By Will Martin
No question about it. Baseball is a game of inches and of moments that can wipe away the collective effort of a team trying to do improve over a previous standard.
Being the new team on the League block you try to find the positives in spite of all of the glaring weaknesses.
Earlier this day one of the new bright shiny spots of the Houston Astros-Brett Oberholzer-had the unfortunate task of going head-to-head with Yu Darvish.
Yu 11-5 coming into play with the Rangers in 2013. Fans recall the near Perfect Game tossed on April 2nd in a 7-0 victory. Marwin Gonzalez broke up a chance at history on that day, a pinch hitter.
History would repeat itself somewhat on this August 12th date. One week removed from a brilliant 2-0 shutout of the Red Sox in the first of a seven game homestand Brett Oberholzer was money dominant with his command of the strike zone and keeping the ball down on the hitter.
It would take that kind of performance to avert the sweep and a 1-6 homestand. The Texas Rangers jumped on Oberholzer in the first inning on an Adrian Beltre double (scoring Ian Kinsler) and A.J. Pierzynski single. After that a solid six and two thirds of solid pitching by the young pitcher with all the upswing of a long time hurler. Six whiffs, and only seven hits allowed in a 2-1 defeat.
Is there a formula that befits the impressive Brett Oberholzer?
“I’m a guy that likes to settle in,” Oberholtzer said. “They got to me early, but other than that, I felt pretty good. Body-wise, not quite the same [as his first two starts], but some days, you’ll wake up and not feel 100 percent.”
We’ll get to Yu Darvish in a moment but it needs to be said that the rookie hurlers of the Houston Astros-in ten starts since July 12th-have mustered an overall ERA of 1.48! Just like on April 2nd the moxie of Yu Darvish was about to go on display.
A 14 strikeout performance back on April 2nd and 26 straight batters retired on that day Yu Darvish was almost as deadly. A no-hitter was intact going into the 8th inning before Carlos Corporan was called upon to play spoiler with an injured Jason Castro (sore hip) for the second straight day.
With one out in the 8th inning Carlos Corporan hit the first pitch Yu Darvish threw and the ball flew into the Houston Domed skies and landed a few rows back for a solo blast. Now a 2-1 lead in the 8th as Darvish was at 97 pitches entering the 8th inning. You might recall how four months ago 14 Astros batters were fanned. Today the number was bested by 1 to 15. Yu Darvish joined some elite company with Monday’s Matinee performance and 2-1 victory.
Bo Porter can’t wait for the day his Astros don’t have to face the strikeout master, experiencing Deja-Vu.
“It was pretty similar [to April 2],” said Houston manager Bo Porter. “Again, you’re talking about a guy who has top-line stuff, knows how to use it. He throws all his pitches in any count, he pluses and minuses his fastball. First one of the game was 89 [mph]. You look up three innings later, and he’s throwing 96, and it’s all coming from the same arm slot. It’s pretty good.”
I don’t believe in stating the obvious. The bullpen has its issues with closing out games similar to the Angels of Los Angeles. The starting pitching has been the bread and butter of a team now the first at 80 losses in 2013. A 1-10 record in August indeed depressing with a nine game road run to Oakland, Texas, and Anaheim has the makings for more gloom and doom. Getting outscored to the tune of 42-26 at home is indeed frustrating. The overall record in 1-run games now 14-21 for the season. Add the recent 2-8 road trip for a maddening run of having lost 14 of 17, yet…Note the optimism heard from Monday’s Astro hurler in defeat.
“They got two, and after that, they didn’t put up anything,” Oberholtzer said. “I gave my team a chance to win. We knew what we were up against in Darvish, it’s tough competition. I knew what I was up against and battled hard.”
Brett Oberholzer: Having thrown 14 shutout innings against the Red Sox and Orioles and six shutout innings after a first inning blip on the Rangers, what is it about your team that drives you and what about Yu Darvish?
“I still think that today, the offense did a great job,” Oberholtzer said. “Darvish is one of the best pitchers in the game. They battled to the end. He didn’t finish the game, so that says something right there.
“We’re a young team, but we’ve got heart.”
Brett Oberholzer…and Jarred Cosart…two Astros kids I can get very excited about once the growing pains have passed this season. 45 more games and an off-season to ponder, reflect, and learn. This is a process and the kids are slowly taking it all in.
Off to Oakland, a team who has had the Astros number.
8/13 @A’s 9:05 PM
8/14 @A’s 9:05 PM
8/15 @A’s 2:35 PM
8/16 @Angels 9:05 PM
8/17 @Angels 8:05 PM
8/18 @Angels 2:35 PM