Wednesday, May 18, 2016

G40: Astros @ White Sox

I am not the biggest fan of extra inning games. They make me nervous. Yes, I know that some pretty cool stuff can happen in extra innings (as we saw) but some pretty soul crushing things can happen too. Extra inning games give me hope, which we all know, as Houston sports fans, can be a dangerous thing. So here is your recap for the first game in this series with the White Sox.

On The Mound:
Coming into this game Dallas Keuchel, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, has won only two of the eight games he has started. Tonight, the W eluded him yet again, despite a pretty solid six innings.

The first three innings were each three up, three down. In the fourth inning Keuchel struck out the first two batters and then gave up a home run to first baseman Jose Abreu. A single by DH Avisail Garcia followed, before a force ground out from Melky Cabrera got Garcia out at second base to end the inning.

The fifth inning would start the same with the first two batters not reaching base. Catcher Dioner Navarro and third baseman Tyler Saladino would each double with Navarro scoring off of Saladino’s to tie the game 2-2. Right fielder Adam Eaton would single over the head of Correa to bring in Saladino for the go ahead run. Short Stop Jimmy Rollins would single as well, sending Eaton to second base but both would be stranded when Keuchel issued his fourth strike out of the night to Abreu.

The sixth inning was three up, three down for Keuchel with the final out coming on a quick three pitch strikeout to Brett Lawrie, who let the home plate umpire Tony Randazzo know he was not happy with his calls. The seventh inning is where Keuchel started to lose steam. He began the inning by throwing two 4 pitch walks in a row to Austin Jackson and Navarro. Saladino would follow those up with a bunt single turned into a force out thanks to a great play by Jason Castro to Luis Valbuena to get Jackson out at third base. Keuchel would issue another walk and AJ Hinch made the decision to replace him with Ken Giles to get the last two outs of the inning. I had to take several deep breaths at this point.

Giles was looking good tonight. Like the Giles we had been waiting to see all season. He easily struck out Jimmy Rollins on three pitches with the last being a 99.3mph fastball. Jose Abreu would also be struck out quickly to end the inning.

Will Harris took care of business using twelve pitches on three batters all sent back to the dugout. At this point the Astros had taken the lead and all that was needed was for the Astros closer Luke Gregerson to do his job: close. Gregerson would give up a double to Jackson on the second pitch of the inning. What followed was some questionable infield work by Marwin Gonzalez who was in foul territory instead of on the first base bag allowing what would have been a simple out from third baseman Carlos Sanchez to turn into a single and advance Jackson to third base. Saladino would answer Gregerson’s efforts with a sacrifice fly to allow Jackson to score from third and tie up the game. A fly ball from Eaton sent out to Colby Rasmus would bring the second out, followed by a single from Alex Avila, advancing Sanchez to third base. Thankfully, Abreu would ground out to stop Sanchez from scoring the go ahead run but now we were going into extra innings. Great.

The top of the tenth, Pat Neshek would face only three batters including Lawrie who he battled with for ten pitches and struck out swinging on a slider. Tony Sipp (one of my favorites from the bullpen) came in for the bottom of the eleventh hoping to keep the White Sox at bay since the Astros were up 6-4 at this point. He started out issuing a strikeout to Jackson. A single by Sanchez would be followed by a ground out from Sandino, advancing Sanchez to second base. Next, Eaton would come up to bat doubling out to right field and sending Sanchez home and Astros fans into cold sweats. Thankfully Sipp calmed our worries with a strike out to Avila, saving the game and securing the W for Neshek and the Astros.

At The Plate:
Everyone got on base tonight, except Valbuena who only had one plate appearance for the night in the tenth. The action started in the second inning with Evan Gattis scoring on a Jason Castro single, getting the Astros on the board first. The fourth inning came with Tyler White’s FIRST home run of the night and putting the Astros ahead 2-0. The fifth inning saw the bases loaded but all men stranded. Tyler White decided to have a night in the sixth inning and serve up his second home run in the consecutive plate appearance. The Great White returns!

The seventh inning saw the bases loaded again after a Colby Rasmus bunt but yet again, everyone was stranded. Tyler White started off the eight with a double because, why not? Kemp would come in to pinch run for White in his major league debut. A Castro strike out would be followed by a single from Marisnick putting runners at the corners. An Altuve sacrifice fly out would send Kemp home with the go ahead run. Springer would take a walk to first base after Marisnick stole second base and Carlos Correa would line out to left field and end the inning.

No Astros made it on base in the ninth and tenth innings but that would change in the eleventh inning when the former Astro Matt Albers (‘member him?) would take the mound. A Springer single (say that ten times fast) and a home run from the beast that is Gattis would bring the Astros ahead again, leading the White Sox 6-4. The White Sox would score another run in the eleventh but no more, giving the Astros a much needed win.

Turning Point:
Top of the eleventh. A former Astro helping out a couple of current Astros with a go ahead home run. Thanks, Matt. aStRoS 4 eVa.

Man/Men of the Match:
Welcome back, Tyler White and Evan Gattis!

Honorable Mention:
Ken Giles. 2 batters, 2 strike outs and high velocity. More of this please.

Goat of the Game:
Luke Gregerson. Closers gotta close, y’all.

Doug Fister will face off against the 5-0 Mat Latos. Also, we may see Colin Moran and Tony Kemp in the lineup.

Coming into this game, the Astros have split the last ten games with five wins and five losses; have won only three series’ and split one with Seattle. High expectations for this season have made these stats (and others) just a tad more frustrating than necessary at this point in my opinion. I don’t have to say how important the rest of this month is but if the Astros can slowly chip away at the amount of games they are behind this month and keep some of the fire from tonight it could be a really fun summer.