This game ended up closer than than I had expected with the Astros putting a 3-spot in the 7th inning against Jose Veras to be within 1 run of tying the game. Veras was wild and Ron Roenicke was just sitting in the dugout, chewing his gum without a look of serious worry on his face. It was the Astros' perfect opportunity to seize the lead. However, with Jose Altuve taking 3 straight strikes in the zone and Matt Downs getting robbed by Aramis Ramirez, this was likely the last inning that they would score any runs with K-Rod and Axford due to pitch the 8th and 9th innings.
Offensively, the Astros fared well in some parts such as Carlos Lee going 3-5; Altuve, Schafer, and Lowrie having two hits each with Schafer having a double. Bogey went 1-4 with a walk and a triple that went down the RF line. On the negative side, the Astros combined for 15 strikeouts with Chris Johnson supplying almost 1/3 of them.
On the pitching side, Lucas Harrell was shaky out of the gate. He went 5 innings, gave up 5 runs, 1 of them being on a Ryan Braun home run. Harrell was having trouble with not only command, but control. 60.5% of his pitches thrown were strikes. After Harrell pitched, Mills went with trusty Brandon Lyon who promptly loaded the bases within minutes of being summoned to the mound (I may be exaggerating). He eventually got out of that jam, but 1 run had to score. Rhiner Cruz, being a pleasant surprise lately came in after Lyon and pitched another shutout inning. He came out into the 8th inning and got two outs before giving up a walk to Jonathan Lucroy. With Ron Roenicke coming up with left-handed pinch hitter George Kottaras, Brad Mills went to the mound to bring in Wesley Wright. Surprising everybody, Wright walks Kottaras, his only batter. Mills then proceeded to bring in Wilton Lopez who got the job done.
Thoughts as I was watching the game, after the jump:
Jason Castro got pummeled by Mat Gamel at the plate. Very lucky he didn't get seriously injured on that play.
Wesley Wright is doing terrible as a loogy. Just walked his only batter. He has done that several times this season. I think it's time to pull the plug on ol' Wesley seeing as Fernando Abad is probably a better option.
One thing that has befuddled me these past few games is that Chris Johnson is getting full playing time AND is consistently being batted 5th or 6th in the lineup. That might not seem bad to some, but it is bad when CJ gets himself into 0-2 counts every time he comes to the plate, strikes out, and ends up leaving one less out for the bottom of the order to work with. If there's such a thing, he's the anti-rally cat. His on base percentage is .302. Altuve's on base percentage is .382. CJ has 2 doubles, 1 triple. Altuve has 3 doubles, 2 triples. Now coupled with visual observations of the two players, Altuve is much more suitable batting in the middle of the order than CJ is at this point in time simply because Altuve's talents such as getting on base are constantly being wasted when he gets a hit or a walk with two outs and the pitcher ends up getting an out to end the inning. I'm not suggesting that Altuve's best spot in the lineup is 5th or 6th, but it is better than having CJ bat 5th or 6th.
Jason Castro is also notable with his performance this past week in showing plate discipline and hitting ability. So imagine a lineup like these where patience sets the precedent for lineup construction:
Schafer, Altuve, Martinez, Lee, Lowrie, Castro, Bogusevic, Johnson, Pitcher
Schafer, Lowrie, Martinez, Lee, Castro, Altuve, Bogusevic, Johnson, Pitcher
I haven't quantitatively analyzed how well these lineups would fare compared to one another, but I would be hard pressed to find a majority of people disagreeing with me.