Apologies, AC readers, for only managing to recap one of the D-Backs games. Things have been busy, and I am late to recap this one as well. So, perhaps the shorter notes format will have to suffice.
Astros win, 12-2, ending the 5-game win-streak that the A's entered this series with. The Astros, of course, recently lost a 5-game win-streak of their own... grumble grumble grumble.
How did it all happen?? Lets see:
- Doug Fister had a stretch in April and May where he was clearly the Astros' best starter, and he continued his solid early-season form tonight. He is not quite at his age-27 to -30 peak (3.30 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 1.186 WHIP over 586-and-two-thirds innings), but he has pitched reasonably well this year. His difficulty has been around regression in all of his important stats, including his near-career-high HR/9 of 1.3, and his career-high BB/9 of 3.3 combined with his career-low strikeout rate of 5.3/9. That is the reason for his FIP over five, possibly showing that he has had some good luck, and that the Regression Monster may be lurking.
- So perhaps Fister needed a scoreless outing, and he got it today over six innings. His final line was solid: 4 hits (2 doubles) and 2 walks against 3 strikeouts. He was assisted by one double-play, and no Athletic hitter touched third while he was on the bump. If it hadn't been for a monster 18-pitch at-bat against Marcus Semien, he could have gone seven-shutout without problem.
- And speaking of 18-pitch at-bats, behold:
- On the up-side of an 18-pitch at-bat, Lance Berkman and Andy Pettitte were in the Astros' radio booth at the time, and as a result, Robert Ford and Steve Sparks got to talk to them more. Silver linings and stuff, huh?
- According to the always-accurate Internet, the longest at-bat of modern times (by pitch-count) apparently involved the Astros in 1998. The amazing Bartolo Colon threw 20 pitches to Ricky Guiterrez of the Astros. Two strikes, three balls, 13 foul-balls.
- The actual longest at-bat is thought to be in 1940 - Luke Appling is apparently credited with a 24-pitch at-bat. No word on who the pitcher was. Stupid Internet.
- Tony Sipp came on for his first appearance since the Angels series, and immediately allowed a home run to.... Marcus Semien!! It was an awful pitch - a 2-2 elevated split-fingered fastball inside, and Semien rightly smashed it off the arches above the Crawford Boxes.
- Chris Devenski allowed back-to-back doubles to open his night in the eighth inning. That scored the A's second and final run. Devenski then knuckled down to strike out the next four batters before allowing a single in the ninth, then getting Jake Smolinski to pop out, and then striking out Jed Lowrie. Five strikeouts in two frames. The Dragon lives in the strike zone.
- Jesse Hahn had a horror first inning. He had no real feel for where the ball was going, and the Astros - combined with a little luck - capitalised with a seven-run inning. Hahn was out after two-thirds of an inning - his previous career-low in terms of innings pitched was three-and-two-thirds. The Astros went: single (2-2 count), full-count walk, K (2-2 count), first-pitch RBI single, 2-2 RBI grounder after a double-steal, 4-pitch walk, 1-2 RBI single, first-pitch triple (could have been an error, as Coghlan the RF simply failed to glove it), first-pitch RBI single, 2-2 RBI single. That ended Hahn's night - all runs were earned, and his ERA jumped from 4.15 to 6.10.
- Carlos Correa made two outs in the first inning - both strikeouts, on a total of nine pitches. Correa's next at bat was a 430-ft triple on a fat middle-middle slider, that landed and sat like a sweetly-struck nine-iron right at the top of Tal's Hill. This time, he busted it out of the box. Correa went 2-5 on the night.
- Speaking of long drives, Evan Gattis The Catcher continued his run of awesomeness. Gattis went 4-5 with 4 RBI, hitting a long home run onto the railroad tracks above the Boxes. The pitch was a 1-0 slider that was left up a little, and Gattis hammered it a long way. It was estimated at 443ft, just a little longer than Correa's triple, which had occurred two batters earlier. The Astros hitters combined for 480-odd feet for two hits in the fourth frame
- Also mashing: George Springer (2-5), José Altuve (1-2, BB, SB), Colby Rasmus (2-5, SB), Tony Kemp (1-3, 3B, 2xBB) and Handsome Jake (2-5, SB).
- Tony Kemp started the game as the DH, which shows how much the Astros value a lefty hitter with good bat control on a swing-and-miss team. He gives a different look from the left side down the bottom of the lineup. Thinking about it, all of the other lefty hitters on the Astros' team are swing-and-miss guys. Anyhow, Kemp finished the game making his first ML appearance in RF, which means that the Astros gave up the DH - not that it cost them any at-bats. The pitcher's spot was next up at the end of the eighth.
- Overall, the Astros knocked out 16 hits and 5 walks, but managed only three extra-base hits (2 triples, one home run). They are putting together - as a team - better at-bats, lead by George Springer at the top of the order. Springer is, for the most part, remaining in his shoes after swinging. Please pass that advice on to Carlos Gómez, George.
- Speaking of Gómez, he was the only Astro remaining on the bench tonight. The Astros have been playing shorthanded, too, with Jason Castro sitting for the last few days with the 'flu. Evan Gattis The Catcher has been doing an adequate defensive job, a great offensive job, and a solid job controlling baserunners in Castro's absence.
- Expect the Astros to keep running if Stephen Vogt remains behind the plate. The double-steal in the first inning (Altuve and Rasmus) happened without a throw, too. Thing of beauty.
- Props to Andrew Triggs, who saved the A's bullpen from total decimation. Triggs threw a career-high (at least in the major leagues) 76 pitches in four innings of work, allowing 5 runs. Must be a little bitter-sweet for a guy like Triggs coming in after two-thirds of an inning, knowing that an option to the minor-leagues (or in some cases, exposure to waivers) may occur after the game, simply to get a fresh arm into the 'pen.
- The Astros saw an opposing position-player take the mound - always a welcome sight. Tyler Ladendorf pitched a scoreless frame, walking one and allowing one hit while throwing only 16 pitches. The second-baseman sat in the mid-80's with his fastball.
So a solid way to start the series - remember the same thing happened in Arizona, when the Astros saw a lot of the D-Backs' bullpen in the first two games. Hopefully the Astros can back it up with another solid offensive effort tomorrow.
On the Morrow:
The A's have scratched Rich Hill from this start, due to a balky groin. They go with Kendall Graveman, who is on normal rest despite moving up in the order.
Kendall Graveman (2-6, 5.09) versus Collin McHugh (5-4, 4.82)
4 Eastern, 3 Central.