Jered Weaver (8-7, 5.02) versus Collin McHugh (6-6, 4.25)
Game 2 of the final Astros and Angels series of July, and the Angels were on the receiving end of more carnage from a surging Astros team. Evan Gattis celebrated his garden gnome giveaway night in style, Collin McHugh held down the Angels long enough to build a big lead, and the Astros bullpen was able to comfortably shut it down at the end of the game. The final result was a series winning 7-2 win, meaning that the Astros have beaten the Angels ten games in a row, and won ten of eleven against the Halos this season.
In Missouri, the Ramgers survived a late-game scare to hold on against the Royals, winning 7-4. The Twins beat the Red Sox in a high scoring affair, and the Mariners hammered the Blue Jays in a day-game, so the Astros gained ground in the Wild Card despite treading water in the AL West.
On the Mound:
Collin McHugh has a nice career going against the Halos, possessing a 2.84 ERA in nine appearances (all starts), including 57 innings pitched, and a WHIP of 1.088. He continued that solid record tonight, throwing six innings, allowing six hits, while striking out six. Two earned runs were credited to him, one on a home run in the fifth inning, and one on a two-out single in the sixth.
That meant McHugh threw scoreless ball for the first four frames, all while the Astros were building a good-sized lead. A strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double-play (Evan Gattis has a nice throwing arm behind the plate) meant that McHugh faced the minimum in the first. He worked around a one-out double to CF in the second. The Angels were retired on three grounders in the third - grounders are usually a sign that McHugh is pitching well. Kole Calhoun singled leading off the fourth - a grounder up the middle - but he couldn't advance as Trout then Pujols flew out to CF.
So McHugh entered the fifth with a 6-0 lead. It quickly became 6-1 when Ji-Man Choi got a cutter that was meant to be away (to the lefty), but leaked back over the middle of the plate. Choi turned on it, hammering it deep to RF, about 5 rows back into the second deck. McHugh bounced back to retire the next three without incident (although they were the 7-8-9 hitters).
In the fifth, McHugh allowed Yunel Escobar to single to CF leading off, then HBP Mike Trout with one out, advancing Escobar to second. After a Pujols strikeout, Andrelton Simmons hit a wee flare just over Altuve's head, scoring Escobar. Simmons was busted wiht something hard inside, and he hung in there and just got enough barrel to fist it over Altuve's head. That brought up Ji-Man Choi again, and he and McHugh battled for 12 pitches until McHugh finally got him to offer at an elevated fastball for the third out of the inning.
Pat Neshek retired the side in order in the seventh. Ken Giles walked Kole Calhoun with one out in the eighth, but he bounced back to strike out Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, striking out the side. Michael Feliz managed to throw strikes, and he stuck out two in one perfect frame to finish the game. Strong effort from the Astros relievers, striking out eight and allowing only one walk.
At the Plate:
Jered Weaver lasted only four innings, giving up six runs in that time. George Springer led off the bottom of the first with a walk, but he was erased caught stealing, so Weaver faced the minimum in the first. In the second, Correa led off with a single to RF, Preston Tucker walked with one out, and with two outs, Evan Gattis got around a breaking ball away, flicking it into the Crawford Boxes for an early three run lead. The pitch was an elevated curveball away, and Gattis got it about five rows back into the boxes, probably a little off the end of the bat, but plenty to get out regardless.
More runs in the third and fourth. A George Springer double into the LF gap led off the third. The Angels then forgot to field a bunt to the left side just past the mound, so MarGo reached with Springer advancing to third. Runners on the corners, no outs, but the the Astros reverted to "April Astros" mode, with Altuve (1-4) popping out to shallow left, Correa walking to load the bases and Valbuena (1-4) popping out to short on a infield fly. Sigh. Preston Tucker - or rather Preston Tucker's foot - saved the day, as he was HBP by a breaking ball with the bases loaded, scoring Springer. That was all the Astros could muster, as Carlos Gómez (0-4) went down on an easy fly to RF to end the frame.
More carnage in the fourth, however. Evan Gattis was leading off, and Jered Weaver threw a changeup that hung, eventually located down-and-in. Gattis hammered it off the Community Leaders sign to the CF side of the Crawford Boxes. Handsome Jake (1-4, 2B) followed with a pop-up double into the Bermuda Triangle behind first base, and George Springer drove him in with a hard line shot to LF. Springer (2-3, 2xBB, 2B) was thrown out trying to take second on the play - by miles, too - mostly because the ball took a friendly kick off the wall.
Jhoulys Chacin came out for the fifth, and his scoreless outing lasted one pitch. He tried to sneak a fastball down-and-away to Carlos Correa, but the ball leaked arm-side and up, and Correa (2-3, BB, HR) hammered it onto the maintenance track over the RF wall. At that point, I wondered whether the Astros would get deep into the Angels' bullpen, but Chacin did a nice job of allowing only four more baserunners (2 singles, 2 walks) from that point onward. Two Astros reached in the seventh and eighth, but they were left stranded as Preston Tucker (0-2, BB, HBP) lined out (7th) and MarGo (1-5) struck out (8th).
Evan Gattis' Garden Gnome night turned into an Evan Gattis HR barrage. The big blow (in terms of the game) came in the second, with two aboard. The bigger blow (in terms of distance) was a mere solo shot, but it was hammered into the LF power alley for his second of the night. The only drawback of the night for Evan Gattis was that this prompted the TV commentary team to make loads of gnome jokes. I don't gnome what they were thinking. The jokes were awful. About as awful that two sentences ago.
Man of the Match:
Gattis: 2-3, BB, 2xHR, 4RBI. Subbing in at catcher because Jason Castro took a foul tip off his right hand last night. Gattis' right hand was HBP in Oakland, and it wasn't in great shape either. But it was healthy enough to hit two home runs and throw out a base stealer by 10 feet.
Shout-out to the 'pen. Faced 11 guys, walked one, struck out eight.
Goat of the Game:
The only Astros who failed to reach base was Gómez. Sigh, grumble, grumble.
On the Morrow:
Final game against the Angels. Going for the sweep.
Timmy Lincecum (2-3, 6.59) versus Mike Fiers (6-4, 4.75)
2 Eastern, 1 Central.