The Ultimate YIE Series for the Astros

The Astros four-game sweep of the Oakland A’s was the ultimate YIE series. YIE stands for Yes It’s Early, and certainly, in a 162-game season, it may not mean much. Still, the team’s performance was everything any Astro fan could ask against the team that took the AL West away from the Astros last season and houses the man who went Judas on his former teammates, Mike Fiers.

There are a lot of things to take away from this series…..

  • The Big Man is Back, and I Don’t Mean Clarence Clemons. Yordan Alvarez only played in two games in 2020 before going down with the knee injury that led to surgery. After his transcendent season in 2019, it almost made it feel like a hallucination. Did we really see what we saw? Well, after four games back, two doubles, a home run and six RBIs, it was wonderful to see him and that smooth, powerful swing back in the lineup.
  • The Not So Big Men are Back. Jose Altuve, who suffered through his worst season ever in 2020, has embraced that leadoff spot, hitting .375 BA and getting on base half the time, leading to a wonderful 8 runs scored in the first 4 games. Alex Bregman is getting a hit half the time and already has two HRs, five RBIs and four runs scored even though he only played in three games. Yuli Gurriel leads the team with 7 hits, tied for the lead with 4 walks and has the top OBP at .579 (for those with enough ABs to qualify). Seeing both Altuve and Gurriel drawing walks is a good sign.
  • The Exception. The one guy who has the most to earn by playing well is one of the few who has not played well, Carlos Correa. So far, he is only threatening to lead the team in one category (five Ks).
  • The Machine. Until he was taken out by a Hit by Pitch Saturday, Michael Brantley in two games and that AB, where he was hit, had six hits in nine ABs including four doubles, and frankly, two of his three outs were on balls that were slaughtered. He looked as locked in as you will ever find a hitter.
  • 2020 Is Not in the Rear View Mirror. The team seems way beyond putting 2020 in the rearview mirror. They seem to be more in denial that 2020 ever took place or that they were involved. 2020 is locked away in a safety deposit box.
  • A little YIE Reality. Just remember that in 2020 the Astros were 3-1 after four games after playing the Mariners and that  Brantley had 6 RBIs after 4 games, Altuve had 7 runs after 4 games, Bregman had 5 RBIs after 4 games, Yuli had three runs and two RBIs after four games and Tucker had four runs after four games.
  • Mr. RBI. OK, he got a gift in the “RBI” on Jose Altuve’s mad dash to the plate on his popup in game 2. But Kyle Tucker continues to knock in the runs for this team even though he is still hitting below the Mendoza line. In 2020, he led the team with 42 RBIs (George Springer was second with 32). This year despite only having three hits, he leads the team with seven RBIs. Amazing.
  • A Bit of Bungling. In 2020, the Astros only had 20 errors in 60 games. They have been a bit more slippery fingers so far this season with three errors in four games. Hopefully, the two on opening day were just an anomaly that will not be the norm.
  • A Solid Base. While lasting varying amounts of time, each of their four starters have kept the team in each game or better…. a whole lot better for a couple of them. Zack Greinke (6 IP / 0 ER) and Lance McCullers Jr. (5 IP / 1 ER) were the gold standards in this regard, while Jose Urquidy (4.1 IP / 2 ER) and Cristian Javier (3.2 IP / 2 ER) kept them in games 3 and 4.
  • They Also Serve Who Don’t Start. Brandon Bielak pitched good enough in the spring to nab the temporary fifth starter’s job given to Luis Garcia. Did he mope over that? Nope, he came out of the bullpen with a scary look on his face in Game 4 and retired 14 straight batters to earn the win. Bryan Abreu threw 2.1 scoreless innings out of the pen to secure a win for the team and himself in Game 3.
  • Lefties on Lefties. In the past, the appearance of three left-handed starting pitchers (and multiple relievers) against the Astros might result in less than optimum results. The Astros overall ate them up, and it was very heartening to see some of the terrific at bats by Brantley, Tucker, Alvarez and Jason Castro against the left-handed pitchers in this series.
  • By the Numbers. The Astros have never started a season 4-0 on the road before this year. The four-game win streak would already be the second-longest for the team through the beginning of 2020 as they had one 8 game winning streak last year, but no other streak beyond 2 games in a row (which is how you end up 29-31). The Astros have scored at least 8 runs in four consecutive games. In 2020 they scored 8 runs or more in two games in a row a couple times. In their club-record regular season in 2019, they scored 8 runs or more in four games in a row twice.
  • Plop Plop Fizz Fizz. The Astro relievers were not all perfect, but they did limit the damage when they came in. Ryan Pressly, Joe Smith, Enoli Paredes, Ryne Stanek and Bryan Abreu all gave up no earned runs in a combined 8 appearances. And even Brooks Raley, who had a rough go in Game 2, came into a mess in Game 3 and held the rope on the A’s late in the game.
  • Big Finish. Too often in the past, the Astros seemed to get leads and just never added to them. In game one, they scored five times in the eighth and ninth. In game two, they scored three times in the ninth, in game three, they scored four times in the ninth and in game four, they scored four times in the sixth to salt each of these games away and discourage the A’s.
  • Ks and BBs. After four games, the Astros offense has struck out 27 times which is the fifth-best in the AL, but the 4 teams ahead of them have only played three games, and they will likely be second best when all is even. The team is putting the ball in play. The Astro pitchers have only given up 13 walks so far, which is eighth-best in the AL, but again all the teams that have given up less have played only 3 games, so they would be closer to third-best in the league if this were evened out.
  • Flat vs Fun. After a Spring Training where the Astros looked like as much fun as an Ingmar Bergman movie, they looked like they were having a ton of fun out there in this series. Not over the top stuff, but they looked like baseball was fun, like it was never fun in 2020. The A’s looked flat like all the steam was taken out of them by continuing the flattening they took in last year’s playoffs.
  • Newbie. Have to give a shout out to Chas McCormick, who had to come in for the hottest hitter, Michael Brantley, when he was hit on the wrist early Saturday night. The young man held his own, nearly getting a homer on his first major league hit (a double) in Game 3 and then hitting a no-doubter three-run homer in Game 4 to seal that one for the home team.
  • Hitting both ways. It was fun watching a number of the hitters go the other way when the pitch warranted it. It was not fun seeing them get plunked (and the plunking cheered on) four times in the series. The Brantley HBP brought back memories of Jeff Bagwell having season’s derailed by getting hit on the wrist.

All in all, it was a great holiday weekend for the Astros. So, what are your takeaways from this first series of the year?

74 comments on “The Ultimate YIE Series for the Astros

  1. Fun series for the good guys. Nothing much to add after your excellent observations and comments except that Straw is working himself out of the line up and Chas McCormick is working his way in. I do think a little shift in the line up might be due. Tucker down a couple of spots and Yordan up. Maybe a little too much pressure so far. And Aledmys Diaz is hitting well too. That’s an extra added bonus. Kudos for both LMJ and Urquidy for hanging tough and getting out of potential disaster innings, then settling down and pitching well. I give the team a solid “A” for the series.

    Like

  2. A few quick comments. 1. The strike zone on the screen is way off this year when compared to what the batters and umpires see. 2. Straw is late on almost all pitches. 3. Carlos will adjust, but as in the past, when his timing is off he hits a lot of pitches into the first base stands. 4. I don’t expect Maldonado to lead the team in RBIs or Hits or Home Runs or Walks. 5. The young bullpen has been excellent but their lack of control at times worries me. 6. Right now 3-2 counts seem to be there for every batter. 7. Stanek surprised me. He appears to have “put away” stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Straw should get a day off every week, but we’ve got to give him at least 100 at bats before McCormick gets a shot at the job. Thing is, Straw is not doing anything particularly well right now. He’s a hazard. Alvarez belongs at cleanup. Correa will start to hit right behind him. And there is no way to pitch around Bregman with Alvarez on deck and Altuve and Brantley getting on base so often. Yuli looks younger. If Tucker gets stuck hitting 7th, that’s a heck of a good problem to have. I’m so happy that Altuve keeps going to right field. There will however be team slumps when everyone stops hitting. Fun to watch them have fun now though!

    On the flipside, the A’s don’t look ready to play. And not to take anything away from Bielak, but they pretty much packed it in after 5 innings on Sunday. Their fans should quit whining about the Astros and start getting pissed off at their own club. Sloppy, uninspired baseball.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t like making quick decisions on young folks based on small samples…….however, Straw was bad last year and is continuing on in that mode. I would not give him a ton of rope on this and I would certainly be giving McCormick 2 starts at least a week.
      Great point on Yuli looking younger, he looks lighter and fitter. I have no problem with moving Alvarez up and Tucker back. Correa will hit at some point – it would actually would be worrisome if no one was struggling – you would feel like the whole club would fall off at one time. Here, if a couple guys struggle, there are a couple (like Correa and Maldonado and maybe Straw) who could get going and fill in for them.
      The biggest hit of the game may have been Castro’s 2 run homer in the second to answer back after the A’s tied it in the first. It was odd to see them use Castro against Manaea – his career numbers against lefties are uniformly terrible – his numbers against righties are OK. But he stood in there and had a very good at bat and swing against a normally tough leftie.
      The A’s fans were booing the wrong club….

      Liked by 1 person

      • daveb – There is a lot of danger in making decisions on small samples – JR Towles always comes to mind on overperforming on a small sample.
        If Straw gets a couple hits his first two times up next game suddenly he is hitting .250 and his on-base is .438 and who wouldn’t take that from him.
        But I don’t know why the guy didn’t spend an hour a day working on bunting. That not only gives him another weapon, but suddenly the infield is playing in and you can slap it past them (as long as you aren’t trying to drive it out of the park). If the guy had like a .380 on base – no matter his batting average or power, he would be a real weapon.

        Like

      • I think it’s irresponsible of him not to be a good bunter. I’ve said it several times. With his skill set, he has to be able to bunt the baseball. That could be part of the problem. He never had to bunt as a kid. And nobody made him learn the skill. Apparently not in the minors either. Dusty has been quoted as saying he should be able to bunt. But maybe Myles thinks he brings enough without having to bunt.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have seen these guys win, and I have seen them win. It is much more fun to watch them when they win. And now . . . on to face another division rival, who has started the season almost as well as our ‘Stros – the 3-1 Angels. Trout is slashing .333/.556/.972. And who is that Max Stassi hitting machine [.375/.500/1.250]?

    Like

  5. -I think it was Dusty Baker who commented during spring training that Chas McCormick had found his power last season at the alternate training site. Please correct me if that is in error.
    -Winning the last two games after not having Brantley in the lineup is very encouraging.
    -I thought Tucker’s at bats against lefty pitching were better than the stats show. His six RBIs constitute a huge contribution, especially in light of his BA.
    -Correa is in a slump, but he will come out of it. It usually happens with a flourish of RBIs.
    – Bielak made the Astros brain trust look very smart yesterday. You keep a guy for long relief and and he does that!
    -The first series of the year may not be much, in comparison to 162 game season, but it does mean that last season’s division winner starts four games out of 1st place and now hosts the Dodgers.
    -Today’s game will bring the fourth lefty starter out of five to face Houston.
    – The Angel’s closer has pitched in 3 of their four games and threw 30 pitches Sunday.

    Like

    • The jury is still out on whether Ohtani is a Vulcan, and Kryptonian, or a reincarnation of Puff the Magic Dragon. But the press – sports press included – loves smoke, mirrors, and hype, so there you go. When you bat in front of a proven superstar like Mike Trout, objects in the mirror may possibly seem larger than they actually are. Nevertheless, he is a talent, and we will have to take precautions not to let him beat us.

      Like

      • It is the key question with Ohtani, whether he can stay healthy. Folks think that he will get sturdier when he gets older- we keep thinking he’s such a youngster but he is older than Alex Bregman or Carlos Correa.
        In his 3 seasons to date he’s played in 106, 104 and 44 games. He’s pitched in 13 games total. He’s undoubtedly a tremendous talent, but his ability to stay on the field is a bigger question than with Correa.

        Like

  6. I hesitate to post this because it is such a great idea. Here goes. If the A’s were smart, with Trevor Rosenthal who is their closer out for now, they should use Ka’ai Tom as the closer. He is a beast. His Fast pitch is 75ish and his Slow pitch is 55ish. That is the 20 mph speed difference of a great relief pitcher.

    Like

    • Well he certainly was one of their most effective pitchers in the series, though it helped that everyone in the dugout kept pointing at their watches when we were batting in the 9th inning.
      Like other said, that game should have been called after the Astros scored in the 6th, because the effort was gone…..

      Like

  7. Will the Astros ever face Mike (Judas) Fiers? I really doubt it because he’s a (well I can’t say those words on this blog and I’ll get booted off the island).
    Let’s keep it going to-nite guys and whoop up on the Angels.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Astros up 3-0 in the first.
    When things are going right…
    Altuve hits it hard but the SS drops it in the hole
    Bregman tomahawks it to left and Upton gets a glove on it but can’t hold it
    Diaz strikes out for the third out but it’s a wild pitch and he gets to first while Alvarez scores.

    Like

  9. Not a lot of good swings unless the ball is on a golf tee. Lots in the dirt. I do like the 3-0 lead and Garcia pitching well.

    Like

    • There is no doubt in my mind that Raley is hurting – probably his back is bothering him again as that would keep you from following through

      Like

  10. Garcia pitched pretty well but needs a ground ball pitch. With a bit of help from Tucker in the 4th, that pop up gets caught and our starter might have gotten out of that inning with his low pitch count intact. We’re not going to score 8 runs every night. We’ve got to play a clean game. Yuli made a bad throw to the plate when cutting down Ohtani would have been a big play.

    Speaking of Ohtani, he’s an arrogant primadonna. He took a glancing HBP from Smith off the lower leg and acting as if someone was headhunting him at 100. I hope Smith shakes the rust off. We don’t need Smith to give back a game in the 8th when things are pretty much in control.

    And this business of garbage cans getting thrown on the field. Does not seem Angel security was overly concerned. And I believe it still effects Altuve.

    I missed The Big Game last night. TV went off early in the evening. Island life! Baylor owned Gonzaga from start to finish. Nice to see Texas with the trophy.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. To me the two pop-ups that have fallen along the right field foul line the last few games are byproducts of the extreme shift. They both were tough for Yuli going back, though he did not cover that much ground either time. They were very difficult for the right fielder because he’s over in right center – he couldn’t get there last night even with a slide. In the “old” days these are in the second baseman’s hip pocket. He has the best angle and in the “old” days the shortest route to the ball. The shift gives you a better percentage of catching most balls by a hitter, but there are holes in the defense and down the right field line with a right handed hitter up is one of them.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I saw a below mediocre performance from the bullpen. Raley was wild high. Abreu bounced several in the dirt. Smith got nobody out. Taylor inherited 3 runners and they all scored plus 1. Stanek looked solid for one inning. Garcia was solid until he got tired. YIE but one of my fears for this year was losing late in the game. This was one. It would appear we have a chance to win if the offense can score 8+ every game.

    Like

    • Stanek needs to pitch in the later innings if possible. He’s got good stuff. Maybe when Baez returns we’ll have another stopper. That was a game we should have won.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Tough loss last night, but the Angels are a good team. You can’t walk 5 of them, give Trout a gopher ball, and hope to come away unscathed. To me a key turning point was our failure to score any [more] runs with one out, the bases loaded, and Bregman and Alvarez coming up in the 4th. We were poised to break the game open – but, they brought in Rodriguez to strike out Alex and get Yordan to end the inning on a fly. Then the Angels scored two in the bottom of the inning, and we never quite got the momentum back. Oh well, let’s go back out there and do better tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I figure the Astros will lose at least 39 times this season, so it is OK to get the first one out of the way on the road, where it was too late to stay up anyway.

    Like

  15. The pen will be painful to watch at times. A couple of guys won’t make the cut. Vets like Smith need to lead the way though. He was bad last night. Others were not so good. Getting our two starters off the shelf will help.

    Like

  16. Did anyone see the live or replay of Tucker’s HR last night. How far did that monster fly – it looked like 30 or 40 feet beyond the CF fence.

    Like

  17. Well – one of our favorite players, Roughned Odor is joining one of our favorite teams- the New York Yankees.
    And my favorite sarcasm font is not available.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Trout launched a Greinke pitch in the first for a 2 run lead, but then Tucker and Diaz went back to back in the second to even things up. Still 2-2 heading into the 6th as Greinke makes a nice unassisted putout on Ohtani to get out of the inning.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Bundy looked pretty good today. And at first glance, The Angels have a few guys in the pen. Excellent job by Grienke. Sure would be a nice game to pull out with top of the order coming up in the 8th.

    Like

    • I suspect that Carlos read my post last night and said, “I’ll show that Zanuda guy about squat. How you like me now!” So I’ll take credit for Carlos’ home run today. Modest ain’t I? Just glad to see him come through. 5-1 on a Road trip is super and against a pretty good team. Much better than many thought.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Mr Hernandez has the unique ability to call a game. At the end of the game he has both teams pitchers and both teams hitters angry. Makes you think he closes his eyes ever pitch and determines balls and strikes by how it sounds. And he is hard of hearing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The only positive thing about Hernandez is he is an equal opportunity bungler. He is likely to blow calls both ways.
        Bundy was pitch for pitch as good as Greinke who was excellent. They both had one inning of trouble, but were really tough outside of it. It was the kind of game where both teams had to be relieved to see the starter leave, but Pressly came in with really good stuff and held the line.

        Like

  20. The differences in Raisel’s and Alex’s performances could have to do with Raisel having the most mound appearances in baseball so far this season and Alex begging Baker for some time on the mound.

    Like

  21. Man – James Paxton pitched 1-1/3 innings for the M’s before having an arm problem and an MRI. I know he’s tough on us but I hate to see players side lined with injury.

    Like

  22. And apparently George Springer pulled up short with quad pain before he could return from his strained oblique. MRI is pending.

    Like

  23. And the pitching staff for the Astros AST [Alternative Site Team], who will start playing exhibition games soon includes:
    – Tyler Ivey
    – Nivaldo Rodriguez
    – Peter Solomn
    – Jairo Solis
    – Ronel Blanco
    – Brett Conine
    – Shawn Dubin
    – Ralph Garza Jr.
    – Austin Hansen
    – Ryan Hartman
    – Carson LaRue
    – Kit Scheetz
    – Jojanse Torres
    – Hector Velazquez AND
    -Jake Odorizzi

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s everyone I mentioned, Mr. Bill, except LaRue. So look for him to peel off eventually. The real mystery for me is albeit a reliever, Colin McKee. This tells me Scheetz and Hartman are really improved and Blanco and Garza are staving off McKee too. The other glaring one is Emanuel, but I suppose THIS falls under the category of officially suspended from, and not Spring Training which I thought he was supposed to be? Does he now have to wait 18 MLB games to start team functions? At any rate, this list represent the older guard, because the group right behind them will be coming. That means this group will have get their shot with Martes through ’22, and then the next crop comes, starts knocking on the door thereafter..

      Guys like; Bellozo, Jairo and JP Lopez, Hunter and Tyler Brown, Gusto, D Taveras, Sprinkle, and Alex Santos III. We might even draft a good pitcher from the free agent QO’s this year in the #72 range again like we got Santos! Setting sights with them for early ’23 is Whitley.

      Liked by 1 person

    • And why not an update while we’re at it?

      Round Rock Express
      @RRExpress
      ·
      20m
      Houston jumps out to a 2-0 lead in the 6th as Jose Siri launches a solo home run followed by an Abraham Toro single and an Alex de Goti RBI triple.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s