Editors Note: Chris is a southeast Texas native that has followed Houston sports for most of his life. His main hobbies are drinking good beer or whiskey, watching and betting sports, and being a family man. You can follow him on twitter @ChrisCampise
By CHRIS CAMPISE
Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|TUE April 25||HOU 4||CLE 2||Keuchel v. Tomlin|
|WED April 26||HOU 6||CLE 7||McCullers v. Bauer|
|THU April 27||HOU 3||CLE 4||Fiers v. Kluber|
|FRI April 28||OAK 4||HOU 9||Cotton v. Morton|
|SAT April 29||OAK 2||HOU 1||Triggs v. Musgrove|
|SUN April 30||OAK 2||HOU 7||Hahn v. Keuchel|
What a gem by Keuchel on Tuesday night. He gave up two solo home runs, one by Austin Jackson in the fourth then another to Michael Brantley in the ninth, but limited the Indians to 6 hits on his way to a complete game which the Astros won 4-2. The main offense for the Astros came in the top of the fifth with Gurriel and Gattis getting on base followed by a RBI double by Aoki then a two-RBI single by Reddick. The bottom of the lineup set up Reddick again in the top of the ninth when they tacked on a run with another RBI single for Reddick. The Astros had another serious early-season scare when Altuve and Teoscar Hernandez collided while both going after a fly ball. They had called Hernandez up that day to allow Springer to continue to rest his hamstring and Marisnick to continue to deal with his concussion. Altuve was able to walk away but Hernandez had to be carted off. Altuve said he was fine, but Hernandez ended up going on the 10-day DL with a bruised left knee.
Even though Altuve said he was good to go, Hinch rested him along with Springer on Wednesday. After throwing six and two-thirds innings with no runs and only three hits in his last start at home against the Angels, McCullers was unable to translate his game to the road. He got dinged early with the Indians scoring three runs against him in the bottom of the first inning. He seemed to settle down and get back into his rhythm up until the fifth inning when the Indians added two more runs. The Astros tried to come back several times getting to within one run three separate times during the game but ultimately fell 7-6. The Astros offense was highlighted by two two-run home runs from the bearded duo of Gattis and McCann and a two-RBI double from González in the eighth.
I wasn’t too optimistic about Wednesday’s game going in. Altuve and Springer were sitting out again, and I knew that Fiers would have to be at his best to give the team any shot to match up against the Indian’s ace, Corey Kluber. I just don’t trust Fiers until he can actually string multiple good games together. The game ended up being quite entertaining, with the teams going back and forth along the way. González hit a solo shot in the top of the second off Kluber to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. The Indians answered in the bottom of the same inning with a solo home run of their own by Encarnación. The Astros struck back in the top of the third with RBIs from Gattis and Bregman, making it 3-1. It stayed that way until the bottom of the fifth when Fiers gave up another solo homer, this time to Almonte. Devenski came in shortly after in the fifth and looked to be on top of his game as usual until Lindor launched a monster two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, putting the Indians up 4-3, which ended up being the final score.
Springer and Altuve were back in the lineup at home for the series opener against the As on Friday night, which was yet another comeback. Morton got into trouble early, giving up three runs in the first off of a Khris Davis home run. Down 3-0, the Astros got to work and did it fast. They immediately tied the game 3-3 in the bottom of the first with back-to-back-to-back two-out RBIs from Beltran, Gurriel, and Gattis. After the rough first inning, Morton regrouped and got all the way through the seventh inning only allowing three additional hits, one being another home run to Davis that put the As up 4-3 in the third. The Astros tied the game at 4 with a RBI from Springer in the fourth, then tacked on more runs on the way to their 9-4 win with RBIs from Gattis, Bregman, Correa, and a solo home run from Gurriel. He’s not my MVP of the week, but Gurriel has been on an absolute tear to end April.
Saturday’s game was a surprisingly low-scoring affair. Musgrove had his best start of the year, pitching 6 and one-third innings giving up just one run off of a solo shot by Jed Lowrie in the fourth inning. Andrew Triggs had an even better start, shutting out the Astros for seven innings and giving up just five hits. Khris Davis got his third home run in two games with a solo home run off of Will Harris in the eighth inning, putting the As up 2-0. Altuve scored the Astros lone run with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth off of Sean Doolittle. The Astros threatened in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t pull it off, losing the game 2-1.
Sunday was another game where we got to just sit back and watch Keuchel work. He went seven and two-thirds innings, giving up just three hits. The offense had his back, with RBIs from Correa in the first, Gattis in the fourth, and McCann in the fifth, putting them up 4-0 at that point. The third and final hit Keuchel allowed was a single by Yonder Alonso in the top of the eighth that ended up costing Keuchel an earned run. Gregerson came in to get the last out of the seventh inning, however, before he could get the out Alonso stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored off a Ryon Healy single. González gave the Astros three more insurance runs off a nearly-foul home run, putting the Astros on top 7-1 going into the top of the ninth. With the big lead, Peacock got some playing time in the ninth where he struggled a bit. He gave up a run on two hits and two walks before Giles was called in to finish things up. All in all, a solid 7-2 win on the back of another great Keuchel start.
Overall: The Astros went 3-3 for the week, which in my opinion is a disappointment when you had two games started by Keuchel pitching as good as he is. Going 1-4 in the other games is a letdown and the rest of the rotation has to clean things up or it will become their downfall. In his two road starts this year, Lance McCullers has gone nine and one-third innings and has given up ten runs on fifteen hits. Six of those ten runs have come in the first and second innings. He gets the start Monday night against the Rangers and will be up again Saturday on the road versus the Angels. If he can have two quality starts in those two games, I think he can build off that for the rest of the year. It’s still the 3-5 spots in the rotation that continue to be a rollercoaster. You never know what you’re going to get from Fiers. Morton seems to get himself into trouble in every game, yet when focused and hitting his spots is lights out. On the optimistic side, I actually like Musgrove a lot. As long as he keeps progressing and has good starts like his last one, he could be something special.
MVP of the week – Dallas Keuchel: Keuchel is now 5-0, something no Astros pitcher has done in the month of April since Roger “Rocket” Clemens did the same in 2004. Keuchel would be 6-0 if not for the Gregerson implosion against the Royals on April 8th. Keuchel looks as dominant as ever, especially after throwing that complete game on Tuesday against the Indians. If he can stay healthy and stay this focused, there’s no stopping him.
This Week’s Schedule
- Mon-Thu: Rangers (11-14) @ Astros (16-9)
- Fri-Sun: Astros (16-9) @ Angels (14-13)
Here we go. The bane of the Astro’s existence last year rolls into town for a four-game set. The Astros have to be aggressive in this series. The Rangers are down for now, but let them come to your house and take a series from you, and no question they can run you right out of the playoffs with that momentum. In my preview of the season, I mentioned two things that had to happen this year: a better April (7-17 last year), and a better record against the Rangers (4-15 last year). They nailed that first objective by going 16-9, now it’s time to turn the tables on the team a few hours up I-45. After finishing up with the Rangers the Astros will travel west to Anaheim to take on the Angels who are currently second in the AL west and the only other team in the division with a winning record.