Astros Lose Another Close One, 3-1

HOUSTON,TX - APRIL 20: Third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. #6 of the Los Angeles Dodgers dives to tag the base before J.D. Martinez #14 of the Houston Astros can slide safely in on April 20, 2012 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)


In yet another close game, the Astros took a little over three hours to fall to the Dodgers 3-1. This game felt interminably long because after the fourth inning, nothing happened except for a slew of walks and strikeouts. JA Happ received his first loss of the season after struggling to find the strike zone in six innings. He survived with only three runs due to some defensive wizardry by Jed Lowrie, who also managed to almost-singlehandedly help the bullpen put up zeroes in the later innings as well. Ted Lilly earns the win, Javy Guerra the save.

In all, if you stopped watching this game in the fifth inning, you would not have missed much. Following were the thoughts I had during the course of the game.

Pregame

  • Juan Rivera’s batting fourth for the Dodgers? That surprises me.
  • The Astros have four hitters with a Batting Average of .300 or over. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that.
  • Who throws harder? Dierker or Ted Lilly?

Ist Inning

  • Who is Justin Sellers? I’m a baseball nerd and I’m not sure I’ve heard of him
  • Defense: Good swing by Sellers on a really tough inside pitch. Nice effort by Chris Johnson on the comet that shot into Left Field as well.
  • Pitching: Only one bad pitch that inning by Happ, but he could not have picked a worse time for it. Confucius says: When you leave a fastball over the middle of the plate for Matt Kemp, he probably will hit it for a home run. Score Astros 0 Dodgers 2.
  • Offense: Lilly’s curve to strike out Altuve…brutal. That pitch was almost unfair.
  • Offense: Nice job by JD Martinez to draw that walk. If I were a hitter, that hitch in Lilly’s windup would drive me crazy.
  • Offense: A.J. Ellis is not framing pitches well. Instead of just moving his glove to catch a breaking ball, it seems like he’s throwing his whole body after them. He won’t get borderline calls from the Ump by doing that. Thus, the Astros now have back-to-back walks. Hey Ted, tell your catcher to keep his body still. Or rather, tell him on Monday morning after you leave Houston.

2nd inning:

  • Pitching: Pitch F/X shows that both pitches by Happ to Hairston were in the center of the strike zone. Not surprisingly, Hairston destroyed the second one. Luckily, he hit it to deep left center and it was catchable. A bit left, and that would have been in the Crawford Boxes.
  • Pitching: The bad pitches to Hairston are followed by a good sequence nibbling the corners to strike out Loney. I’d like to see more consistency from Happ.
  • Pitching: Ted Lilly is averaging 1.21 RBI per year. Coming into this At-Bat, he had 7 Walks in his 14 year career. Now he has 8 Walks. That's probably not something Happ wanted on his resume.
  • Pitching: I really like that Happ seems to be striking out more batters this year (after his 2nd, on Sellers), but so far he’s displayed no control over the strike zone at all.
  • Offense: Bogusevic’s walk is the third by the Astros, which I really like. I haven’t been able to decide if that’s because Lilly is pitching poorly, Ellis is framing poorly, or if the Astros really are taking borderline pitches this season.
  • Offense: Speaking of Ellis, no amount of scowling at the ball after taking it out of his glove is going to erase the fact that he just fell on his butt after catching a pop foul.

3rd Inning:

  • Pitching: Four pitch walk to Matt Kemp. Happ probably should have done that in the first inning instead of serving up a fat meatball.
  • Pitching: Despite all the walks so far, the Umpire’s strike zone is very wide on the outside portion of the plate. Comparing to Pitch F/X, Fox’s pitch tracker is not very accurate. Regardless, Happ is all over the place tonight. Score Astros 0 Dodgers 3 on Ethier single to Left.
  • Offense: Two balls in a row to Maxwell that Pitch F/X shows very much in the zone. A.J. Ellis is still moving an awful lot on breaking pitches, sliding back and forth to get in front of the balls instead of just shifting his glove. As I said earlier, that can really hurt a pitcher who works around the edge of the zone.
  • Offense: Great swing by Altuve, a line drive that bounced off the third base bag. Absolutely incredible play by Hairston sliding into the foul wall, scooping the ball, jumping, and launching all in one motion. Altuve out at second by five steps. Just a great defensive play, but Altuve should not have been sent to second in the first place.
  • Offense: That’s two walks for Martinez. A.J. Ellis is killing Lilly right now. Lee’s first-ever strikeout against Lilly ends the inning.

4th Inning:

  • Pitching: Good changeup by Happ. MLB Gameday gives that one a Nasty Factor of 83. That’s pretty nasty. Not that anybody knows exactly how that’s calculated.
  • Pitching: Umpire is still calling strikes outside the zone. This one benefits Happ, which makes up for the bad ball call on the ninth pitch to Sellers in the previous At Bat.
  • Offense: Curiosity got the better of me. Fangraphs shows Ellis’ catching stats as slightly below-average. Catching stats are pretty sketchy, but my eyes are agreeing.
  • Offense: Lilly is almost hamstrung by a comebacker by Bogusevic. Yikes.
  • Offense: Chris Snyder’s swing for a single is the best contact I’ve seen all night by the Astros. Score Astros 1 Dodgers 3.

5th inning:

  • I’m watching commercials. There’s a J brand on that cow. There’s also a JA on the mound.

Cow_medium

  • Defense: Great heads-up play by Jed Lowrie to realize he couldn’t get Kemp at third. Rivera thought Lowrie was going to third base with that and got caught with his pants down between first and second when Lowrie fires to Lee. Great play.
  • Defense: Another great play by Lowrie to get Kemp at the plate. In two plays, Lowrie salvages Happ’s poor inning. Mark Melancon is back in the minor leagues for the Red Sox, so GM Lunhow’s first big trade looks like highway robbery for the Astros.
  • Defense: After that half-inning, ended by a pop-up catch by Snyder right up the shaft, Happ owes his defenders a fruit basket.
  • Offense: A little bit of my soul sings with joy when Altuve draws a walk, as he just did. My wife is giggling over how fast Altuve had to pump his legs on that steal though.
  • Offense: Interesting strategy to walk the bases loaded to face Lowrie. Lowrie is better against RHP than LHP, and Lowrie is probably a better contact hitter than Johnson anyway. And after a questionable out call at third base on a rocket by Lowrie, it looks like a bad decision by Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, results notwithstanding. This looks like over-management to me, and only a very difficult defensive play by Hairston saved Mattingly from a bad mistake.

6th Inning:

  • Pitching: I’m really surprised to see Happ still pitching in the 6th after 99 pitches.
  • Defense: Lowrie leaps about fifteen feet into the air to catch a line drive for the third out. Happ lasts six full innings, 114 pitches, with three earned runs, four walks, and three strikeouts. It wasn’t a great start, but the results aren’t too bad.
  • I have a problem with fans that can’t seem to figure out how to wear a baseball hat correctly.

7th Inning:

  • Defense: Good relay from Maxwell to Altuve to Lee. They just almost catch Kemp in a force at 1st. Especially nice job by Maxwell, who had a difficult play even to get to the fly ball before spinning and throwing accurately to his cutoff man.
  • Junction Jack looks creepy in the dark. I miss Orbit.

Orbit_medium

  • Not much happened in that half-inning. An appearance by Wesley Wright, the resident LOOGY.
  • Offense: Jordan Schafer is pinch-hitting for Maxwell. I wonder if Maxwell strained himself on that defensive gem in the last inning. Whatever it takes…Schafer leads off with a single.
  • That inning was even less interesting than the previous one.

8th Inning:

  • Pitching: Wilton Lopez’ fastball has more hop tonight than a Saint Arnold’s Endeavour. It has a nice little curve that moves inward towards right handed batters. Results in a strikeout against A.J. Ellis to end the half-inning.
  • Offense: Second walk for Carlos Lee, and that makes seven for the Astros. I feel like they should have scored more than one run by now.
  • Offense: Kenley Jansen just destroyed the Astros in that inning. After the walk to Lee, he struck out the next three batters.

9th Inning:

  • Defense: Jed Lowrie wouldn’t let this game end without another great defensive play, throwing across his body to get Gwynn Jr by a step.
  • Defense: Oh my, I spoke too soon. Lowrie followed that up with another across the body throw from even further away. Caught off the bag by Lee, who tagged out Mark Ellis. Lowrie’s defensive heroics have been the only thing worth watching since the fourth inning.
  • Offense: Javy Guerra makes short work of the Astros with a few more K’s and the game fizzles to an end.

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