The Astros, fresh off having their own 5-game win streak ended, were the architects of the demise of the 5-game win streak of the A's last night. The A's bullpen was taxed after Jesse Hahn exited after two-thirds of an inning, and predictably, the tired arm was optioned prior to this game (for Daniel Coulombe, who threw one-and-two-thirds in this game). So the last thing that the A's wanted was an extra-inning affair, but that is what they got when an ex-Astros came to bat against an ex-A with two outs in the ninth. However, that only delayed the Astros' win by three innings, as the Astros eventually ran out winners by the score of 6-5, in 12 frames.
Going to go with the shorter format today, because of the day-game / evening-recap thing:
- Collin McHugh was pretty good - perhaps a little unlucky to give up four runs, but more on that in the next bullet point. McHugh has lost velocity over the last two years, and I think that is costing him a little on two-strike counts. If he could regain 2-3 mph on his fastball, I think it would be a little more effective up in the zone, and get more chases down in the zone. But, still a fantastic waiver claim.
- But, BABIP horrors again. McHugh was only scored upon in two frames. In the second inning, he loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and two seeing-eye ground balls. Another grounder scored two runs later in the inning - the problem is the balls were hit a little too hard, and found gaps between the fielders. The first two grounders were clean through the 5.5 hole (the second one by the lefty Alonso against the shift), whereas the final grounder was through the... uh.... 3.5 hole. So, a walk, a strikeout, four ground-balls (only one of which was converted into an out) and a sac-fly yielded three runs in the frame.
- That 3.5-hole grounder - hit by Chris Coughlan - was a relatively routine ground ball into shallow RF. However, it scored two runs (the bases were loaded) and Coughlan wound up at second base. Springer was shifted waaaay into the RF power alley, and had quite the run to field the ball. The Astros have visibly shifted much more in the outfield over the last week or two, but it didn't pay off on this occasion.
- The other run that McHugh allowed was nothing to do with BABIP-related luck. Leading off the sixth inning, McHugh hung a 2-2 curveball. The only question was whether Danny Valencia would hook it foul, because it was gone by plenty. McHugh lasted two more batters, and exited after walking Yonder Alonso after being up in the count 0-2.
- In relief?? Michael Feliz - 1.2 IP, 1 walk, 1 strikeout. Jeez, used to expecting three or four strikeouts in one-and-two-thirds with Feliz's recent form. Also excellent in relief - Will Harris (1IP, 1H, 1K, ERA 0.35), Ken Giles (2IP, 3H, 2K, assisted by a great play by Rasmus off the scoreboard) and Scott Feldman (1IP, 1H, 1K).
- Fabulous play from MarGo - hobbled by a foul ball off his right leg - in the top of the seventh. With Phegley on first, Billy Burns bunted down the 1B line. MarGo pounced, spun, fired a strike to second to nail the lead runner. Very pretty. Another great diving stop and feed to Harris covering first in the eighth, on a hard-hit liner to the right side.
- Not excellent in relief: ex-Athletic Luke Gregerson. He faced ex-Astro Jed Lowrie with two outs in the ninth after retiring Coco Crisp on a strikeout, and Billy Burns on a line out to third. Gregerson was in an 0-1 count when he threw a slider which was meant to be away. It missed down-and-in to the lefty-hitting Lowrie, and he got under it, and hit a high fly ball that landed in the second row of the RF bleachers. Didn't get out by much, but Astros fans would be well-aware of Jed Lowrie's RF power when batting from the left side.
- The Astros entered the bottom of the second inning in a freshly-dug three-run hole. They struck back immediately to level the scores. A Rasmus double to the LF power alley was followed by an Evan Gattis home run to LF. Kendall Graveman tried to come down-and-in with a fastball, and, if anything, missed a little inside. Gattis was too quick - he turned on it and hammered off the arches above the Crawford Boxes. Evan Gattis The DH hitting like Evan Gattis The Catcher.
- But the Astros weren't done for the inning - a Valbuena single and a González walk happened before Graveman got an out. A slow roller to first base from Jason Castro advanced both runners, then Handsome Jake hit a hard, low line-drive to RF, that was caught by a diving Chris Coghlan. Valbuena was on third, and he scored easily on a sac-fly.
- More runs in the third - Carlos Correa was HBP, which needed to be overturned on review (not sure what the HP ump was thinking there). Colby Rasmus - on his own bobblehead-night then doubled off the LF wall, missing a home run by a couple of vertical yards (if you know what I mean). Correa had a good read and was off to the races, scoring without a throw.
- Carlos Correa drove in José Altuve with one out in the fifth. Altuve had singled, advanced on a wild pitch, and Correa hit a clean line-drive up the middle that Altuve initially hesitated on. He scored easily in the end. That ended Kendall Graveman's night.
- The next scoring opportunity for the Astros occurred in the eighth. They were clinging to a one-run lead at that point, and Carlos Correa (him, again!) led off with a triple. It was a long fly-ball off the top of the RF bullpen, just like a couple of nights ago. Correa busted it this time, and cruised into third without a problem, as Billy Burns did a great job of gathering a difficult ricochet. Anyhow, leadoff triple should result in a run, but it didn't as Sean Doolittle struck out Colby Rasmus, IBB'd Evan Gattis, struck out Valbuena then MarGo to retire the side. MarGo went on three pitches, too. All three strikeouts on elevated fastballs. Come to think of it, the IBB was on four elevated fastballs, too.
- And if striking out the side in the eighth wasn't enough, John Axford did the same in the ninth. This time without the drama of a leadoff triple. Then Axford returns to strike out two Astros in the tenth!
- Ex-stro Fernando Rodriguez pitched a scoreless 11th, striking out Handsome Jake.
- The twelfth inning was the big one. George Springer hammered a low line-drive down the RF line, and was sacrificed over by a José Altuve bunt. Then Carlos Correa hit a clean single down the RF line, easily beating Yonder Alonso, who was playing well off the line and on the infield grass. Springer trotted home, and Carlos Correa capped a great game with his third hit of the night.
- Every Astro starter reached base, except Handsome Jake, who managed the aforementioned sac-fly. Colby Rasmus was on base three times (2-4, BB, 2x2B). George Springer (2-6, 2B), Evan Gattis (1-4, HR, BB) and MarGo (0-3, 2xBB) were on base twice, and Jason Castro (0-4, BB), Luis Valbuena and José Altuve (both 1-5) also reached.
- Astros 3-10 with RISP, including the missed chance for a much-needed insurance run in the eighth. Altuve also GIDP'd twice. Unusual.
- But the Man of the Match was clearly Carlos Correa - 3-5, 3B, HBP, 2RBI, including the walkoff win in extras. Correa has not made any defensive miscues since Jeff Blogwell published an article suggesting he become a third baseman. Plus, bat has been hot lately. Aside from what could have been a walk-off inside-the-park job a few days ago, he has been locked in.
- The Astros improve to three games under .500, and are third in the AL West, seven back of the Rangers (who beat the Mariners). The Astros are 1 game clear of Anaheim, and 1.5 games clear of the A's.
Final game against the A's, with the series already secured. Like Carlos Correa said in the celebratory interview, they need a sweep.
Sonny Gray (3-5, 6.19) versus Lance McCullers (2-1, 4.79)
Gray is back from the DL, having only thrown bullpens the last three weeks. He had a trapezius strain that the A's thought caused him to struggle with command.
Day game - 2 Eastern, 1 Central.
The handsomest of the AC Writers, Cockroach, will be on the recap tomorrow. So be sure to stay tuned.