The words "Astros" and "sweep" have been all-too-frequently associated with the words "Texas Rangers" (and not in the good way) over the course of this season. Well, today it was the Astros on the right side of a three-game sweep over an AL West opponent as they channel some more late-game magic. Astros win, 3-2, surviving a late Angels rally and etching out another one-run win. Also, Mike Scioscia has a face like a dropped pie, and the Astros are one game over .500, matching their season-long high-water mark, which dates back to Game 1.
Evening recap after a day game, so we will go to the shorter format, with the pitching first:
- Lance McCullers. No one's idea of an inning-eating workhouse, but plenty of explosive life on that fastball, and a nasty hammer-curve. He was effective through five-and-two-thirds despite allowing plenty of traffic (6 hits, including one double, and three walks), but he struck out six and only allowed one run.
- McCullers' best frame was the first - the only one when he managed to retire the side in order. The second inning was remarkable for a lead-off walk, the third yielded one run on two hits and two walks (both of the walks on four pitches), two singles punctuated the fourth, and a lead-off double was the main action of the fifth. After he gave up a single with two outs to backup catcher Jett Bandy (who singled three times off McCullers in total), righty-specialist Pat Neshek relieved, and he struck out Shane Robinson on five pitches to close the book on McCullers' night.
- At that point, the Astros were trailing 1-0. Feldman got the seventh, allowing only a single, and Gregerson was perfect on eight pitches in the eighth.
- Will Harris came on for the save. I don't like him as the closer, because he has been scored upon on two of his saves, nearly tripling (!) his ERA to 0.83 (!!). Like he did against Tampa, Harris struggled a little, but his defense bailed him out. After getting the first out without difficulty, Shane Robinson reached on a miserable swinging bunt to third, which never made it off the infield grass. Yunel Escobar was the next hitter, and he singled up the middle. That put runners on the corners for the Turning Point of the game. Kole Calhoun singled against the shift into shallow LF. Robinson scored, Escobar rounded second a little too far, Rasmus only had to make a short throw to Altuve, who made a great tag on Escobar as he was diving back into second. Escobar was ruled out, the umps conferred and asked the video guys for their opinion, and the call was upheld. The game over when the next batter (Mike Trout) hit a line drive right at Colby Rasmus, who was shaded toward the LF gap.
- Matt Shoemaker was frikking awesome through the early portion of the game. After he allowed Springer to reach on a HBP leading off the first, Altuve walked with one out. After that, the next 10 were retired in order (5 strikeouts) before Rasmus doubled with two outs in the fourth.
- Shoemaker had to work around a bit of traffic after that, but was assisted ably by the Astros' tendency to hit into double plays. Jason Castro doubled down the LF line with one out in the fifth, then Tony Kemp singled up the middle to put runners on the corners. George Springer GIDP'd to end that inning. Carlos Correa doubled with one out in the sixth, then Colby Rasmus hit a smash to the right side... that C.J. Cron gloved cleanly and threw to second to double Correa off.
- Shoemaker was getting hit harder from the fifth inning onward. He seemed to struggle to keep his splitter down. MarGo hammered a long fly-ball to the base of Tal's Hill opening the sixth, but Shane Robinson managed to track it down for the out. José Altuve hammered a full count hanging splitter away high off the wall in the LF power alley to level the scores at one - his 12th home run of the season. Correa followed with a double. In the eighth, Tony Kemp led off with a single (but was then erased on a caught-stealing), Springer followed with another single up the middle, then MarGo hammered another long fly ball to deep CF that Robinson was unable to track down at the top of Tal's Hill. Springer scored, MarGo chugged into third and the Astros took the lead. MarGo scored after an Altuve IBB - Carlos Correa followed with a slow rolling grounder to the right side, Giavotella made a reasonable turn at second, but his throw was a bit of a lawn dart, and Correa was safe. That made the score 3-1 - the insurance run was one the Astros would need, too.
- I briefly mentioned the Springer GIDP above. Awesome play from Andrelton Simmons. Springer was blown up inside on a fastball, and hit a slow looping line-drive toward short. Simmons came in as though he was going do catch it, then backed up, let it bounce, danced across to second, and got enough on the throw to get Springer. Going to be a treat watching him defensively over the next few years.
- Man of the Match was a joint effort between the two- and three-hole hitters in the lineup. MarGo hit the ball on two occasions about as far as you can in baseball without it leaving a major-league park. The second time, he was rewarded with a clutch triple that gave the Astros the lead. José Altuve went 1-2 with 2xBB. His triple-slash stands at .343/.425/.551. Seems to be coming back into his own, and hitting for power again.
Day off tomorrow, then a six-game road series. The Astros head to Kansas City to play the Royals, then to LA for the Angels. After that, back home for a ten-game homestand with the White Sox, Mariners and A's coming to MMP.
Dallas Keuchel (3-9, 5.32) versus Edinson Volquez (7-6, 4.12)
8:15 Eastern, 7:15 Central. On Friday, remember.