This game says a lot about the Astros season thus far. So, in the Emerald City, Houston is facing up against King Felix. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well, we’ll see.
Through three innings, Houston’s lone base runner was erased on a dumb mistake when Jose Altuve, who lead off the game with a walk, doesn’t retrace his steps across second base. No hits, no runs through three innings for Houston.
So, what’s good about this game? Well, the Astros have been tattooing balls off former Cy Young winer Felix Hernandez, but just right at people. Three innings in, it seems like Houston’s just a looking to miss a fielder or two to get on the scoreboard. Of particular note was Marwin Gonzalez‘s liner to center. Meanwhile, Dallas Keuchel once again is looking like the best thing on the mound for Houston. The lone hit this far as a swinging bunt that Marwin Gonzalez couldn’t quite get to first on time to beat the runner.
End of 3, scoreless and just one hit for the M’s. We’ll check in at the end of six to see how I feel then.
Top 4: Dexter Fowler sneaks a single. Steals a base. Nothing else exciting.
Bottom 4: Keuchel walks Robinson Cano after “just missing” strike three on a 2-2 count. Single by Corey Hart, then Hart takes out Altuve trying to turn two on a tough play. The whole thing just served to ratchet up Keuchel’s pitch count, which had been pretty low coming into the bottom of the fourth.
Top 5: Alex Presley on second. Stat says Matt Dominguez is Astros’ best hitter with RISP. He promptly homers. What do I do to pay that TV graphic guy to say obscure nice things. But this supports my theory that King Felix can be had tonight. Explained to my 10-year-old daughter what a bunt is when Jonathan Villar squared around.
Botton 5: Kyle Seager singles. Next dude—I check the box score to discover his name is Mike Zunino—doubles right between Presley and Fowler. Keuchel fell behind in the count and allowed a fly ball, which goes against his GO/AO rate for the game. Two-run double by Abraham Almonte. Keuchel Ks the rest. Maybe we should have walked that guy.
Top 6: Lord, I love Jose Altuve. Little man doubles. Please don’t steal. Please don’t steal. Fowler bunts, and Altuve should have been out at third, but Seager can’t hold it. Castros swings 3-0? Why? Sac fly. We need more basic execution like that. 3-2 Astros. Hernandez just looks like he’s fooling and flustering George Springer. Fowler picked the right time to swipe another though. Krauss singles, and that’s a two-out RBI. We don’t see many of those. … And yet, Presley triples off the wall in right-center, Marc Krauss scores. Matty D doubles off the left-field wall, Presley scores. That’s three two-out RBIs. 6-2 Astros. Oddly, four unearned runs. It happened late, and no one was more shocked than I was, but the Astros just looked like they were hitting better than those first three innings would indicate in the box score.
Bottom 6: Meanwhile, Keuchel is just dealing like a pro. Lots of Ks. Other than that bad fly ball in the fifth for a double, he’s just pitching great. K and a lazy fly to Springer. And a double brings Seager to the plate for a ground out and the third out. I had hoped Keuchel might come out for the seventh, but that liner past Marwin sealed the deal I bet. Too bad. After six, the offense, which I was prepared to complain about when it looked like their only runs would come via the longball, really broke out. Maybe this team, which should be hitting better than it is, might start doing so on a regular basis. I’d like to see more scoring that comes from bunches of hits, not solo home runs. Keuchel had maybe a handful of bad pitches, and not all became hits. Lots of grounds, lots of Ks. And he’s our fifth starter? Right. … Oh, and Castro spent the night blocking bouncing curve balls. Can’t remember the last time I was impressed with his defense.
Top 7: Hernandez comes out again, and with his low pitch count, mows through the Astros lineup. Villar, Altuve and Fowler, 1-2-3. Fowler swung at ball four then watched “strike three” and was rung up.
Bottom 7: Chad Qualls survives “the challenge.” A long foul ball means nothing, and the K parade continues as Qualls strikes out a pair. This is what we’re paying him for, not that disaster the other night.
Top 8: One swing, one out. And here’s hoping Springer can get that knock against Tom Wilhelmsen. Nope. Just looked confused again. Krauss, however, is not confused. Maybe he needs more playing time to get in a rhythm. Lord knows we’ve seen enough of Chris Carter. 7-2 after Krauss’ homer, and Presley singles. Third hit. And here’s another guy benefiting from some playing time. And with Matty D drawing a BB, I gotta wonder if Marwin is ready to add to the damage. He hit Hernandez hard but had nothing to show for it. But he dribbles out to short to end this inning. Beggars shouldn’t get greedy I guess.
Bottom 8: Albers on the mound. Guzman as a defensive replacement for Krauss at first. I think another run last inning and I’d have left Krauss in the game. But here I agree with Bo Porter. Speaking of defense, pop out to Marwin in foul territory. Marwin has been just fine at third tonight, but I’ve got to wonder if some plays he didn’t quite make would have been outs in Matty D’s hands. If it means Dominguez getting his swing back, I’m all for giving Marwin a few starts. Cano singles. Villar almost pulls “Stretch” Altuve on second base on Hart’s smash to the hole … and what the heck on this replay? They already lost their “challenge” on that foul ball last inning. Out anyway. But that’s what happens when Villar doesn’t plant his feet. He was never going to get the double play, so he should have taken a moment before the throw instead of throwing wide. By the way, love that sinking change-up Albers is throwing: K.
Top 9: Villar is robbed. Dustin Ackley misses that, Villar might have been on third.
Bottom 9: Fields in a non-save situation. Good Lord, we need this win after seven miserable games. Lots of Ks. We win. Final thoughts: Why are Altuve and Fowler flip-flopped in the order? So much for me giving Porter some slack. Keuchel was just amazing. He’s usually good, but tonight was very good. Is he Houston’s best starter? How nice was it to see a big crooked number from the offense stringing together a bunch of hits … a bunch of extra-base hits? Only four Ks by Houston hitters, and the offense has a breakout night. Coincidence? Meanwhile, Houston’s pitchers strike out a baker’s dozen plus one. Fields has got to look unhittable after a night of facing curve balls, change-ups and 90-MPH “fastballs” that are painting the corners of the zone.