By Will Martin
Sunday was spent switching off between the exhibition game with the Houston Texans playing the New Orleans Saints and the finale of a quick three game home set with our friends from north of the border.
The Toronto Blue Jays had never won a game in Houston until Sunday.
Like a broken record I will gush proudly on another great quality start for an Astros pitcher. In this case Dallas Keuchel. The Astros had a chance to attain their first home sweep of a ballclub in 2013. If games went seven or eight innings this team would have a record of respectability, feared by the opposition.
Alas with youth come the growing pains. In defense of closer Chia-Jen Lo he had had nine consecutive quality starts coming into games and being successful. In the 9th inning of Sunday’s game with the Blue Jays the control simply was not there. Four batters reached base-three by the walk as Toronto was able to squeak two runs across and steal a 2-1 victory to end a five game skid against the Astros in Houston and a seven game losing skid overall.
Moises Sierra got the first Toronto rbi on a bases loaded walk. Ryan Goins got the second run batted in on a slow roller off reliever Kevin Chapman allowing Anthony Gose to amble on home for a victory. Not that the Astros didn’t have a chance of their own in the 9th.
Catcher Cody Clark (playing in his 1st major league game as a starter after 11 years in the minor leagues. Can you say Jack Lazorko?) grounded out with the bases loaded of this pitchers duel. One where Jay starter Mark Buehrle made his first appearance since the 2005 World Series as a Chicago representative.
In getting his tenth win Buehrle matched CC Sabathia as the only two hurlers to attain at least ten victories for 15 straight years. Buehrle allowed only one run on eight hits courtesy of a Jake Elmore double play hit with the bases loaded.
Was there any sense of nostalgia for the World Series champion?
“I’d rather forgo some of the personal stuff to be in a better position than we’re at right now,” Buehrle said. “But at the end of the day — and once the season is over and you look back at it — right now I feel like I’m having a decent season, but I still have six or seven starts left, so I have to go out there and finish strong and try to get as many wins as I can.
Poor Dallas Keuchel (5-7 4.82). Seven solid scoreless innings of four hit ball amidst three walks while Houston staked the bad luck hurler with a one run lead going into the 9th. Josh Fields handled the 8th before Lo finally had his 0.90 ERA harassed. Seven quality starts of late with only one win to show for it.
“The bullpen is no different from starting in the sense of you have your off days,” Keuchel said. “You’re not always going to be sharp. It’s how you battle. I thought Lo did a great job of battling, even though he walked a few guys. He did a great job for us. He had a 0.90 ERA before today. It’s one of those things.”
To say nothing about the pace of the game!
“I knew I had Buehrle opposing me and he tends to be pretty fast,” Keuchel said. “My main goal was not to look up at the clock. I try to go as fast as possible and give our team a chance to hit, but he was matching me pitch for pitch and it was actually pretty fun.”
Sadly the bullpen of the Houston Astros blew it’s 23rd lead of the season this date. All part of the lesson of how you close out games when you’re the youngest team in the major leagues.
Bo Porter was a little more matter of fact.
“I think today was just one of those days,” Porter said. “[Lo’s] been outstanding up to that point. Today was the first time out in which he did not attack the strike zone and he ended up walking a number of guys. I don’t think it’s something we will read into too deeply. I think he’ll be fine moving forward.”
Fresh off of two big wins Friday and Saturday by scores of 12-4 and 8-5 a sweep would have helped to erase another week of embarrassment at the hands of the Texas Rangers, losing three games by a combined score of 25-11. In that series finale 9th inning walks were an Astro culprit.
Friday night’s Blue Jay blowout highlighted by a 6 for 11 performance from Jose Altuve, Robbie Grossman, and LJ Hoes. Jonathan Villar had himself a tw run triple in a 5 run 4th inning that allowed Jordan Lyles a night to shine and get the win. The 12 runs were the most since an 11-0 blanking of the Orioles back on July 31st.
Jordan Lyles (6-6) with a second straight quality start after allowing only one run in Oakland.
“Offense, can’t talk about enough them,” Lyles said. “They made it easy to come back out there in the fifth and pound down-and-away fastballs, and I got a couple of quick outs and got the pitch count back in our favor, so really, it was all about the offense. I just tried to stay out of the way.”
Through Friday and since the one hitter thrown at them by Yu Darvish, Houston has played .500 ball going 6-6 and hit .290 as a team. Another of the many speckles of gems deeply hidden within the daily regimen of losses that are close or a complete whitewash.
Bo Porter also addressed the hitting on Friday night.
“We’ve actually been swinging the bats pretty good,” manager Bo Porter said. “I think we had some tough luck where some of the balls in which we squared up happened to find gloves and get caught. I felt like we had some patient at-bats that allowed us to get some walks we hadn’t been getting, and we didn’t expand our zone, which put some more pressure on the pitcher. When you start putting multiple guys on base and getting those big hits, that’s how you put up the type of runs we put up tonight.”
Individually speaking Jarred Cosart (1-1 1.60) and Brett Oberholzer (3-1 2.91) are the future this ballclub is going to build around. Ponder this-with a record currently sitting at 43-86 what if there haven’t been 23 blown saves? What if you could erase the struggles of Philip Humber and Lucas Harrell who were a combined 6-22? 6 and 45! This tells me it’s only a matter of time before the harvest shall commence.
Jason Castro’s two homers in Saturday nights 8-5 victory now place him in revered territory as he will surpass the record for home runs by an Astros catcher. Castro has 17, 15 as a catcher. In 1966 John Bateman also clobbered 17, 16 from behind the plate. Great year for that young man.
Not since Mike Gallo in 2003 has an Astros reliever made nine straight appearances and not allowed a run. You can now add Kevin Chapman to the list.
Earlier in the week Matt Dominguez became the fourth Astro in history to have a 15 homer season at the hot corner before turning 24 joining Cesar Cedeno, Jimmy Wynn, and Jeff Bagwell.
Max Stassi had himself a nice multi-hit debut during the series with the Rangers before getting beaned in the finale on Wednesday. Also a game lost in the 9th on walks 5-4. Stassi will be out a week with concussion like symptoms. Texas has won 14 of 16 games against the Astros. I happened to pick the two games to attend and watch them win (March 31st and July 6th).
Houston (43-86) now heads out to the windy city to play the White Sox for three before beginning a seven game homestand with the Mariners and the Twins to welcome Labor Day weekend and September. Look for a whole slew of young arms and future stars to get the call-ups as the roster will now jump from 25 to 40. We know Brett Oberholzer will start on Monday night. The rest of the rotation to be determined.
A reminder that too many walks will lead to a bad case of the runs. No pun intended. Unless you’re a Texan dealing with issues of the Saintly variety…
8/26 @White Sox 7:10 PM
8/27 @White Sox 7:10 PM
8/28 @White Sox 7:10 PM
8/29 Mariners 7:10 PM
8/30 Mariners 7:10 PM
8/31 Mariners 6:10 PM
9/1 Mariners 1:10 PM