*Well yesterday's game wasn't ideal. Lance McCullers struggled for a second straight start (more on that later) and we got to watch the rare occasion when the offense can't bail out the pitching. Astros lose 9-7. They are 65-33. Seattle, Upper Cleburne, and Anaheim are all locked in a death struggle for 2nd place at 17 games back each. There are 64 games left.
The Astros were down 3-0, tied 3-3, down 4-3, down 6-3, up 7-6 before giving up the last three runs of the game.
We're not perfect every game. We're not without our own flaws or things we can do better. There have only been a couple of nights where we got it handed to us. Most of the time we're in the game.
*Lance McCullers struggled again, throwing 4.2IP, 9H/6ER, 3K:2BB with a Wild Pitch and 2HBPs. He was behind 1-0 on 11 of the 24 batters he faced. In his last three starts he has thrown 13.2IP, 24H/15ER, 11K:7BB. Hinch says it's on McCullers:
I think he's trying to be a little perfect and falling behind a little bit and if he's not throwing his fastball for a strike, where he wants to, they can either disregard it or put a good swing on it. He's going through a rut right now and things aren't going his way. He's not getting beat around the ballpark as much as he is creating some havoc for himself.
Breaking down some of the numbers (all from the invaluable Brooks Baseball), he was throwing his four-seam fastball an average of 94.83mph, his sinker 94.94mph, and his curve 86.24mph before going on the DL. Since coming back his velocity isn't off by any meaningful margin: Four-seam at 94.40, sinker at 94.29, curve at 86.16. The movement doesn't indicate that anything weird is happening, he's just struggling with his command.
Since returning from the DL McCullers' four-seamer has resulted in a ball 53.33% of the time, higher than the 42.16% ball percentage before going on the DL. Batting average by pitch type, before going on the DL (BABIP in parentheses):
Four-seamer: .261 (.263)
Sinker: .159 (.151)
Curve: .201 (.349)
Changeup: .321 (.364)
And since coming off the DL (BABIP in parentheses):
Four-seamer: .258 (.269)
Sinker: .272 (.282)
Curve: .199 (.303)
Changeup: .390 (.455)
The biggest jump is how hitters are tagging up his sinker and changeup, but he's just missing his spots. McCullers says (and this is known) that his curveball plays off his fastball. So when his fastball isn't locating, the curve is less effective:
When you're facing a lineup like this, that's been hot and has some of the top hitters in baseball, you can't be coming at them with one pitch the whole time. You're going to get beat eventually.
I don't think he's hurt. I think he's made 54 starts (about a season and a half's worth) in his career, wants to be the anchor in the rotation, and he's trying too hard. Good thing he'll have about 12 more starts before the playoffs start to get it figured out.
*Chris Devenski threw 2IP but allowed a home run for the third straight appearance. He allowed four home runs in all 2016 (108.1IP) and is up to 8HR allowed in 58.1IP this season.
Well, we won the series, which is the positive side of things. Obviously today, you know both offenses swung the bat pretty well. I liked the big innings that we had coming back from their two big innings. They just had an extra one and we didn't.
*The Astros haven't lost a road series since Cleveland from April 25-27, a span of 11 road series. They are 28-8 in road games in that span.
*Nori Aoki and Jose Altuve each ended their days (wink) a triple short of the cycle, each hitting three-run home runs. It was Aoki's first home run since April 14, and in four starts since the All-Star Break he's hitting .545/.545/1.091. Hinch, on Aoki:
He's come up big whenever I've been able to get him in there. It's a tough lineup to crack and so when he gets in there, to be able to contribute is exactly why he's on our club.
*Altuve did Altuve things: He went 4x5 from the leadoff spot (with George Springer's scheduled day off) and is now hitting a League-leading .358. We are watching a great player hit his prime in the year the Astros could enjoy it the most. Consider his OPS, by year, since the Astros moved to the AL:
Altuve, 2+ hit games: 37
Altuve: 0-hit games: 18
Altuve, 3+ hit games: 17
I'm sort of never surprised because he can do so much on the field. That's why he's our catalyst.
*Yesterday Altuve got two pieces of national coverage. Sports Illustrated said he was the Astros' engine. ESPN asked him about how tall Aaron Judge is.
*Marwin Gonzalez was 2x3 with two walks, pushing his OBP to .401, a 108 point increase over his .293 OBP in 2016. As of this morning his OPS (.994) is 300 points higher than his 2016 OPS (.694).
*Colin Moran is still in a Baltimore hospital with facial fracture(s) and could be facing surgery. Hinch:
[Moran is] not doing very well. He's stable...but long night for him...He'll be in the hospital here in Baltimore for the foreseeable future until they decide what's next.
*The return of Keuchel and McHugh have shifted the Astros' trade deadline plans to focus more on the bullpen. But Luhnow is still looking at all possibilities:
If there's somebody out there that can help us...we're still going to pursue it
*The Astros open a series this evening against Philadelphia, and Ken Giles is pretty excited to go back.
*Even before Clayton Kershaw left yesterday's start after two innings, the Dodgers were interested in Yu Darvish. Projecting a little bit, try not to think about the Astros making the World Series and facing Kershaw, Darvish, and Alex Wood.
*Buster Olney breaks down the biggest questions surrounding the Trade Deadline, which is seven days away, including how Luhnow might approach it.
*The GCL Nationals no-hit the GCL Marlins in both games of a doubleheader.
*Hardball Times: The absurd history of "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim"