Thursday, April 6, 2017

From the Office of the County Clerk - G3: Astros versus Mariners

Charlie Morton versus James Paxton

The thing about power is that sometimes us fans think that it can be all about how far you hit the ball.  Power, in a batter, is certainly a valuable commodity.  Having Giancarlo Stanton-types hit the ball 500-odd feet is one of the most amazing sights in sports, after all.  Hitting it out 40-odd times per year is pretty awesome, too.

I guess on of the less often-thought-about aspects of power is what happens when you slightly mis-hit the ball.  Having power is great, but importantly, one would think that a batter with more power may be able to muscle a few more home runs out when they don't quite connect.  Which is what George Springer did to a middle-middle, 3-2 hung slider from Chase De Jong, the last man out of the Mariners 'pen.  Chase De Jong was also making his ML debut, and after inheriting a one-run lead (more on that below), retiring Yuli Gurriel on 2 pitches, then walking Evan Gattis, then getting Josh Reddick to pop up, he was probably hoping his ML debut was also going to result in his first ML save.

But Nori Aoki - on a 1-2 count, slashed a single to LF, moving Gattis to second.  Then Springer took a full-count hung slider, and made reasonable contact with it.  Truthfully, I wondered whether he popped it up a little, or perhaps was a wee bit out in front of it (or both!), but the contact was decent and better than anything I could manage (for the purposes of comparison).  Also, on a 3-2 count with 2 outs, Gattis and Aoki are off-and-running.  So Springer didn't hit it 450ft, like he can and sometimes does, but he got enough of it to give it a chance, and the ball snuck out, right in the CF side of the Crawford Boxes, first row.  A yard to the right and it is caught.  A little shorter and the Astros probably still win (because the runners would have got a head start and the ball would have hit the scoreboard), but much less than that, and Jarrod Dyson gloves it and closes the game out for the Mariners.

Around the same time:
Not only do the Astros subject (perhaps) their main division rivals to an 0-3 start, but the Ramgers also suffer the same 0-3 ignominy.  Franciso Lindor takes Sam Dyson deep in the ninth with the bases loaded, facing a one-run deficit.  The Angels sit at 2-1, but I doubt they have the depth to compete over 162 games, and the A's sit at 1-2.  Things have rarely been this sweet for Astros fans in the last decade - it is early, but they are off to a nice wee flyer.

A bit earlier than that:
The Mariners took a one-run lead into the bottom of the 13th when the Astros' sixth pitcher of the night, Jandel Gustave, walked the bases loaded without recording an out.  17 pitches, 5 strikes.  Goodness.  Brad Peacock relieved Gustave, and he walked home a run, before enticing Danny Valencia into a flyout into shallow CF, then striking out Mike Zunino and Jarrod Dyson to limit the damage to 1.

A bit earlier:
Chris Devenski continued his excellent work out of the bullpen.  Four innings pitched, no hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts.  The 60 pitches that it took him, however, will probably mean that he won't pitch again until Sunday, I would think.  But, wow.  He is impressive.  His slider looks good, and his changeup, as ever, is devastating.

A bit earlier (pitching-wise):
Charlie Morton and his power-sinker looked good.  His final line was 6IP, 5 hits, 2 R/ER, 2BB, 4K.  Solid effort, just a 2-run home run to Jean Segura (who had a big year last year) to spoil the line.

A bit earlier (hitting-wise):
The Astros tied the game at two on a George Springer double down the LF line in the seventh inning. Yuli Gurriel opened the frame with an infield hit to third base, the Evan Gattis drove one to LF what was nicely corralled by Mr Dyson to keep it to a single,.  Dyson is one a trio of defensively-awesome Mariners outfielders.  Reddick lined out for the first out, then MarGo slashed a single into shallow left to load the bases.  Springer doubled, scoring two, but Bregman and Altuve both recorded outs without advancing either runner, and the inning (plus the chance to take a lead) was done.

Speaking of blowing chances, the Astros were 3-17 with RISP and left 12 on base.  Non-Springer Astros were 1-15 with RISP, and that one was the aforementioned MarGo single into left.  The Mariners, as it happens, are slightly worse, but this leads nicely to the...

If you are like me, you may have arrived at the conclusion that the Astros' shiny 3-0 start (the first since 2001, when the Astros started 4-0) is a product of the following:

  1. clutch starting pitching
  2. occasional power hitting
  3. luck
They haven't looked good at the plate except for the fact that they are putting the ball in play (18 strikeouts in 29 innings so far).  Particularly suck-y are a collection of guys who are unlikely to stay suck-y: Bregman (.167), Altuve (.154), Beltr├ín (.167) and Gurriel (.111).  Things will even out, but it is certainly nice to bank early wins in close games against important division rivals.  

So the Astros have got themselves off to a nice start, despite not hitting that well.  I'll take it!

On the Morrow:
Another evening game (8 Eastern, 7 Central)

Ariel Miranda versus Joe Musgrove

Miranda is the second of four LH starters the Astros expect to face in a row (Paxton, Miranda, Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy)