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Astros 3, Dodgers 1: Abra-Kazmir Waves His Wand, Vanishes Dodger Bats

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The night after Mike Fiers threw a 134 pitch no hitter with 10 strikeouts, Scott Kazmir pitched a gem of his own to earn the win against the Dodgers

Bob Levey/Getty Images

There are times, ever so rarely, when a certain twinkle in his eyes and a certain angular tilt of the head from Scott Kazmir - say, after a particularly nasty strikeout - somehow evokes imagery of a young Gene Wilder.  It's almost as if he has a secret from the hitters.  If you close your eyes and strain your ears, you can almost hear a song drifting gently on the breeze, emanating from deep withinin the Astros clubhouse...

"Oompa Loompa doompadee doo...I've got another strikeout for you..."

What Happened

As has come to be the expectation, not the aberration, Scott Kazmir was electric tonight for the Houston Astros.  He pitched around the rare trouble he got in with only one exception, an RBI single off the bat of Justin Turner in the top of the 6th inning to drive in Jimmy Rollins from second.  Rollins had attempted to stretch a single into a double earlier in the game, just to be thrown at second by Colby Rasmus.  That play was challenged by the Dodgers and appeared close, but the call on the field of "out" was upheld by New York.

Another very critical play which was reviewed and went the Astros' way was a ground rule double off the bat of new Dodger Chase Utley.  Originally off the bat, the ball bounced down the right field line up and out of the field of play, caroming off the support base of the foul pole and bouncing back towards center field.  Chase Utley raced all the way around to third before being sent back upon review to second with a ground rule double.  This was of crucial import, as the very next batter (former Astro Kike Hernandez) flied out to right field with one out, advancing Utley to third instead of driving him in from third base.  Utley was then stranded on third base when Alex Guerrero struck out two batters later to end the inning.

On the offensive side of the ball for the Astros, they were outhit on the night 7-3 by the Dodgers, but the first hit of the game came to lead off the bottom of the first inning when Jose Altuve tripled on a line drive to center field.  As a bit of an anomaly, it was Altuve's first triple of the season - slightly strange for the league leader in stolen bases.  Then, after Carlos Gomez grounded out, Carlos Correa drove in Altuve from third thanks to an error by third baseman Justin Turner.

After that first inning run, both of the runs came via solo home runs for the Astros.  First, Luis Valbuena hit his 22nd home run of the season in the bottom of the second inning, and Jose Altuve followed with his tenth of the season in the bottom of the 6th inning.

Video courtesy of the Astros.com video archive

Altuve's home run was special in a couple of ways.  First, he reached double digits in home runs for the first time in his career.  Second, and particularly noteworthy, the Astros now have nine players who are in double digits in home runs for the season.  And they might not be done - some of the guys on the below list might still reach double digits, themselves.

Name

# Home Runs

Luis Valbuena 22
Evan Gattis
19
Chris Carter
17
Colby Rasmus 17
Carlos Correa 15
George Springer
13
Preston Tucker
12
Jose Altuve 10
Jason Castro
10
Hank Conger
8
Marwin Gonzalez
8
Jake Marisnick
6
Jed Lowrie
5
Carlos Gomez 1

Admittedly, Jake Marisnick, Jed Lowrie and Carlos Gomez are all going to have to get pretty hot in the last month of the season to get to double digits, but it is certainly possible.

It's a very streaky, feast or famine lineup that relies too much on home runs.  But the power, the magic, comes from the fact that opposing pitchers - even ones as dominant as Greinke - can't effectively game plan to avoid home runs from this team because the home runs can literally come in any at bat from any spot in the lineup.  It's almost like guerrilla warfare.  Against nine Predators.  You just never know when one is going to deactivate his active camouflage and kill you.

A worthy addendum: Preston Tucker was (inexplicably, to me, he's arguably the fifth best hitter on this team, and one of the other four is still on the DL trying to return from a wrist injury) optioned back to the minors in lieu of a player like Jake Marisnick to make room on the major league roster for Lance McCullers to return for tomorrow's start versus Clayton Kershaw.