Some in-person observations from last night’s 3-1 victory for the Astros over the Indians.
Heading into September, the Astros were 20 games under .500 at 59-79 and had a tough road ahead of them with 9 home games and 15 road games down the stretch. On top of that, they were going to be facing the A’s, the Angels. the Mariners, and the Indians in 18 of those 24 games – all teams playing for either post season position or for their post season lives.
After an 8-4 start to the month, the kids (as the Who famously said) are alright. Last night’s victory over the Indians in the series opener was a typical triumph for the Astros featuring great starting pitching, decent bullpen contributions and just enough clutch hitting to put up a W.
Stars of the Game
Baseball is a team game that rides on individual head-to-head confrontations between pitchers and hitters. Last night the Astros had both the best pitcher and the best hitter on the field. A two-headed monster named Collin Mctuve, or was it Jose Alhugh went out and grabbed the Indians playoff hopes by the throat and did not let go.
Collin McHugh will not come close to winning the Rookie of the Year trophy, but he is currently the Astros ace (sorry Dallas Keuchel – you are very very good too). After a solid start to the season, his last nine starts have been even better – giving up o earned runs once (last night), 1 run six times and 2 runs twice. He was headed for at least an 8 inning stint when Lonnie Chisenhall de-gloved him with a shot back up the middle that knocked him out of the game in the 7th with a forearm contusion. McHugh is riding Uncle Charlie, a curveball he can throw for strikes all night long and he looks cool and confident out there.
There is not much left to say about the other star of the game, Jose Altuve. He had 4 at bats and 4 times he tattoed the ball. (Yawn). When the Astros finally got a rally going against spot starter Zach McAllister in the third with a Petit single and a Grossman double – it was almost anti-climatic when Jose ripped a croquet shot through the pitcher’s wickets for a two run single to take the lead 2-1. In the 8th, he showed why the triple is the most exciting play in baseball as he smacked a liner into the right field corner and became a whirling dervish blur, just beating the throw into third and coming home with the security blanket 3rd run of the game on a Fowler sacrifice fly. His 3 hits earned Altuve his 5th multi-hit game in a row and takes him to 209 hits on the season, one short of the great Craig Biggio for the club record.
Slugs of the Game
Marc Krauss gets one of two slugs of the game awards. Besides going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts where his bat never left his shoulder – he failed to catch a simple throw from Altuve for the first out of the game. How simple? This was little league simple – your neighborhood little league simple, not Little League World Series simple. This error led to the Indians scoring their one and only run of the game and started McHugh off in a hole he did not deserve. To be fair, Krauss made 2 or 3 very good scoops at first base later in the game, but the taste from the first inning blunder never went away. He was later replaced by Jon Singleton. Enough said.
Matt Dominguez played flawlessly in the field, but on his way to another 0 fer 3 – he pulled off an unbelievable non-running stunt in the 4th inning. With Marisnick and Castro on 2nd and 3rd with two outs in the 4th, Matty D slapped a hard grounder at 3B Chrisenhall, who pulled a Villar and let the ball run up his arm. It bounced twice as it dribbled towards the short stop Ramirez, who amazingly had time to pick it up and throw to Carlos Santana (who has not put out a good album in a while) getting Dominguez easily at 1st. There was no replay, so I don’t know if the turtle-quick Dominguez stopped to tie his shoes on the way to first, but there was no way a major leaguer gets caught on this play short of falling down coming out of the box. It cost the Astros at least one crucial run and hacked off the fans.
Honorable Mention – Mini-Stars of the Game
Gregorio Petit, who similar to his fellow Venezuelan Altuve, does not like to walk, but does like to slap line drives around had two more hits last night. Jason Castro has suddenly discovered he can hit line drives to the opposite field successfully, had two hits and should have score a run except for Grandpa Matty D’s misadventure on the way to first base.
The bullpen was solid as Kevin Chapman, Sam Deduno (or is it Menudo?) and Chad Qualls combined for 2-1/3 of scoreless relief after McHugh’s misfortune. Qualls, who had missed the last 7 games with a bad hip (how old is this guy?) tried to barehand a sharp grounder for the second out and had to convince the trainers that he did not need to follow McHugh to the clubhouse with a bruised hand. After a seeing-eye single he secured the final out and his 18th save in 19 attempts (against teams not named Oakland) on the year.
The Astros winning is almost expected now. With a 67-83 record and 12 games to go – how high does this boat float by the end of the season?