For the most part, the Astros pitching staff has been stellar this season. The Astros rotation has a 2.75 ERA as a team. The offense is another story. Tonight was no different expect for three pitches.
Robert Hernandez retired nine-straight batters to start the game. He finished the night allowing three runs on three hits, striking out six, and walking one through six innings. The Angels first test against Hernandez came in the fourth inning. Kole Calhoun put a charge into a belt-high slider to lead off the inning, the ball headed toward Tal's hill. Astros centerfielder Jake Marisnick took a poor first step, and Calhoun ended up on third with no outs. Calhoun would score on a sac fly to short left from Matt Joyce. Colby Rasmus' throw was on target (if only a bit up the line) but took a hard hop in front of the plate. The hop allowed Calhoun to slide under Jason Castro's tag.
The two other pitches that doomed the Astros were to reigning MVP Mike Trout. Trout has shown time and time again that he is the best right-handed low ball hitter in baseball. This is his heat map from 2014:
In the sixth inning, with one on, Hernandez threw a 3-2 sinker to Trout. Trout flipped his wrist and sent the pitch to the Crawford Boxes for his 100th career home run. Chad Qualls put two runners on to start the eighth inning, and faced Trout with an 0-2 count. Trout fell behind 0-2 and fouled off two pitches. Qualls threw his second sinker of the at-bat, once again Trout flipped his wrist and this time went the other way. The ball ended up the seats in right field for Trout's 101st career home run. Trout was simply too much for the Astros on Friday.
Now as for the Astros offense, the juggernaut still hasn't kicked into full gear. It's sputtering like a lawnmower your trying to start for weekend chores. As if it were fighting for life but not quite there yet. Houston was 1-for-5 on the day with runners in scoring position. In the fourth, Evan Gattis smacked a ball down the line that caromed off corner of the stands that sticks out just before it jets back towards the Crawford Boxes. Jason Castro stepped to the plate with Jed Lowrie and Gattis standing on second and third. Castro would ground out weakly to the right side.
Chris Carter, Jake Marisnick, and Jose Altuve strung together three singles to score the Astros first run in the fifth. Altuve stole second, to put runners on second and third in back-to-back innings - this time with one out. George Springer and Lowrie were unable to break the seal on the Astros runs. Marisnick had a mental lapse at third, not tagging on a Springer fly ball instead he played if halfway thinking the ball wasn't going to be caught.
Castro redeemed himself with a towering home run in the sixth to bring the Astros win in one run after the first Trout home run. Astros were on the doorstep of breaking the game open in the seventh. Houston got back-to-back pinch hit singles from Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Villar. Jose Altuve walked to load the bases with no outs. George Springer tied the game with a sac fly, followed by Jed Lowrie grounding into a double play.
The Astros tied the game in the seventh, and gave up the second Trout home run in the eighth to fall 6-3.