By CHRIS CAMPISE
Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|TUE July 11th||AL All-Stars 2||NL All-Stars 1||Sale v. Scherzer|
|FRI July 14th||MIN 5||HOU 10||Berrios v. Morton|
|SAT July 15th||MIN 4||HOU 2||Santana v. Musgrove|
|SUN July 16th||MIN 3||HOU 5||Gibson v. Fiers|
The week for six Astros players started on Tuesday in Miami for the All-Star game. Though six made the team, Keuchel sat out with his neck injury and McCullers did not see the field, meaning the Astros were represented by Altuve, Correa, Springer, and Devenski in the actual game. Altuve was put in the leadoff spot, Springer batted cleanup in the fourth spot, with Correa behind him in the fifth slot. They combined to go 0-7 at the plate which is something you would rarely see during a regular season game, proving how tough the pitchers in the game were. Altuve and Correa did get to show off some defensive skill by turning a double play in the second inning, and Devenski pitched a shutout eighth inning. Scoring was scarce in the game as a result of the caliber of pitching, with the AL getting a run in the fifth off of a RBI single from Cano, and the NL getting their one run on a Molina solo home run in the sixth. The game went to extra innings but the tie was quickly broken with a Cano home run in the top of the tenth, sending the AL to the 2-1 victory, which this year meant nothing more than bragging rights since home field advantage in the World Series was no longer at stake.
The Astros first game back after the break was on Friday night hosting the Twins. Dozier started the game with a leadoff solo home run off of Morton to give the Twins a 1-0 lead, but the lead would be short lived. The Astros’ offense exploded in the second and third innings to put up ten runs on RBIs from Bregman, Springer, Reddick, Correa, and home runs from McCann and Gonzalez. Morton struggled late in his start, loading the bases in the fourth followed by a bases-clearing double to Dozier, then gave up another run in the fifth on a sac fly to Polanco to make it a 10-5 game. Luckily, he had plenty of run support to keep the game out of reach, and the bullpen combo of Feliz, Devenski, Gregerson, and Giles came in for four shutout innings to close out the 10-5 win.
Musgrove made his second start since returning to the rotation on Saturday and suffered some bad luck. For the second straight game, Dozier hit a leadoff home run to give the Twins an early 1-0 lead. The Astros fought back to a 2-1 lead with a RBI double from Gurriel in the second then an Altuve solo home run in the third, but their scoring would stop there. The Twins tied the game in the fifth after Musgrove loaded the bases with no outs, allowing a run to come in on a double play. He loaded the bases again in the sixth with no outs, prompting a call to the bullpen. Sipp came in and tried to field a comebacker that bounced off the tip of his glove, out of the reach of Altuve, and into right field, scoring two runs in the process. Those two runs would be the difference as the Twins would go on to win 4-2 on a cold night for the Astros’ offense.
Sunday’s rubber match had some early back-and-forth before the Astros put things away later in the game. The Twins scored first and took a 1-0 lead on a solo homer for the third straight game, this time from Vargas in the top of the second. The Astros answered back with a RBI single from Marisnick in the bottom of the inning to tie it 1-1. The Twins got a second home run in as many innings and made it 2-1 in the third on a Adrianza homer. The Astros took the lead back in the bottom of the fourth on a two-RBI double from Aoki to make it 3-2. The Astros added two more runs in the seventh when Marisnick scored from second on a groundout and throwing error, then Altuve scored after hitting a double, stealing third, then running home on a dropped strikeout as the play went to first. Despite the two solo home runs given up, Fiers had a really good day going seven innings which hadn’t been done by an Astros starter in a month, and did so with eleven strikeouts and no walks along the way. I’ll forgive the two home runs with a performance like that, especially if the run support is there. Devenski came in and had a shutout eighth inning on seven pitches, followed by Giles who struggled a bit in the ninth and gave up a run on a sac fly, but was still able to close out the 5-3 win and get his twentieth save.
It was a short week because of the All-Star game, but the Astros continued their season-long trend of winning two games for every game they lose by going 2-1 in the weekend series against the Twins. Things are looking up for the Astros; Keuchel will make a rehab start tonight, and McHugh has finished his rehab starts and is slated to rejoin the team this weekend in Baltimore. The Cubs snatched up Quintana who was one of those strong arms the Astros could benefit from trading for, but there are still guys out there that they could make a move for, which would make this team as dangerous as anyone. At this point, the Astros just need to make sure everyone is healthy and mentally prepared for October because it would take a collapse of historic proportions to miss the playoffs.
MVP of the Week – Chris Devenski: Devenski has evolved into a lights-out part of the Astros’ bullpen. He does have bad nights, but they have become a rarity in comparison to his good ones. As of now, Devenski is one of, if not the only, guys I would feel completely comfortable going to in a tight playoff game. His stuff is absolutely filthy, and he has the arm that can provide multiple innings of work too.
This Week’s Schedule
- MON-WED: Mariners (46-47) @ Astros (62-30)
- FRI-SUN: Astros (62-30) @ Orioles (42-49)
The Astros get three more games at home before they go on the road for nine games. They’ll get a series against the Mariners who are tied with the Rangers for second place in the AL West, both 16.5 games back. Their first series on the road is this weekend against the Orioles who are 9 games back in the AL East. At this point, anything less than a 4-2 week is going to feel like a disappointment.