Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|TUE Sep 19th||CHI 1||HOU 3||Giolito v. McHugh|
|WED Sep 20th||CHI 3||HOU 4||Shields v. Peacock|
|THU Sep 21st||CHI 3||HOU 1||Fulmer v. Keuchel|
|FRI Sep 22nd||LAA 0||HOU 3||Richards v. Verlander|
|SAT Sep 23rd||LAA 2||HOU 6||Norris v. Morton|
|SUN Sep 24th||LAA 7||HOU 5||Skaggs v. McCullers|
The Astros won their fifth straight game on Tuesday, beating the White Sox 3-1. Mchugh had a good start, going five innings while giving up just one run which came on a RBI double by Abreu in the third. That would be the only run the White Sox would score thanks to five strikeouts from Mchugh and four scoreless innings from Harris, Gregerson, Devenski, and Giles, who earned his thirty-second save of the year. Offensively, the Astros bounced back from the early 1-0 deficit by putting up two runs in the fourth on a solo homer from Altuve and RBI double from Bregman. The Astros added a third run in the eighth on a RBI groundout from Altuve, sending them on to the win.
They would add one more win to make it six straight on Wednesday with a 4-3 win thanks to another solid start from Peacock and some timely offense. Peacock went six strong innings, giving up just one hit which unfortunately was a two-run home run to Moncada in the top of the fourth. That gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead at the time after a RBI single from Gattis in the second had put the Astros up 1-0. Gurriel answered back in the bottom of the fourth with a two-RBI double to give the Astros the lead back 3-2. Altuve extended the lead with a RBI single in the seventh to make it 4-2 before Sanchez trimmed the lead back to 1 with a RBI double off of Gregerson in the top of the eighth to make it 4-3. Musgrove would come in for the final four outs and had another strong appearance out of the bullpen to get the save and seal the win.
The winning streak would come to an end on Thursday as the Astros would lose 3-1 on a night filled with the White Sox’ bullpen. The starter for Chicago, Fulmer, had to exit the game just one out into the bottom of the first inning due to a finger blister, setting up a game filled with seven pitchers out of the bullpen for the White Sox. The Astros were able to get just one run off of them, which came by way of a solo home run from McCann in the bottom of the third inning. Outside of that, the Astros were held to just two other hits and were unable to get any offense going. Keuchel started for the Astros but due to the limited run support earned the loss as a result of two runs he gave up, one in the second as he walked in a run, and then a RBI groundout by Smith in the third with the bases loaded. The White Sox added an insurance run on a solo home run by Anderson in the eighth off of Martes as they cruised to their victory which when combined with the sweep in Chicago earlier this season won them the season series 4-2.
The Astros got back on track Friday night with the fourth straight stellar start from Verlander which surged them on to their 3-0 shutout win over the Angels. Verlander was terrific again, going seven strong innings during which he gave up just one hit and struck out six. Devenski pitched a great eighth setting up Giles for his 33rd save of the year. All of the Astros’ runs came on one great swing of the bat by Gurriel, a three-run blast to left-center which turned out to be the difference maker in an otherwise quiet game offensively for both teams.
Saturday’s game was a lot more interesting offensively in the Astros’ favor. I was somewhat surprised when I turned the game on in the top of the fifth and saw Morton pitching with a 34 pitch count. I had to quickly look up to see who had started and why Morton had been brought in as a long reliever, then I realized that Morton, in fact, had started the game, but had somehow managed to get through the first four innings with only those 34 pitches. Morton’s one blemish on the day was a solo homer by Upton in the top of the seventh, which was Morton’s last inning despite only being at 81 pitches. He left with a 5-1 lead thanks to RBIs from Correa in the first and fifth and a huge three-run blast form Gattis in the fifth. Correa added his third RBI of the game in the bottom of the seventh on a single to make it 6-1. Sipp and Musgrove combined for a scoreless eighth before Harris came in for the ninth. Upton got his second homer of the game off Harris in the top of the ninth, but the Angels were unable to do anything else, sending the Astros to the 6-2 win, which they were able to get despite resting Altuve, Springer, and Reddick.
The Angels got the better of the Astros’ bullpen on Sunday Night Baseball last night, winning the series finale 7-5 and keeping their chances at the second AL Wild Card spot, as slim as they are, alive. McCullers made his first start back from his most recent stint on the DL and looked decent, but not great. He was able to get through the first two innings without too much trouble and struck out four in those two innings, but got into trouble in the third after putting runners on the corner and inducing a ground ball that arguably could’ve gone home but Bregman got the out at second instead. He was able to limit the damage to that one run but gave up a solo homer to Phillips in the top of the fourth followed by a strong line drive out to center which prompted Hinch to go to the bullpen with McCullers being on a limited pitch count anyway. The Astros had a 4-2 lead at the time thanks to a huge bottom of the third where Bregman launched a two-run blast into the Crawford Boxes along with a two-RBI double from Gattis. The momentum shifted in the fifth when Martes struggled in another relief appearance, loading the bases then walking in a run before being pulled for Hoyt. Hoyt came in and walked in a run as well to tie the game at 4 before getting out of the inning. Former Astro Valbuena got the best of Devenski in the top of the seventh, scoring two to make it 6-4 with a double to the fence in right field. The Astros got one back with a Springer Dinger in the bottom of the seventh to trim the lead to one, but Upton answered right back with one of his own off of Gregerson in the top of the eighth, making it 7-5, which would be the final.
The Astros could’ve used the momentum of sweeping the Angels and getting the win last night in primetime to make it a 5-1 week, but a 4-2 week isn’t too shabby either. They won both series while tinkering and tuning things up for the playoffs, which is a good thing. The fight with the Indians will get interesting this week, as the Indians will have three games against the Twins who are trying to hold off everyone else for the second Wild Card spot, but then finish with three against the lowly White Sox. The Astros currently sit 2.5 games behind the Indians, meaning they’ll have to have a great week paired with some Indian losses to overtake them and clinch home field throughout the AL playoffs.
Even though it looks like it may be time to shut McCullers down or move him to the bullpen, I’m not worried because of the fierce competition for the playoff rotation going on between Peacock, Morton, and McHugh. I wouldn’t fault Hinch for putting any of those guys in the third spot in the rotation, they’ve all been dealing. Verlander has been outstanding, and I have a feeling Keuchel will be better than ever on the playoff stage. Things are shaping up for a fun playoff run, and I still think the Astros have as good a shot as anyone.
MVP of the Week – Carlos Beltran: Unlike my usual MVP of the week which is a player who shined in that particular week, I had to get in Carlos Beltran for his overall success and for what he’s brought to the team this year. When I heard the Astros landed him this year, I knew it was to bring his veteran presence to this young team, and even though we can’t see exactly how he’s helped in that way, it’s apparent that this team looks and plays more maturely than they would had he not been brought in. In addition to that, last night he hit his 2,722nd hit of his career passing Lou Gehrig for 62nd of all time. Also, he donated $1,000,000 of his own money to aid Puerto Rico during their hurricane rebuild efforts. He’s a class act on and off the field, and the Astros are better for having him this year.
This Week’s Schedule
- MON-WED: Astros (95-60) @ Rangers (76-79)
- THU-SUN: Astros (95-60) @ Red Sox (91-64)
Seven more games in the regular season before the fun starts. They start a three-game series in Arlington tonight with the virtually eliminated Rangers (this series they wanted to keep at home so bad is going to end up being for nothing, by the way) before heading to Boston for what could be a potential ALDS preview against the Red Sox. The Astros need to keep their foot on the gas, not only to try and pass the Indians for the best record but to keep their momentum going into the playoffs strong.