This win had it all. A great pitching performance. (Honestly, I think that first homer by Kendrys Morales was a good pitch by Collin McHugh.) Three hits from Jose Altuve, and two each from George Springer and Jake Marisnick. Another shut-down night from the bullpen.
But it’s all in the past now.
This is the playoffs. It’s not about the long haul. It’s about the next game, the next pitch and the next swing of the bat.
And as you read this, the Astros are about six hours or less from what matters … that next game.
Here’s what I’m looking for in Game 2.
1. How is Scott Kazmir’s velocity, and his movement on his off-speed pitches? Looking at Kazmir’s last outing, it was the unearned runs that doomed him. I think if the Astros’ defense had properly supported Kaz, he’d have had a better outcome.
2. The other thing about Kazmir is he needs to throw strikes. Free bases for the Royals will be the Astros’ doom.
3. With the righty Johnny Cueto on the mound, I’d like to see Preston Tucker in the DH. Tucker gives good ABs, and, frankly, Gattis looks like he’s pressing.
4. Kazmir turns Morales around to the right side, where he hit only four of his 22 regular-season homers. Same for Eric Hosmer, who hit 18 on the season but only four against lefties. Lorenzo Cain hit just nine homers against lefties. This, however, doesn’t help with Mike Moustakas, who hits lefties and righties equally from the left side. Oddly, right-handed hitting Salvador Perez has better power (and numbers overall) against righties than lefties, so having Kazmir (then Keuchel on Sunday) on the mound really works in Houston’s favor. Kazmir really negates their power.
5. As for Johnny Cueto, he’s been pedestrian at best since coming over from Cincy. A righty, he lowers Altuve’s batting average, but Houston has enough good lefty options (Tucker, Rasmus, Valbuena at third, maybe MarGo at first base) to make a difference.
I’m feeling good. After all, the goal was just to win one on the road. Mission accomplished.