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Astros take series opener; beat A's 4-3

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Obligatory mention that interim manager, Tom Lawless, is still undefeated.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Carter continued his assault on unsuspecting baseballs, as he crushed his 36th HR of the season.  Thirty six.  That would be exactly one behind the MLB leader Nelson Cruz.  Burninate young man, burninate.

Brett Oberholtzer pitched a solid game, earning a quality start.  He also pitched around some sub-par defense (some of it his own fault), so his overall pitching performance was actually better than the numbers might indicate.  On the offensive side, it was essentially 3 guys tonight.  Jonathan Singleton hit a solo shot in 3rd inning, his 13th of the year.  Jose Altuve had yet another multi-hit game (he went 2-4), with his first hit of the evening coming in the top of the 4th.  He proceeded to steal 2nd, his league-leading 51st of the year.  He was driven in by a Carter single to center.  Carter then hit a go-ahead 2-run HR in the 6th, and a strong bullpen performance by Veras and Sipp secured the victory.  Although that was the game in a nutshell, here are some observations from the game:

- I think it might be time to play Marisnick in CF.  I really like his arm in RF, but I think he is the best defensive centerfielder on the team.  George Springer has a strong arm too, so he slots in nicely in RF, leaving LF to Fowler.  I wonder if management is simply waiting on Springer to get back on the field to make the CF switch, to avoid asking Fowler to move all around the outfield in a relatively short period of time.  It makes sense in theory at least.

- Singleton continues to flash exciting tools.  His swing is a thing of beauty, and seeing him turn on a first pitch fastball to the right-center power ally is rather impressive.  He actually made a couple of real nice plays at first too, which is also exciting to see.  As is the case with most rookies, we just hope for more consistent play.

- Jose Altuve is a hitting machine.  With two more hits tonight, he now has a league-leading 196 hits.  He passed Enos Cabell to move into 4th on the Astros' single season hit leaderboard.  Biggio unsurprisingly has the current single-season hit record with 210, but 2nd and 3rd really surprised me.  Miguel Tejada is currently second with 199, and Derek Bell is third with 198.

- Adam Everett looks like he hasn't aged a day since the Astros' 2005 World Series run.  Good for him, and he looked rather comfortable as the bench coach sitting next to undefeated Tom Lawless.  I know that these two are just the interim coaches, but they just might be on to something.  And I welcome any chance that reminds me of that amazing double-play turned by Eric Bruntlett and Adam Everett, it still gives me chills to this day.

- I think there is a lesson or two to be learned from the A's offense falling off a cliff.  Coincidentally or not, it appears to have happened right around the trade deadline, when they traded away Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester.  Looking at stats alone, I can see why most, including myself, would come to the conclusion that Cespedes' production could have been easily replaced.  But lineup construction is more complicated than that.  Even when he wasn't producing at his peak, his mere presence is felt in the lineup.  Opposing teams still know exactly how many batters are between his next at bat.  Josh Donaldson will get much better pitches to hit with Cespedes protecting him.  It really has a trickle-down effect, and changes the feel of the entire lineup.  The Blue Jays went through something similar after Edwin Encarnacion missed considerable time due to injury.  And I think Astros' fans can relate as well, as we experienced that with George Springer.

- That got me wondering if Billy Beane had a mulligan and could do it all over again, would he still make that trade?  Does he still trade Addison Russell for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel?  Lastly, going full circle, it got me thinking of the good ol' trade with the main pieces being Jed Lowrie for Brad Peacock, Max Stassi, and Chris Carter.  Although Jed Lowrie has had good production and been a good value for the A's, Billy Beane no doubt would welcome Chris Carter's bat in the A's lineup.  And yes, Jed Lowrie has been an Astros-killer thus far.  But Carter still remembers the trade as well, and he has been wearing out the A's to the tune of hitting 7 HR's against them this year, to go along with 20 RBI's.  Doing that much damage to your former team has to feel good.