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:
|MON May 1||TEX 2||HOU 6||Cashner v. McCullers|
|TUE May 2||TEX 7||HOU 8||Claudio v. Fiers|
|WED May 3||TEX 1||HOU 10||Martinez v. Morton|
|THU May 4||TEX 10||HOU 4||Griffin v. Musgrove|
|FRI May 5||HOU 7||LAA 6||Keuchel v. Chavez|
|SAT May 6||HOU 1||LAA 2||McCullers v. Ramirez|
|SUN May 7||HOU 5||LAA 3||Fiers v. Shoemaker|
Monday’s game had everything you’d want in a Rangers vs. Astros game: pitchers throwing at batters, benches clearing, another late-inning Astros rally, Carlos Gomez losing his helmet on a strikeout, and the Astros coming out on top. The tension started when Cashner hit Altuve in the bottom of the first then turned around and hit Gurriel in the bottom of the second. If you hit one guy early in the game you can chalk it up to bad command of the ball, but when you hit two guys, you lose the benefit of the doubt. McCullers pitched a relatively good game, giving up a run on a few hits in the second then a solo home run to Napoli in the fourth. When Napoli came back around in the sixth, McCullers decided it was a good time to get payback for his teammates, but threw the ball clear behind Napoli instead of hitting him. This sparked the benches clearing but the excitement was for nothing because everyone just stood around waiting for nothing to happen. Once things settled down, McCullers worked the strikeout on Napoli and showed the more emotion on the field than he has so far this year. The Astros got a run off an error in the first, but the majority of the offense came in an explosion in the bottom of the seventh when they scored five runs on five hits. The Astros took the first of the nineteen games against the Rangers 6-2.
Tuesday’s game was looking really grim early on. I’m no pitching expert, but if Mike Fiers continues to give up this many home runs, there’s got to be something wrong there. It’s only a matter of time before these turn from solo home runs to serious game-killers. The Rangers went up 5-0 on of four home runs through four innings. Altuve trimmed the lead with a two-run blast in the bottom of the fourth to make it 5-2. González made it 5-3 with a solo homer in the fifth. It stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth when the Astros loaded the bases with a Beltran double, Altuve walk, and Gattis single. With two outs and the bases loaded, González hit his second home run of the game, this time a go-ahead grand slam to put the Astros on top 7-5. You could have named Marwin mayor of Houston right there and then and no one would’ve argued it. The two-out magic continued with Springer getting a RBI single to score Reddick to make it 8-5 before the Rangers finally got the third out. Gregerson tried to blow the game in the bottom of the ninth, walking Andrus followed by a home run by Mazara to make it an 8-7 game before getting pulled in favor of Harris, who closed out the save.
As exciting as Tuesday’s game was, Wednesday’s game was the kind of game I like to see. Morton pitched a great game, giving up just one run on five hits in his six innings, followed by three innings of no-hit pitching from Sipp and Feliz. The offense laid it on the Rangers, getting ten runs on thirteen hits including home runs from Correa, McCann, González, and Reddick. The Astros won in dominating fashion, 10-1, taking a 3-0 series lead going into the finale on Thursday.
Determined not to get swept, the Rangers came out swinging on Thursday. Musgrove struggled heavily in the first inning, allowing the Rangers to put up four runs. They didn’t stop there, tacking on another run in the second off Musgrove, one off of Peacock in the sixth, three off Gregerson in the eighth, and one off Feliz in the ninth. It was one of the worst games from Astros pitching this year, and even though the offense tried to keep things close, they couldn’t overcome the deficit and lost 10-4. The Astros’ offense consisted of RBIs from Gattis and Beltran, and González, who hit his fourth home run in three games.
Friday was Keuchel’s one start of the week, and it was relatively good had he not gone in for the ninth inning. Through the first eight innings, he allowed two runs on four hits, the two runs coming from solo home runs from Pujols (who else) and Maldonado. The offense for the Astros centered around Reddick and McCann, with Reddick homering in the third then driving in a run with a RBI single in the eighth, and McCann hitting a three-run homer in the seventh and a RBI single in the ninth. With a low pitch count and a 6-2 lead, Keuchel went in to try for the complete game in the bottom of the ninth but ended up loading the bases. Giles came in to try and lock up the win, but the Angels used the momentum to tie the game 6-6. The tie was broken in the top of the tenth with Correa coming through to drive in Altuve on a go-ahead single. Devenski closed the game with three quick outs in the bottom of the tenth, sealing the 7-6 win.
McCullers had another good start on Saturday against the Angels, hopefully ending his road game woes for good this year. He pitched seven strong innings, giving up just two hits and one run (unearned). Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough help from the offense, with the Astros scoring only one run which came in the first inning when McCann doubled to score Correa. The Angels got a run in the bottom of the second after former Astro Valbuena advanced to third on a passed ball from McCann then scored on a RBI groundout by Maybin. They got the walk-off run in the bottom of the ninth on a RBI single by Simmons after a rare bad inning by Devenski who was brought in most likely to set up extra innings.
In the rubber game on Sunday the Astros had to once again bail out Mike Fiers. He gave up two solo home runs to Escobar, one in the first then another in fifth, along with a run on a RBI single from Maldonado in the second. However, the Astros did what they have done so much this year and erased an early deficit, though this time they did it earlier in the game and never gave the lead back. The Astros big inning was the fourth where they got a RBI double from Reddick followed by a three-run home run by Altuve. Gattis tacked on another run with a solo shot in the seventh and the Astros went on to win the game 5-3 and the series 2-1.
Overall: The Astros went 5-2 on the week including going 3-1 against the Rangers, which is a huge momentum builder to keep the season going. With one more win against the Rangers, they will already have as many wins against them as they did all last year. Winning the series 2-1 against the Angels was also big because it keeps a healthy distance between the Astros and the rest of the AL West. I like that Morton seems to be heating up, but Fiers has to stop giving up home runs, and Musgrove needs to find consistency. Keuchel needs to forget about that bad ninth inning and keep doing what he’s doing, and McCullers needs to have more games like he did this past week. If they can get McHugh healthy and he is close to his best, it will do wonders for the rotation when he’s ready to come back in. Offensively there isn’t much to complain about, though they did strand eight batters in the loss on Saturday, which was abnormally high. I’ll write it off as a fluke.
MVP of the week – Marwin González: González has simply been batting out of his mind recently. If nothing else, he deserves the MVP of the week for the grand slam he hit Tuesday night to complete the comeback against the Rangers. Hopefully he doesn’t have to be out long with the foot injury he suffered in Saturday’s game because in my opinion he deserves to be in the starting lineup on a daily basis, at least until his bat cools off.
This Week’s Schedule
- Tue-Wed: Braves (11-18) @ Astros (21-11)
- Thu-Sun: Astros (21-11) @ Yankees (20-9)
The Astros get a day off today before hosting a short two-game stint with the Braves for interleague play on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Braves are struggling and on a four-game losing streak, so these are the types of games the Astros need to capitalize on to keep the division lead. This weekend the Astros will travel to New York to take on the Yankees in a battle of two of the AL’s top teams.