What a crazy hellscape roller coaster ride of emotion that was. Clinging to a 1-0 lead off of Jaime Barria and wasting another dominant Verlander performance, only to watch Hector Rondon't and Joe Smith blow it in the 8th, only to watch the Astros look at either, say "screw it," and put up nine runs in the bottom half of the inning. Houston is 97-57. Oakland got a walk-off win for the 2nd night in a row off of Minnesota, which is a Sioux word for "completely useless." The Astros have a 3.5-game lead with eight to play. Oakland has seven games remaining.
Houston can go 5-3 and clinch the division. 4-4 means the A's have to go 7-0 to tie for the division, which the Astros would win because of the head-to-head record.
*Houston is 15-4 in September. A win today would give the Astros their 13th win against Anaheim. They have 12 wins against each of Anaheim, Arlington, and Oakland.
*Bottom of the 8th: Walk, Pop-up, Walk, Single (2-5), Walk, Single (3-5), Single (4-5), Error (6-5), Single (8-5), Homer (10-5), Single, Strikeout, Lineout.
I looked over at Dallas, and I was like, 'You know, they could easily hand us this game. I think everyone on this team believes that and knows that we are never out of it.
*The Astros' 9-run 8th inning was the highest-scoring inning of 2018. Hinch:
It happened fast. Just guys doing their part and then we got a little fortunate that they made a mistake. A lot of quality at-bats, one mistake, a lot of key hits, three or four walks led to a huge inning.
*Houston scored 10 runs on just two extra-base hits. You have to go all the way back to September 15, 2018 to find the last time the Astros scored double-digit runs on two extra-base hits.
*The Angels have been outscored 42-11 in their last four games.
*Jose Altuve was 3x4 with a walk. He has 162 walks and would need 38 hits this week to extend his 200-hit streak. It's his 12th game with 3+ hits this season.
Altuve 4-hit games: 4
Altuve 3-hit games: 8
Altuve 2-hit games: 32
Altuve 1-hit games: 58
Altuve 0-hit games: 29
Altuve's home run was his 13th of the year, 3rd of September. It was just his 4th home run this season with runners on base.
*Yuli Gurriel was 3x5 with an RBI. Over his last 16 games he's hitting .371/.403/.629. Gurriel has an 8-game hitting streak in which he's hitting .438/.471/.719 with consecutive 3-hit games.
*Josh Reddick was 1x2 with 2BB, his first two-walk game since August 21. His one hit gave him exactly 100 hits, his 4th-straight 100+ hit season.
*Evan Gattis was 2x4 with 2RBI - his first multi-hit game since August 15. He was 4x44, .091/.130/.227 between the two games.
*Tony Kemp has one hit in his last 13 plate appearances.
*Congratulations to Myles Straw, who stole his first career MLB base. It's his 71st stolen base of the year between Corpus, Fresno, and Houston.
*Justin Verlander threw 6IP, 1H/0ER, 11K:0BB. 77 of his 103 pitches were for strikes. He threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 20 batters he faced. Hinch:
He was just completely dominant. The back half of their lineup I don't think made contact against him. (Ed. note: They didn't) You just don't see that kind of dominance every day, you see it a lot with him. Really, really good fastball today. It felt like he could throw the ball where he wanted it.
It's the 12th time in Verlander's career that he has struck out 10+ batters without walking a single batter. Six of those starts have been for the Astros, four of them in 2018.
*Verlander re-took the #2 spot for strikeouts in MLB from Gerrit Cole. Verlander has a career-high 280 strikeouts to Cole's 272, giving them 552 strikeouts. The next-closest set of teammates is Cleveland's Carlos Corrasco and Tyler Bauer, who have combined for 432 strikeouts in 2018.
*Astros pitchers have struck out 1,615 batters, a new MLB record set by Cleveland in 2017. Astros starters have struck out 1,069 batters, a new MLB record set by Cleveland in 2017.
*Hector Rondon's last five appearances: 4.1IP, 13H/8ER, 5K:2BB, a 16.62 ERA / 3.46 WHIP. I said this last night, when Rondon was in the process of retiring one of the three batters he faced, that throwing Rondon in the 8th inning of a 1-0 game when you're trying to clinch the division is like getting on the top rung of a ladder to see if you're still dizzy.
Rondon has allowed eight earned runs in his last 4.1IP. He allowed 8ER from May 19-September 7 (38IP). He left the clubhouse before reporters were allowed in. Hinch:
The leadoff walk killed him. Arcia had the late decision base hit to left...Obviously it hasn't been a great stretch for him. My level of concern is more for him to stay confident and focused that his best pitches are good enough. It feels like everything happening for him right now is negative. I take him out of the game and his runs get cashed in. He'll be back out there in a couple of days.
*Joe Smith faced five batters and didn't get an out, allowing three hits - including the premature dagger of a three-run home run from Mike Trout - and a walk. It's the most batters he has faced without recording an out since August 29, 2015, when he was pitching for the Angels. Hinch:
Not a lot went right in the top of the eighth. That was as ugly an inning as we've had...
*Collin McHugh got the win, his 6th of the season. DID YOU KNOW: Collin McHugh's .643 win% is 2nd-highest in franchise history, behind Roger Clemens' .679? AND his 8.73 K/9 is 3rd-highest in franchise history, behind Billy Wagner and Nolan Ryan?
*Charlie Morton gets the start today and needs five strikeouts to join the 200K club. There has been one other Astros team with three pitchers with 200 strikeouts:
1969: Don Wilson (235), Larry Dierker (232), and Tom Griffin (200).
The 2018 Cleveland Spiders (that's what I'm calling them now) have four starting pitchers with 200 Ks.
*Lance McCullers is back and ready to pitch. Carlos Correa sounds downright despondent:
I'm trying to get better, healthy. My back just got tied up again and I want to make sure I'm ready to go for the playoffs. It's been a rough year for me when it comes to staying on the field and being healthy out there. It's been the toughest year of my career. When I came back, it's a grind every day.
*Brian McTaggart has the top 10 moments of the Astros' 2018 season (last night's game is not included, as the article was published before the game).
*Hardball Times: The Worcester Red Sox and the problem of history.
*Guilford, Connecticut: The town evenly split between Red Sox and Yankees fans.
*Shoutout to my friend Melissa, whose Braves clinched the division yesterday.
*Pacific Standard: Meet Sjors Horstman, the man who lives at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
*Consequence of Sound: Oh whaddayaknow. Ticketmaster is actually all a scam.