By CHRIS CAMPISE
Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|MON May 22nd||DET 0||HOU 1||Fulmer v. Peacock|
|TUE May 23rd||DET 2||HOU 6||Zimmerman v. McCullers|
|WED May 24th||DET 6||HOU 3||Norris v. Morton|
|THU May 25th||DET 6||HOU 7||Verlander v. Fiers|
|FRI May 26th||BAL 0||HOU 2||Gausman v. Musgrove|
|SAT May 27th||BAL 2||HOU 5||Miley v. Keuchel|
|SUN May 28th||BAL 4||HOU 8||Asher v. McCullers|
After being swept by the Indians the previous weekend, the Astros started the new week by winning a pitchers duel 1-0. With Keuchel out on the 10-day DL with a nerve issue in his neck, Peacock was given the start. Going in, he was probably expected to pitch around three innings, and only if he could get through those without reaching his pitch limit. Instead, Peacock went four and one-third innings, and did so in dominating fashion by striking out eight batters and giving up only one hit. I wasn’t on the bandwagon of making him a starter immediately, but man did he look good. Devenski came in for the last two outs of the fifth and also pitched the sixth and seventh, and was awarded the win. Harris and Giles pitched the eighth and ninth innings, closing out the strong one-hit performance. The Astros’ one run came in the bottom of the first when Altuve doubled to score Springer.
Tuesday’s win was another great start for Lance McCullers. He only went five innings, but he did so without giving up any runs, only one hit, and struck out five. He exited with a 3-0 lead thanks to a solo home run from Gurriel in the second, a score off of an error by the Tigers in the third, and a solo home run from new catcher Juan Centeno who was called up to fill in for McCann as needed while he sits out with a concussion. The Tigers fought back with a two-run home run from Mahtook in the seventh off of Feliz but were unable to add any more runs. The Astros tacked on three more runs thanks to RBIs from Reddick and Marisnick, along with another run scored thanks to an error by the Tigers. After the two runs were given up by Feliz, the combination of Gregerson, Harris, and Hoyt closed out the 6-2 win.
The Tigers took advantage of a few mistakes from Astros pitching on Wednesday with their 6-3 win. Morton started things off and despite the two earned runs actually pitched a really decent game. If you exclude the third inning in which he got into a jam and gave up two runs on two hits, he pitched 6 other innings with only two hits and six strikeouts. The Tigers added two runs off of a rare bad inning from Devenski in the eighth, then tacked on two more runs off this week’s Johnny-on-the-spot reliever, Jordan Jankowski, who was brought up to fill the empty pitcher spot while Keuchel waited to come back from the 10-day DL. The offense for the Astros consisted of sac-flys from Gattis and Aoki and a ninth-inning solo homer from Bregman. Bregman was one of the stars of the game for the Astros, going just a triple shy of the cycle and making a highlight reel foul catch on the steps of the Tigers’ dugout.
The Astros won a thriller on Thursday, with them and the Tigers going back and forth throughout the game. The Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second off of a RBI single from Upton, then added two more runs in the fourth with Martinez getting ahold of Fiers’ home run pitch he seems to throw every game and a RBI double from Iglesias. The Astros roared back in their half of the fourth, putting up five runs on three homers from Correa, Gonzalez, and Centeno. Both teams added another run in the fifth with the Tigers’ coming from another RBI single from Upton and the Astros’ from a RBI double from Gattis. Upton got his third RBI of the game with a solo homer off of Harris in the top of the seventh, then the Tigers tied the game 6-6 in the eighth when Iglesias got his second RBI double of the game. The Astros got the go-ahead run with a monster home run from Marisnick in the bottom of the eighth, which ended up being the difference maker thanks to another strong close from Giles to end the 7-6 win.
The three-game series against the Orioles started on Friday, and it couldn’t have started much better for the Astros. After his worst start of the year so far against the Indians in his last game, Musgrove came out firing on all cylinders and rebounded in a big way. He threw his best game of the year, blanking the Orioles over his seven innings, giving up just four hits, no walks, and six strikeouts. It was the exact kind of start I wanted to see from him to confirm that the potential is there to at least be a serviceable part in the back end of this rotation. The Astros two runs came from homers from Marisnick in the third, and Beltran in the sixth. Those two runs proved to be enough, even though the Orioles threatened in the eighth with Devenski loading the bases with no outs, but he managed to get out of the inning thanks to a timely strikeout and two shallow flyouts. Giles came in for another lights-out close, wrapping up the 2-0 victory.
It was almost a religious feeling when Keuchel returned for Saturday’s game. The Astros’ bearded cornerstone returned from his short stint on the DL and got his eighth win of the year, staying undefeated at 8-0. He had a shortened start by his standards, going just six innings with eighty-six pitches, but during that time he gave up just one run on four hits, walking two and striking out 8. He left with a 4-1 lead thanks to RBIs from Altuve and Correa in the bottom of the first, then a two-run Springer dinger in the fourth. The Orioles got their second run of the night in the seventh after a wild pitch from Hoyt but weren’t able to bring anyone else home. The Astros added one more insurance run in the seventh thanks to an error induced from a Correa single that allowed Altuve to score. Gregerson and Harris finished out the 5-2 win.
Sunday’s game was looking doubtful early as McCullers struggled in the first two innings giving up a two-run homer and a run scored off an infield single, both by Schoop. After a few dominant starts, it was worrisome to see McCullers come out and look so flat, but luckily after those first two innings he rebounded and gave up just one more hit the rest of his six innings. His rebound could have been largely in part to the momentum shift the offense produced in the bottom of the second. The Astros put up six runs off Asher, including RBI doubles from González and Gurriel, a two-run Springer dinger, and a RBI single from Altuve. They didn’t stop there, they added two more runs in the third with Gurriel getting his second RBI of the game with a single then going on to score on a wild pitch. The Orioles got a solo home run from Trumbo in the eighth off of Hoyt, but could not string together any more offense, allowing the Astros to win 8-4 and finish the 3-0 sweep. Despite the early trouble, McCullers finished with three runs on five hits, walking two and striking out eight. Not the dominant performance he had provided in recent starts, but solid nonetheless.
It was a fantastic week for the Astros, going 6-1 against two decent teams. This lineup is so stacked that opposing pitchers have no spot to expect an easy out. Other than Beltran at .236 and Springer at .243, the rest of the offense is at .250 or better. They have seven guys with 20 or more RBIs. This team is playing great because they don’t have one player that is playing out of his mind and carrying the team, they are getting production all the way down the lineup. It really is exciting to watch these guys play, and it is starting to feel like the special year we thought it would be before it started. They have a 10-game lead in the AL West and continue to hold the MLB’s best record. It’s still early yet, and lots of things can happen between now and the end of the year, but let’s take a moment and just appreciate how good of a thing we are getting to watch.
On the pitching side, it was great seeing Peacock come in and throw a near flawless start, and it looks like he’s going to get a chance to repeat that today. Charlie Morton has been placed on the 10-Day DL with a lat strain and no timetable for return, giving Peacock the nod for Monday’s game against the Twins. Morton’s injury comes at a weird time; news had come out that after the great start from Peacock on Monday, he was actually going to take Fiers’ next start, with Fiers going to the bullpen at least for that game. Now, Peacock will take Morton’s spot and Fiers’ will stay in the fourth spot. Morton has been injury prone in past seasons, so time will tell how this plays out. Hopefully it’s not serious and he can come back because he was starting to heat up and string together good games and be a solid third spot behind Keuchel and McCullers.
MVP of the week – Jake Marisnick: I was pretty conflicted with the MVP this week. There are so many guys that came through to propel the team to wins, including Springer with his own back-to-back games with homers, but I just couldn’t resist picking Marisnick. Going into this year, I completely thought this guy was a bum. I had him down there with how I used to view Chris Carter, a guy that had a 75% chance to come to the plate and strikeout on three pitches. Somehow Marisnick has managed to either play out of his mind or finally show what he’s truly capable of. Either way, I’m loving watching him play on both sides of the ball. Let’s not forget that spectacular throw he made to end that Yankees game earlier this month.
This Week’s Schedule
- Mon-Wed: Astros (35-16) @ Twins (26-20)
- Fri-Sun: Astros (35-16) @ Rangers (25-26)
The Astros will start a ten-game road trip this week, starting with a three-game set against the AL Central-leading Twins. They’ll have their 3-4-5 spots in the rotation (with Peacock filling in for the third spot) against the Twins 1-2-3. Look out for Jason Castro to try and prove something against his old team. After the series in Minnesota, the Astros will travel to Arlington for their first series in the Rangers’ house for the season. They proved in their 3-1 series win at home earlier this year that they are not that team that let the Rangers stomp on them last year. They need to keep that going in Arlington with a series win.