Tuesday, May 30, 2017

County Clerk: Anatomy of an 11-run inning

This Memorial Day game is certainly worth writing about, to be recorded in this blog forever (or at least until the Constable gets this blog lost again).

The vital play of the game:
I was going to write that the most vital play of the game was nothing to do with the 11-run inning.  Rather, it was in the bottom of the fifth, when the Twins put together a rally-and-a-half of their own.

Max Kepler started the that inning by using some awesome bat control to flick a 1-2 pitch into RF for a double.  Jorge Polanco followed with a fabulous at-bat, when he pulled a 1-2 pitch (and the seventh pitch of the at-bat) high off the wall in the RF power alley.  That scored Kepler (obviously), and put Polanco on third with no outs.

Peacock bore down at that point, getting Eddie Rosario on a grounder to first, which didn't advance the runner.  Chris Giminez walked on four straight, then Byron Buxton struck out on three straight pitches (with a missed bunt for strike 1).  However, any thoughts the Astros had of escaping the inning with a lead evaporated when Peacock pulled a fastball off the plate away to the RHB Brian Dozier and Brian McCann couldn't glove it.  Polanco tried to advance... but the ball caromed nicely off the pretty limestone facade behind home plate, back to Brian McCann.  He shovelled to Peacock for the tag.... but Peacock dropped the ball.  Not clear that Peacock would have gotten Polanco in time, but an out there - or at least not a passed ball - could have negated the need for an 11-run frame.

Brian Dozier later BABIP'd the life out of Peacock, with a bloop single off the very end of the bat into shallow CF.  The weakest of weak contacts, aside from a swinging bunt for an infield hit.  Giminez scored, and with the lead gone, A.J. Hinch turned to Jordan Jankowski (more on that later).  Things didn't get any better: RBI double (by Bob Grossman), RBI single and HR were the results of the next three at-bats, meaning six runs scored with two outs, totally ruining Peacock's outing.

Prior to that, we had...
a genuine pitchers duel.  Brad Peacock retired the first 11 he faced, including striking out the side in the second.  Joe Mauer broke up his no-hit bid with a little line drive through the left side of the infield with two outs in the fourth.

The Twins' Ervin Santana was nearly just as good.  José Altuve doubled in the first, two Astros struck out in each of the second and third frames.  Carlos Correa opened the scoring with a long home run on a hanging slider in the fourth, before Carlos Beltrán singled to left field, advanced two bases on an airmailed through into the first base dugout, and scored on a wild pitch.  It was a tight game prior to then.

On the selection of relievers:
Not sure what to make to Hinch bringing Jankowski in to relieve Peacock.  I wondered whether he had a plan to use Jankowski anyhow, in a tandem-type scenario.  Or perhaps Jankowski was going to finish the game if the Astros were behind, and once they fell behind, it was all his.  Whatever the story, I kind of got the feeling that Hinch was going to use Jankowski come hell or high water.

Which opens up another possibility.  We always knew the Astros had limited SP depth, which was significantly worsened after Collin McHugh was banished to Weiland Island.  Keuchel's neck / shoulder cost him an effective season in 2016, and I wrote about how he was pulled early (perhaps) from his last start.  Lance McCullers isn't a workhorse.  Charles Morton won't be seen again until after the ASB, probably.  Fiers has not been effective.  Musgrove seems to have come and gone in terms of his effectiveness, but he may be the most dependable starter health-wise at the moment.  So... not good.

So perhaps the Astros know some injury-stuff that we don't (they are famously tight-lipped after all), and news may come out shortly, but I wonder whether it was a plan to always hand the ball to Jankowski, and rely on him for multiple innings, because they know they need someone fresh for later in the series.  And it seems like that person is David Paulino, to start with.

Can we get to the 11-run frame, already??
So, Jankowski pours fuel on the fire in the bottom of the fifth.  He bounces back to face one-over-the-minimum in the sixth, then gives up a bomb to Bob Grossman in the seventh (later walking Miguel Sanó, but stranding him at first).  That brings us to the top of the eighth, with an 8-2 deficit.  On the bump is the Twins' Ryan Pressly.

Okay, here we go:
Josh Reddick walks on five pitches.  Pressly seemed to have trouble getting on top of the ball.
José Altuve is HBP on the first pitch of his at-bat.  97mph, running up-and-in, Pressly missing arm-side.  No intent.  Altuve looked to have caught it on his top hand, as the ball snuck past his front shoulder as he was trying to sway out of the way.
Carlos Correa hard grounder just inside the first-base bag on a pitch away.  Reddick scored from second, Altuve to third.
Carlos Beltrán topped one to the third-base side of the mound.  Neither Pressly or Sanó could make a play on it.  Correa to second, Altuve stayed put at third.  Bases loaded.
Brian McCann popped out to 2B on a 2-1 pitch.  One out, bases remain loaded.
MarGo hit a fastball up and away to the LF wall.  At this point, Ehire Adrianza (normally a shortstop) is in LF, as Eddie Rosario moved to CF to replace an injured Byron Buxton.  Adrianza heads back, but he is late on it, as the ball bounces off his glove and hits the wall.  Altuve and Correa score, Beltrán stops at second, and MarGo is forced to settle for a single.  Still one out.  5-8 Twins is the score.

LHP Craig Breslow enters the game.
Alex Bregman hits a line drive over the head of Brian Dozier on a first-pitch fastball up and away.  Bases loaded.
Evan Gattis pinch hits for Nori Aoki with the lefty on the mound.  Gattis grounds one up the middle - quite slowly - and shortstop Jorge Polanco dives and gloves it.  He throws from the ground to second getting Bregman on the force.  The Astros challenge, but the call stands (correctly).  But a runner scores - 6-8, with two outs.  Handsome Jake pinch-runs for Evan Gattis.
George Springer is the ninth man up in the inning.  His at-bat is remarkable, firstly, for a rain delay after two pitches (a 2-0 count).  Everyone looks incredulous, but the rain quickly clears.  Two pitches after the 8 min rain delay, Springer hits a line drive into shallow left off an offspeed pitch away.  It scores MarGo from third.  7-8 is the score, runners on first and second, 2 outs.
Josh Reddick is back up.  Remember, he walked to lead off the frame.  Reddick, this time, puts the ball in play - a soft line drive into CF.  Replacement CF Eddie Rosario slides to his knees to make the catch, but the ball hits the end of his glove and caroms a short distance away.  Marisnick and Springer both score.  9-8 Astros.  Still two outs.  Reddick on second.

RHP Matt Belisle enters the game.  He balks Reddick to third - I don't think he sets properly - then Altuve slashes a line drive to the right side.  A diving Joe Mauer at first has it clank off his glove, into RF.  Reddick scores, Altuve to first.  10-8 Astros.
Carlos Correa walks on five pitches, runners on first and second.
Carlos Beltrán then deals to a hanging slider on a 2-2 count.  It was a fat pitch, and all Beltrán needed to do was keep it fair - which he did by a few yards.  That scores three, and runs the score to 13-8, Astros.
Brian McCann is up.  Ironically, he scalds one to deep LF on a 1-1 count - perhaps the hardest hit ball the other way of the inning - but it settles in Adrianza's glove for the third out, and McCann's second out of the inning.

So, we have:
Two walks, and one HBP.
Six singles, one of the infield variety, and two that bounced off gloves while still in the air.
One double, should have been caught.
One home run.
Lots of elevated pitches.

Of course, the Astros weren't done there...
In the ninth: double (slashed against the shift), home run (Alex Bregman to CF), walk, single, pop out, infield single, RBI fielder's choice, out recorded after the ball hit the runner on a grounder to the right side.

Wow, entertaining!
It certainly was.  The Constable will post soon with all sorts of interesting facts about this game.  Jordan Jankowski and his 16.20 ERA gets the win.  Gregerson finishes the game, throwing 32 pitches in 2 frames of work.