The Houston Astros can't catch a break with their starting pitching lately. Mike Fiers continued a worrying streak of Astros starters giving up big numbers in the early innings. He failed to last even three innings tonight, pitching only 2.1 innings and giving up 7 runs on 7 hits (one a solo shot to Jorge Soler) while walking 2 and striking out none.
Meanwhile, the Astros were flummoxed against Chicago Cubs starter Jake Arrieta until the fourth inning. Jose Altuve would hit a solo shot to cut the lead to a still abysmal 9-1 scoreline. However, it wasn't the only damage the Astros would deal to Arrieta. In the bottom of the sixth inning the Astros started to rally.
I will say, even when score is seemingly out of reach, the Astros hitters don't give up. It was a very wonky half inning, filled with a few wild pitches and timely hitting that ultimately led to two more runs for the home team. George Springer got plunked, Alex Bregman doubled him home, Altuve singled and advanced to second and third with Bregman scoring on back-to-back wild pitches by Arrieta to A.J. Reed and suddenly it was 9-3. It was a glimpse at how well this team can score runs on a whim.
After Fiers was yanked, the Astros bullpen started going to work. Aside from a two-run homer given up by Jandel Gustave to Addison Russell in the top of the fourth inning (1.2 innings pitched, 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 3 strike outs), the bullpen shut down the Cubs the rest of the night.
Pitchers Michael Feliz, James Hoyt, Pat Neshek and Brady Rodgers gave up a combined 1 walk while striking out 8 in 5 innings of relief. The bullpen has really picked up the slack in an amazing way. Rodgers in particular looked very good. He was slinging strikes on the edge of the zone and getting hitters to chase. It was a nice bounce back performance after two very rough appearances welcomed him to The Show.
Yulieski Gurriel continues his impressive start to his big league career. In the bottom of the ninth, Yuli jacked a solo shot into the Crawford Boxes to lead off the inning. I love watching him during every at-bat; you can tell he has a plan. He's very cool and confident at the plate.
Another cool and confident batter is Evan Gattis. The big man immediately followed up on Yuli's home run with a deep fly of his own. The difference, however, was just how far the ball flew off his bat. His homer ended up landing on top of the train tracks in left center field. It was a no doubter at the crack of the bat. Sadly, that would end the Astros' scoring for the night. Final score, Cubs 9 - 5 Astros.
The Astros are now 3.5 games back in the Wild Card race. They will welcome in the Texas Rangers for another tough three game set starting on Monday. Doug Fister will start for the Astros against the Rangers' Martin Perez. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM CT.