Tuesday, June 7, 2016

From the Office of the County Clerk - G59: Astros @ Rangers

Mike Fiers (3-3, 4.84) v. Colby Lewis (5-0, 3.09)

Many thanks to everyone's favourite game recapper, Cockroach, for his joyous recap of the sweep of the A's yesterday.  That sweep gave the Astros some confidence heading into Arlington, where they have now been on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the last 11 outings away against their intrastate rivals.  

Well, the Astros can't have nice things.  A breakout reliever with a recent history of absolute dominance??  Scored upon.  Solid starting pitching??  Nope.  Efficient offense that moves runners around and scores them from third base with one out??  Two double plays and a popout meant the Astros only scored one runner from third out of four chances with less than one out.  Ken Giles rediscovering his mojo??  Well, he gets hung with the loss.  More misery in Arlington.  Astros lose in walkoff fashion, 6-5.

And, ironically, on a night where the Orioles' Jonathan Schoop threw a lawn-dart that spiked the Royals' Cheslor Cuthbert - kind of like how Rougned Odor tried to do against Jose Bautista seconds before that famous punch - Oder was the main architect of the Astros' demise.  Remember that Odor played against the Astros while "waiting for an appeal", and now he is back in time to torture the Astros with his... um... hard-nosed style??  

Gattis at DH, Gómez in CF, MarGo at first, Valbuena at third.  Everyone else as you would expect.

On the Mound:
Moan as much as you want about Ken Giles being hung with the loss, but Mike Fiers had a rough start that put the Astros in a hole early.  His overall line wasn't too bad, but in a series where the Astros needed to make a statement, Fiers was hung with three runs in the first inning.  A Jurickson Profar triple on the second pitch of the bottom of the first (barely safe at third), then an infield single to first base (MarGo ranging way too far off the bag - the first of two of his defensive miscues in the inning - and Fiers stumbled on the way to first), then a seeing-eye grounder through the right side, then a wild pitch (getting the idea??) then an error from MarGo allowing Odor to reach first (he ranged too far off the bag, then couldn't find first with his foot when retreating), then a seeing-eye single up the middle from Prince Fielder, and the Astros were in a three run hole, at the meagre cost of only Adrian Beltré's strikeout.  Not entirely Fiers' fault - in fact, with better play from MarGo, Desmond would not have reached and neither would Odor - so only Profar's triple would have damaged the Astros.  For a solid fielder, MarGo sometimes gets a bit jumpy at first base, and tries to make José Altuve unemployed behind him, and it cost the Astros twice this inning.  Altuve created the last out of the first - a diving play behind second base on a soft liner from Elvis Andrus - a nice demonstration on Altuve's range.

Fiers sort of settled down after that.  If by "settled down" you mean allowed two baserunners in the second, then yes, he "settled down".  A two out 5.5-hole single followed by a HBP on a pulled breaking ball that bounced were negated by a grounder to Valbuena, who made the force at third base.  

Heading into the bottom of the third, the scores were level.  Rougned Odor up, and he hit a home run to RF on an elevated cut fastball just inside to tilt the game again in the Rangers' favour.  It snuck out just short of the first row of the stands 3 yards fair, but it was a home run without a doubt and Odor's presence haunted the Astros again.  MarGo snagged a line drive at first base to end the frame, so it wasn't all defensive ineptitude for MarGo tonight.   

Fiers faced the minimum in the fourth, and worked around a leadoff single (bloop into CF) and a two-out single in the fifth while recording a scoreless inning.  He managed to walk Elvis Andrus on a perfect strike to lead off the sixth (thanks, Quinn Walcott), and that doomed the Fiers, who got only one more batter before yielding to Michael Feliz, who needed three pitches to close the frame.

Feliz opened the seventh with a lead, and he nearly immediately gave it up.  A high fastball was punched into CF by Nomar Mazara, who then took second on a 58' slider that Castro couldn't control.    Beltré followed with a seeing-eye grounder through the left side that just beat a diving Valbuena, then Rougned Odor was on hand to hit a sac-fly to score the runner for the first out.  Two strikeouts ended the frame, but Feliz had been scored upon by a combination of timely Rangers' hitting, poor defense, and rotten BABIP luck.

Luke Gregerson was perfect, striking out two.  Ken Giles wasn't, allowing a one-out soft line-drive into LF, then nearly getting a 6-4-3 GIDP, but the ball was hit too slowly on perhaps a broken bat grounder.  Correa may have struggled to get a handle on it, too.  That left Beltré on first, and with two outs, he was off to the races when Colby Rasmus ran headfirst into a Budweiser sign in LF trying to track down a fly-ball.  The ball ricocheted off the sign, too far back into LF for Rasmus to track it down before Beltré scored, and Giles' was again killed by a couple of batters putting pitches in play, and bad things happening.    Rasmus needed to play the ricochet and try and hold Beltré, but that would be a near-impossible decision to make in real time.  That said, Odor's shot to LF was on a fastball waaaay outside but elevated, not necessarily a bad pitch on an 0-1 count, especially when he had swung and missed at a similar pitch not quite as far outside second earlier.  Giles put it where he wanted to, and Odor must have been looking there.  Sigh.

At the Plate:
That José Altuve guy is pretty good, singling and stealing second with one out, but Carlos Correa stuck out on a perfect fastball down and away, and Colby Rasmus hit the weakest of popups to third base to strand Altuve on second in the first inning.  In the second, the Astros started their rally-killing ways again - Gattis (0-3, BB) walked then Valbuena singled to put runners on the corners with no outs.  But Carlos Gómez struck out on a 1-2 breaking ball down-and-away that bounced in the LH batters box, and MarGo continued his awesome night, grounding into the easiest of double plays to strand Gattis at third.  

More baserunners in the third - a Jason Castro single that Profar was unable to make a scoop on in short RF followed by a Springer attempted GIDP right back to the mound which Colby Lewis threw into CF.  That put runners at first and second.  But this time, José Altuve was not interested in stranding baserunners, which he ably demonstrated by hitting an elevated fastball away into the RF stands.  That levelled the scores, but I was sitting in job interviews at the time, so I couldn't woop-woop at any audible volume lest the candidates get spooked and think I was nuts.

The Astros entered the fourth down 4-3, and they again drew level.  Valbuena (2-4) singled to RF leading off, then Carlos Gómez replaced him at first base on a fielder's choice.  MarGo singled into CF, with Gómez heading to third, then Jason Castro singled deep to the RF power-alley to score the run.  MarGo took third, but the next batter was George Springer, and he GIDP'd to kill another rally for the Astros.  Sigh.

An Altuve single was the only action in the fifth before the Astros got back to their baserunner-stranding ways in the sixth.  Again, Valbuena led off with a single (should have been called an error) before Carlos Gómez flew out for the first out.  MarGo tried to GIDP, but Fielder's throw from first to second pulled Andrus off the bag, and everyone was safe.  Castro (2-3, BB) followed with a five-pitch walk to load the bases. But popups from Springer (0-5, GIDP) and Altuve killed that rally, and the Astros were unable to take the lead and properly exorcise their Colby Lewis demons.

Lewis was replaced to open the sixth, however, and it resulted in the Astros' final run of the game, and their first lead of the night.  Tony Barnette walked Carlos Correa (0-4, BB) to lead off the frame before unleashing a wild pitch, then a Colby Rasmus (1-5) single to RF allowed Correa to score without a throw from second.  

That was the last Astros baserunner of the night, and Matt Bush and Sam Dyson combined to retire six hitters in a row.  The game looked like it may head to extras, but the abovementioned ninth-inning happened, and... well, suck.

Turning Point:
MarGo makes some plays at first base, but he also sometimes makes some critical errors.  In the first inning, with the Astros needing to make a statement, a leadoff extra-base hit, a couple of seeing-eye grounders and two MarGo defensive miscues put the Astros in a deep hole.  That said, the Astros did plenty themselves to keep digging, and the Rangers made key mistakes that kept the Astros in it, but ultimately, the first inning sucked when it didn't need to.

Player of the Game:
José Altuve's 3-5, HR, SB night was the best from the Astros.

Goat of the Game:
Take a pick between MarGo (1-4, GIDP. abovementioned crap defense) and Carlos Gómez (0-4).

Up Next:
I hesitate to think what tomorrow's game may look like.

Dallas Keuchel (3-7, 5.50) versus Cole Hamels (5-1, 3.39)

8 Eastern, 7 Central.