Wednesday, June 22, 2016

From the Office of the County Clerk - G72: Astros versus Angels

Hector Santiago (4-4, 5.30) versus Collin McHugh (5-5, 4.89)

The Astros managed to achieve an important milestone this evening as they survived an excellent pitching-and-defense performance for 8 innings from the Angels.  The Astros themselves did well to keep the Angels' offense largely in check, but they still trailed entering the bottom of the ninth.  It didn't matter, however, as the Astros loaded the bases with no outs, and walked off on a Carlos Correa line-drive into the RF gap for a 3-2 win.  This win secures the series for the Astros, who improve to .500 for the first time since Game 2 of the season.  How did it happen??  Lets discuss below in bullet-point format, with the pitching first:

  • McHugh was plenty solid on the mound in terms of results, but it so easily could have been so much worse.  He went seven innings, giving up exactly a baserunner per inning (5 hits, 1 walk, 1 HBP) allowing two earned runs in the process.  But twice he faced the Angels with a runner on third and no outs, and neither time did they score (I thought only the Astros did that!).  In the first inning (the first time it happened), McHugh struck out the next two batters to take care of most of the threat.  In the sixth, McHugh worked around a leadoff triple from Mike Trout with a strikeout, a line-drive that a drawn-in Correa snared, a walk, and a ground out to hold the runner at third.
  • McHugh was in deep trouble in the first, as well.  Much of the credit for the Astros win goes to him for his ability to limit the damage.  A leadoff infield single to third to open the game was followed by a HBP, putting two runners on with Mike Trout up.  Trout took a 1-0 hanging curveball and hammered it low off the scoreboard in left for a single.  Both runners advanced two bases each, so that put runners on the corners with no outs.  But McHugh bore down, struck out the next two, and enticed Jefrey Marte into a grounder back to the mound to keep the damage to one.
  • The other run was in the fourth - a lead-off home run to deeeeeeeep LF off the bat of C.J. Cron.  Hanging curveball away, hammered, landed an estimated 470-odd feet away.
  • The rest of the time, McHugh was dominant.  He set the side down in order in the second (2K's), and allowed only an infield single in the third.  A seven-pitch inning in the fourth yielded the abovementioned home run and three outs, and the Angels went in order in the fifth.  The sixth is also mentioned above, and McHugh's final inning was the seventh, which finished without a baserunner.
  • Sipp and Giles combined to split the eighth.  Both completed their assignments without allowing a baserunner.  Gregerson also pitched a perfect ninth.
  • The Astros offense improved slowly through the game, but the Angels also showed some stellar defense.  Mike Trout in CF set the tone by running down José Altuve's deep drive to CF to end the first frame.  It wasn't Billy Hamilton-level thievery, but it was a great running catch (also on the night after Carlos Gómez's awful route resulted in Doug Fister's scorecard being blotted).  Valbuena was gunned down stretching for a double in the third thanks to a strong Calhoun throw and a gem of a tag from Simmons.  Altuve GIDP'd in the fourth on a 1-6-3 twin killing.  Handsome Jake hit into a routine 6-4-3 DP in the sixth.  Jason Castro grounded into a fabulous DP in the eighth that involved a dive and glove-toss from Giavotella, a barehanded catch from Simmons, and an off-balance cannon-like throw while magically levitating off the bag to first to get Castro in plenty of time.  Andrelton Simmons in a beast.  
  • That said, not much O from the Astros early.  Two baserunners in the third (a single - out stretching - and a walk, which was erased on a pickoff), a walk in the fourth, Correa's home run (more on that later) in the fifth, a HBP in the sixth (erased on a GIDP), a leadoff double and two-out walk in the seventh, and a leadoff walk (erased on a GIDP) in the eighth.
  • Correa's home run:  first pitch, fastball mid-thigh on the inner third, and he hammered it deep into the LF power alley for another shot up near the train tracks.  Boom.
  • That brings us to the ninth: Huston Street came on for the ninth, and he struggled from the get-go, but was also the victim of some poor luck.  Springer led off with a walk, although the deciding 3-2 pitch was pretty clearly a strike.  MarGo followed with another full-count walk, but a clear strike in a similar location was also erroneously called a ball (on a 2-1 count).  José Altuve followed with a hard ground ball down the third base line - Yunel Escobar was playing level with the bag.  Perfect recipe for a game-ending triple play, but the ball hit the bag, bounced off Escobar and rolled harmlessly six feet away.  Everyone safe, bases loaded, and that was the game's Turning Point.  The Astros had some serious luck in getting to this point.
  • That brough up Carlos Correa.  Correa and Street battled to a full count, with Street pounding the strike-zone down and away, aside from one backup slider inside.  On a 3-2 count, and with two low strikes already called balls, Street had little choice but to elevate, and Correa it a line drive well over the second baseman's head.  The ball split the gap and would have been extra bases, but it didn't matter as the Angels didn't bother to retrieve it.  Springer scored from third, MarGo from second, and the game was over.
  • MarGo has been pretty decent lately, and he continued with a 1-2, 2xBB night.  Also on base was José Altuve (1-4), Carlos Gómez (0-2, BB), Evan-Gattis-The-Catcher (0-2, BB) and Luis Valbuena (1-2).  Overall, 6 walks, 5 hits.
  • But Carlos Correa.  A couple of good defensive plays, such as on Andrelton Simmons' grounder leading off the fifth and C.J. Cron's line out to short in the sixth.  But one long home run, and one walk-off hit (would have been at least a double), as well as all three RBI's means that Carlos Correa is the Man of the Match.
Up Next:
Last game of the series, and potentially a tough matchup for the Astros.  When we checked in last with Matt Shoemaker, he went eight-and-one-third, giving up only two runs while shutting the Astros down.  Since then, he has gone 7IP/2ER, 7.2IP/4ER, 8IP/0ER and 6IP/2R/1ER, nearly halving his ERA from 8.49 on May 16.

Matt Shoemaker (3-7, 4.50) versus Lance McCullers (3-2, 4.24)

2 Eastern, 1 Central.