Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|TUE August 29th*||TEX 12||HOU 2||Perez v. Fiers|
|WED August 30th*||TEX 8||HOU 2||Cashner v. Keuchel|
|THU August 31st*||TEX 1||HOU 5||Martinez v. McHugh|
|SAT Sep 2nd – Game 1||NYM 8||HOU 12||Harvey v. Morton|
|SAT Sep 2nd – Game 2||NYM 1||HOU 4||Lugo v. Peacock|
|SUN Sep 3rd||NYM 6||HOU 8||Flexen v. Fiers|
|* Games Played in Tampa Bay|
In case you didn’t read my article on the subject last week detailing why the Rangers are the worst, the Rangers refused to swap series with the Astros in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, forcing both teams to head to Tampa Bay for their three game series. The Rangers took advantage of the Astros, probably pre-occupied and travel-worn, taking the first game 12-2. Eight of their runs came off of Fiers between the third and fourth innings, including a two-run homer by Gallo. Martes followed Fiers and gave up a three-run home run of his own to Choo. The Rangers twelfth run came from Mazara off of Clippard in the eighth, before third baseman J.D. Davis came on as a position player pitcher in the ninth with the game out of hand. The Astros’ two runs came in the third on RBI singles from Bregman and Altuve.
Things continued to go the Rangers’ way in Wednesday’s game where they took advantage of a bad inning from Keuchel. It all fell apart in the fourth inning for Keuchel where he loaded the bases, walked in a run, gave up a two-RBI single to Gomez, then a three-run home run to Napoli to give the Rangers a big six-run inning. Other than the horrible fourth inning, Keuchel was otherwise relatively good, striking out seven and giving up just five hits during his six innings of work, but that bad inning was just too much for the offense to overcome, giving him his third loss on the year. The Astros only run came on a Beltran sac-fly in the second, sending them to the 8-1 loss after Liriano gave up RBIs to Andrus and Gallo in the ninth for their final two runs.
Things turned around for the Astros starting on Thursday thanks to good pitching, a more active offense, and some passion from manager A.J. Hinch. The Rangers took an early lead on a RBI groundout by Mazara in the first, but that would be their lone run in the game. In the bottom half of the first Springer got a leadoff single but was ruled out stealing second after Bregman was called for interference, which Hinch came out to argue passionately, resulting in getting thrown out. It’s just my opinion, but I think Hinch knew there was no way he was going to win the argument, he was going out to show some passion and fire the team up. It clearly worked, because in the next at-bat Altuve drove a ball into the seats in left field to tie the game. The Astros went ahead in the fourth inning on a RBI single by Reddick, then added three more runs in the eighth thanks to a two-RBI single by Bregman and a RBI single from Fisher. On the pitching side, even though McHugh only gave up the one early run, he found himself with a high pitch count allowing him to only get through four and two-third innings. Devenski and Giles came in and both pitched terrifically in extended-relief appearances, combining for the final four and one-third innings without giving up a hit, carrying the Astros to the 5-1 win. There was some bad news in the game, Beltran left the game after being hit in the foot by a pitch in the seventh, but is expected to be back in the lineup soon. The Astros winning the game wasn’t the only good news on Thursday; they were able to land two players before the deadline, one of which is expected to be a major component of a championship season. More to come on that later.
The Astros made their emotional return to Houston with the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. With new “Houston Strong” logo patches on their jerseys which they will wear for the remainder of the year, the Astros showed they were just that, winning the offensive heavy game 12-8. The Astros jumped all over Harvey early, putting up seven runs across the first and second innings, including the first RBI for Maybin as an Astro and a two-run Springer Dinger. Morton had a decent start, giving up just two runs and striking out nine in his five innings of work. The scoring would go back and forth for the rest of the game, including a horrible inning for Martes and Harris who combined to give up five runs including a grand slam by Flores off of Harris. The Astros added more runs on RBIs from Reddick, Kemp, and a solo homer from Davis. All in all, the Astros were able to outhit and outpower the Mets on their way to the much-needed win in front of the home crowd.
The second game of the day on Saturday night was a lot quieter offensively with the exception of the sixth inning. Peacock started for the Astros and pitched another good game, but was pulled in the sixth inning after reaching the 100 pitch mark with runners on first and third with one out. He would end up being charged with the Mets’ lone run of the game thanks to Liriano who came in after him and gave up a double against his first batter. Musgrove followed Liriano and pitched two and one-third innings of great relief, setting up Giles for the ninth inning save, his twenty-eighth of the year. Offensively, the Astros’ runs also came in the sixth inning but they were able to score four off of Lugo with RBIs from Reddick, Gonzalez, McCann, and Davis, sending them to the 4-1 win.
The Astros completed the sweep and got their fourth straight win on Sunday in the 8-6 win, which was another back-and-forth offensive game, and also the long-awaited return of Correa. The Mets took advantage of another bad start from Fiers, who has reverted back to what I call “Bad Fiers”. Fiers was charged all six of the Mets’ runs as they put up two-runs each in the first, second, and fifth innings. Luckily, the Astros were still up 7-6 at the time thanks to RBIs from Reddick in the first and third, Correa in the third, a three-run blast by Maybin in the third, and a solo homer from Springer in the fourth. Reddick got his third RBI of the game for the Astros’ eighth run in the seventh, sending them on to the 8-7 win thanks to excellent bullpen work from Clippard, Harris, Gregerson, and Devenski. Devenski was the highlight, pitching the final two innings giving up just one hit and getting three strikeouts to lock up the two-inning save.
Despite dropping the first two games of the week, the Astros finished the week strong with four straight wins including the sweep of the Mets at home to end the week at 4-2. I may be more excited now than ever about the potential of this team, and it’s because they are finally healthy and have added the big piece we’ve been waiting for all year. In case you haven’t heard, the Astros finally landed Justin Verlander literally at the stroke of midnight on September 1st. Verlander is that strong starter this team has needed for quite some time and will fit in as the second spot in what is a now a dangerous rotation with the return of McCullers this week. Bringing in Verlander and getting McCullers back means that they can drop Fiers out of the rotation who has been struggling, and also send Peacock to the bullpen where he can come in for high-stress situations or if the Astros need some long innings of relief. Musgrove has been on fire in the bullpen recently, and Giles is having a Lidge-like season from 04-05 making him a lights-out closer. As long as McCullers is completely healthy, and Keuchel can be in his best form, this pitching staff is dangerous.
Offensively, the Astros acquired Maybin from the Angels which gives them speed on the bases and he has been hot on offense as well. Also, yesterday was the return of Correa which provides a huge boost in the batting order. Pair that with the hot bats of Bregman and Reddick, the power of Springer, and the dependability of Altuve, and this team is offensively as potent as ever. In addition to how well the team is doing, they now have a city to fight for and one that is behind them, giving them that much more motivation to perform. As of now, the Astros are the team to beat in the AL, and they could keep the winning streaks going to end the regular season with 100 wins.
MVP of the Week – Josh Reddick: Reddick gets back-to-back MVP of the week honors from me for another hot week of offense. Reddick had seven RBIs while only playing in five of the six games this week. He hit 8 for 20 earning a .400 average on the week, moving up to .311 for his season average. He continues to drive in runs and keep the offense clicking.
This Week’s Schedule
- MON-WED: Astros (83-53) @ Mariners (69-68)
- FR-SUN: Astros (83-53) @ As (58-78)
The Astros start a string of games against the AL West today with the opener of a three game series in Seattle against the Mariners who are one game above .500 and still in the mix for the AL Wild Card. Then, the Astros head to Oakland for a weekend series against the As but will play a doubleheader on Saturday to make it a four game series. The way the Astros played against the Mets, and with the added boost of Verlander getting thrown into the mix, I give this week a floor of 5-2 and a ceiling of 7-0.