The weekend was filled with memories, some fond and some not so much. Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt retired as Astros. It just feel right to have the Puma and the Wizard back on the field. The highlight package of their careers was already playing in my head well before it actually played on the big screen in Minute Maid Park.
Unfortunately, all the good will built up by the retirement ceremony went out the window and went out fast. The Astros looked outmatched for much the contest on Saturday.
Astros 1 - Angels 5
The lineup card piled more questions on top of the fact the Astros would be without Jason Castro and Dexter Fowler for another game. Fowler fighting a stomach virus and Castro resting a sore foot. Jesus Guzman in left, Robbie Grossman in center, and Chris Carter at first. Matt Dominguez in the lineup but manning the designated hitter spot. My point is not to question Bo Porter, because there are many different factors that play in lineup creation. What was the thought process for Matty D at DH instead of Marwin Gonzalez who played third in his place. What makes Guzman a better infielder playing the outfield over Carter? Just some of the questions that came to mind.
It didn't feel like the Astros were putting their best foot forward - it showed. LJ Hoes completely missed played a ball hit directly at him right field. Jesus Guzman charges a sharply-hit ball in the outfield and somehow slung it with his glove like he was playing jai alai.
Dallas Keuchel showed why the writers at TCB picked him to be the darkhorse of 2014, but also showed why he lost his rotation spot in 2013. The left-hander labored through five innings, giving up four runs on eight hits. He seemed to be one pitch away from taking control of the game at all times, striking out five batters including Mike Trout twice. But, he left too many pitches up.
Matt Albers was once again strong, pitching two scoreless innings in relief of Keuchel. Chad Qualls and Josh Fields finished of the game for the Astros. Qualls allowed one run after giving up a leadoff triple to Erick Aybar.
Speaking off Aybar, he had come into the game with two hits over the first four games of the season before doubling that hit total saturday. The same goes for Howie Kendrick, who hadn't collected hit yet in 2014 coming into Houston - he now has six through the first three games.
The Astros continued their long tradition of making rookie pitchers look like Cy Young. The Astros mustered four hits against Tyler Skaggs over eight innings. Their only run coming as a result of an error. Skaggs was sharp - striking out five and walked one on 95 pitches.
Astros 7 - Angels 4
Jason Castro returned to the lineup today, and quickly made his presence known. Castro took 3-time All-Star Jered Weaver deep for a two-run homer off the left-center field wall. Home run would be the word of the day for the Astros. All seven of the Astros' run came as a result of the long ball. Matt Dominguez left the yard in the second. Jesus Guzman joined the party in the fourth with his homerun. Alex Presley deposited a 70mph curveball into the Astros bullpen. Finally, Jonathan Villar went the other way with his home run, scoring LJ Hoes.
Weaver gave up five runs over 5.2 innings of work. A rough outing for the ace of a staff that needs to squeeze out every drop of quality pitching it can get. Matt Shoemaker finished the game for the Angels. He was perfect over his first two innings of work before back-to-back by Hoes and Villar (including the previously talked about home run).
Outside the offensive fireworks, Scott Feldman was the bright spot for the Astros once again. Felman allowed one run over seven innings of work. Much of the talk over the offseason at TCB centered around accepting that the idea that even league average player was an improvement over the current roster. Feldman fit that mold, but he has been much more than that in 2014 - allowing one run over his first 13.2 innings.
Anthony Bass had pitched 3.1 scoreless innings before allowing hits to four of the five hitters he faced in the ninth. The Angels scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to make the game close before Chad Qualls shut the door.
The Astros have shown flashes that they are clawing their way out the basement, this was just another step along the way.