In one of the more interesting games of the season, the Astros used a cannonade of Home Runs to sink the Pirates on Friday night. Pittsburgh, once sitting comfortably atop the NL Central standings, are stuck in a four-game losing streak, are 2-8 in their past ten games, and now sit 16.5 games out. The Astros meanwhile look to finally be gelling a bit, as they now have a .500 win% over their past ten and are 9-10 in the month of September. While still a losing record during the month, they were 3-24 in July and 5-22 in August.
The shots that felled the Bucs came from Jed Lowrie (3-Run HR in the 3rd), Justin Maxwell (Solo HR in the 6th), and Brett Wallace (RBI Triple in the 6th, Solo HR in the 7th). Wallace's triple scored Jed Lowrie who reached base by getting pegged on the right knee, the one that he injured earlier in the season causing him to miss a couple months. Lowrie seemed okay, but was replaced by Marwin Gonzalez later in the game when the score seemed out of reach. Some guys have all the luck, and none of Lowrie's seems the good kind. The final run came on a scary play in which Jose Altuve knocked in a run by getting beaned in the noggin. He's okay.
Astros Starter Edgar Gonzalez looked good in the first inning, but was removed in the 2nd due to a sore right hamstring. Astros Relievers Fernando Rodriguez, Jose Valdez, Xavier Cedeno, Mickey Storey, Rhiner Cruz, and Wilton Lopez combined for 7.1 innings with one run allowed and eleven strikeouts. The only earned run came on a solo Home Run off of Cruz in the 7th by Garrett Jones. This after Cruz struck out Clint Barmes and Andrew McCutchen on back-to-back strikeouts that featured his 98-mph fastball.
The Astros performed no defensive feats of daring-do, and the only error came when Storey overran a grounder in junk time late in the game.
Thoughts on the game can be found below the jump.
- McCutchen has ridiculous bat speed. I always wonder if minor leaguers ever try to model their stances and swings off of the most successful major-league hitters or if they just go with what they learned to be comfortable with in little league? One would think that there are better ways to swing than others, based on the physics of weight distribution, conservation of momentum, center of gravity, and body type. When I see a hitter with an awkward-looking swing, or a stance that has a ton of motion, I always wonder what that player could hit like if the "physics noise" were taken out of their approach. I've had arguments about this with TCB authors and commentors, and I steadfastly believe that a "most effective" method can be defined based on anatomy, physics, and statistical research. Regardless, McCutchen has a dang pretty swing.
- Lowrie's Home Run came Right-Handed against a Lefty pitcher. Lowrie is now hitting only .198 against lefties. With few exceptions, I always question the validity of switch-hitting. This conversation came up daily about Lance Berkman when he was with the Astros. But as a Lefty-Hitting shortstop, there are only a handful (if any) shortstops more successful than Lowrie. As a Righty-Hitting shortstop, Lowrie is not even rosterable this season. Oddly, his 2012 splits are the opposite of his career splits, as he boasts a career .231 BA against righties versus .297 against southpaws. I just can't help but think most switch hitters would be best served by giving up on their weaker side and just concentrate on a one-sided swing. There does not seem to be an advantage in switch-hitting in most cases.
- Quote by Craig Biggio in the booth: "Losing is not okay...winning is fun." Alas, if only this attitude were taught in schools these days. Sports seems to be the only place in society today where we don't pander to the losers and try to make them feel better about their loserhood. Right on, Craig.
- Brett Wallace's Triple was his first of the season. It's now easy to see that building around Altuve, Lowrie, and Wallace is a viable idea for the near future, and Justin Maxwell looks like a great guy to hang on to as well. I love Wallace's approach to his plate appearances.
- One of the Pirates' relievers was Justin Wilson. I thought that guy was a cajun chef who's been deceased for several years. I guess I was mistaken.