Mike Fiers (3-2, 4.35) versus Matt Shoemaker (2-5, 6.81)
Sadly, don't have time for a full game recap tonight (had to take one of the kids to the emergency vet), but not really sure I want to given that the Astros' season-high win streak came crashing to earth with a 7-2 loss to the Angels.
This was a frustrating loss - I flippantly mentioned that this game may be a high scoring affair given the ERA's of the starters involved, but that glossed over Matt Shoemaker's season to date. Remember, of course, that he had a pretty good 2014 (3.04 ERA in 136IP), then regressed in 2014 (4.46 in less than one fewer innings). His ERA this year has been awful - as mentioned above - but the game splits tell a different story. Heading into today, he had 8 starts: 6ER in 3IP, 0ER in 6IP, 2ER in 6.1IP, 7R/6ER in 3IP, 7R in 2.1IP, 4R in 4IP, 3R in 5IP. His last start was May 21, against Baltimore: 7.1IP, 3H, 0R/ER.
So with Shoemaker's recent uptick in form, and the Astros' ability to make anyone looked like '99 Pedro Martinez, it seems almost inevitable that Shoemaker held the Astros scoreless through eight, and the only Astros that touched home plate did so after he left. Shoemaker neutered the Astros offense - Correa reached on a single in the first but was promptly picked off; he struck out the side (all swinging) in the second; two more K's in a perfect third; two singles in the fourth, but runners stranded on the corners with a strikeout of Evan Gattis; a lone single in the fifth (Colin Moran's first ML base hit, going against the shift); down in order in the sixth; one-out single in the seventh; two more K's in a perfect frame in the eighth.
So entering the eighth, Shoemaker had allowed five hits - all singles - in eight innings, while striking out 11. He had the splitter going on. It was a lethal pitch against righties and lefties alike. Because Hinch had waved the white flag in the seventh inning (substituting everyone he could), MarGo led off with a hard grounder down the first-base line to lead off the frame, then Colby Rasmus singled through the shift with one out. Shoemaker was sitting at 116 pitches, so he wasn't going to get the chance to finish. Cam Bedrosian promptly walked Evan Gattis to load the bases, bringing up the red hot Luis Valbuena.
At this point, I sagely turned to my dad - who was watching the game with me - and said that I liked the Bedrosian - Valbuena matchup, and could see this game getting closer in a hurry. Man, am I dumb. The matchup lasted three pitches. Breaking ball, fastball, breaking ball - K. Second out. That brought Colin Moran up, and he singled the other way for his second hit of the night, scoring two. But Castro went down for the final out, and that was the ballgame.
As for Fiers, this was all down to one inning. He was perfect through two, then managed to give up six runs (!!) in the third. Double to RF, bloop single into CF by ex-Stro Carlos Pérez, full count walk (after being 0-2) by ex-Stro Gregorio Petit to load the bases, foul-out to RF for the first out. That brought Kole Calhoun up, and his was perhaps the most important bat of the night. On a 2-0 count, Calhoun slashed at a changeup that caught too much of the plate, and dumped it in shallow LF, inches inside the chalk. Rasmus had no play, the runners moved up, and the next pitch was hammered into the LF power alley by Mike Trout to empty the bases. Four pitches (and a 1-2 count) later, Fiers tried to bust Pujols up-and-away with a high fastball, but leaked it into the inside corner, and Pujols hammered it over the LF fence for a two-run shot. Sigh.
I swear, if Pujols was batting .000/.000/.000 on the season through 50 games, he would then turn around and homer against the Astros. Perhaps multiple times. Double sigh.
Anyhow, the game was gone at that point, particularly with Shoemaker dealing that horrible splitter, which the Astros kept chasing and chasing and chasing. Fiers was clearly rattled, and he gave up another run in the fourth with a Petit double to the wall to the right of CF, and a clean single into CF that scored Petit. After Fiers walked Trout with two outs, he was pulled, and Chris Devenski got to throw in front of his friends and family, of whom nearly 50 were in attendance.
Devenski was great. He allowed 3 baserunners in four-and-one-third, including one hit (a single) and two walks. He leaned heavily on his breaking ball the first few innings, then mixed in a few more changeups the second time through the order. He struck out four, and was efficient, completing 13 outs in less than 60 pitches. That also gave the 'pen a decent break, and perhaps sends Fiers back to the 'pen for a start or two (although Fiers has looked poor in relief, and Devenski seems to be better in relief than starting, so perhaps things stay the way they are).
Anyhow, up next is an interesting matchup, as the Astros look to win an intra-divisional game and level the series:
Dallas Keuchel (2-6, 5.92) versus Jered Weaver (4-3, 5.33)
Another west coast night game: 10 Eastern, 9 Central.