Tyler White singled with two outs as the only baserunner in the fifth.  Karns had it going on against Houston - as he often does - and he was mixing in his nifty curveball with high heat quite nicely.

The Astros finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth, but like many innings this season, it could have been much better.  MarGo reached on a bunt single to third base with one out, then stole second without a throw with Carlos Correa batting.  Correa (1-5) subsequently singled to CF, but MarGo held up to ensure that the ball dropped short of Leonys Martín in CF.  That put runners on the corners for Rasmus, and he hit a soft line drive over the head of Mariners first baseman Lee, scoring MarGo, and resulting into a double that was fielded just past where the RF stand juts out in foul ground.  Rasmus advanced to second, putting two runners in scoring position with one out.  Good news right??  Well, Karns bounced back to strike out Preston Tucker (0-4, 2K) on a high fastball, and got Carlos Gómez with a curveball that bounced in just past the plate to end the threat.  Without a word of a lie.  It bounced just past the plate.  Sheesh.

More baserunners in scoring position in the seventh.  With one out, Tyler White (2-3) singled and Jason Castro worked a walk.  A ground-out advanced Altuve (pinch-running for White) to third base, but MarGo (2-5) grounded out on the next pitch to end the threat.  More runners in scoring position in the eighth - sandwiched around strikeouts, Colby Rasmus (2-5, 2x2B) doubled on a line drive that landed on the warning track just fair in the eighth, but he was stranded on second with Carlos Gómez popped up for the third out to end the frame.

In the ninth inning, and with the Astros trailing by 1, Steve Cishek relieved to try and close the game for the Mariners.  Cishek is having a nice season.  Luis Valbeuna (1-4, HR), who is not having a nice season, was leading off, and he obliterated a low 1-1 fastball that leaked over the plate into the upper deck in RF for his first home run of the year.  Give Cishek some credit, however.  He barely blinked, and immediately bounced back to retire the next three hitters, including Castro (0-3, BB, 2K) and Springer (0-4, BB, 2K) on strikeouts.    Castro's strikeout was on a couple of great pitches, and that got Hinch, and later Gómez, ejected.  Despite having a pitch count north of 20, Cishek also pitched the tenth, and he set the side down in order to record the win.  He threw 35 pitches, and mercifully may not be available tomorrow.

Turning Point:
Tony Sipp was called upon for some late-game lefty-on-lefty violence.  Robinson Canó was ready, however, for a high fastball away, and he simply lined it into the boxes in left field without any dramas or fanfare.  Canó had also homered off Keuchel earlier in the game, as had Seager.  All home runs in this game were by lefties, off lefties.  Not good for the Astros, especially given (i) the fact that Keuchel and Sipp are the only two lefties on the roster and (ii) the amount of money invested in Tony Sipp this offseason.  Sipp carries an ERA north of 5.

Man of the Match:
Uh, no one, really.  Rasmus has been a little quiet lately, but he bounced back tonight with a 2-5 night, with two doubles.  Shout-out to Tyler White, who went 2-3.  The Astros need the Great White back, especially with the difficulties most of the corner players and DH's are experiencing at the moment.

Goat of the Game:
Carlos Gómez, when went 0-4 with two strikeouts.  His triple slash begins with all twos - .206/.245/.289.  Safe to say (i) that this trade appears to have handsomely backfired and (ii) Gómez is costing himself a lot of money next year.  But the main reason for him getting the goat is around his ejection.  

Coming out for the top of the tenth, Gómez made himself look like a goose and embarrassed his team by arguing with the first base (!) umpire, with whom he had been jawing at from the dugout when the Astros were batting in the home-half of the ninth.  Remember that Hinch also got run after Jason Castro's at-bat.  Well, Gómez was taking the field with his glove, the other outfielders went out to warm up, but he stayed to exchange pleasantries with the first-base ump, Jeff Nelson.  Perhaps he was upset that he had (i) struck out on a pitch that bounced and (ii) popped up with a runner in scoring position for the last out of the eighth, with both outs with runners in scoring position in a tight game.  He needs to start sitting some to get his head right.  Or playing more.  Or something.

Up Next:
Final game of the four-game series against the AL West leaders.  The Astros can draw level with a win.

Collin McHugh (3-3, 6.59) versus Hisashi Iwakuma (1-3, 4.03)

2 Eastern, 1 Central.