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Battling Bats, Dazzling Defense Stymie South Side Sox, 7-1.

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Astros Sweep Series, End Road Trip 6-1

MLB: Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

O Chicago, how can we beat thee?

Let me count the ways.

  1. Hitting...After scoring 20 runs the last two games, the Astros followed up today with another solid seven run performance, knocking ten hits and coaxing 7 walks while keeping constant pressure on the beleaguered White Sox staff. Though not as proficiently as in the previous two games, the Astros bats bunched together clutch hits and plated runners in scoring position. Some dormant bats came to life today, with Jake Marisnick starting a big rally with his first hit in 22 at bats, Marwin Gonzalez getting a key two run double, and Evan Gattis contributing 2 RBI and homering for the first time this year.
  2. Pitching...Since the road stand began last Monday, the Astros staff has not allowed more than 2 runs in a game. Against the White Sox they gave up two runs in 3 games. At the 22 game mark the starters possess an all-time record for most strikeouts, 172.

Today, Lance McCullers surrendered only one run through six innings, backed up by 3 scoreless relief innings by Will Harris, Ken Giles and Chris Devenski.

By now every true baseball fan knows the Astros rotation is challenging for consideration as one of the BEST EVER. Overlooked is the bullpen. During this road trip the Astros relievers have thrown 15 innings and surrendered only 2 earned runs, those by Tony Sipp in his first appearance off the DL in low leverage.

For the year the Astros bullpen has pitched 65 innings, surrendering 18 earned runs, with a 2.49 ERA and a 2.92 FIP. By comparison the starters, historically good, mind you, have a 2.10 ERA and a 3.01 FIP.

Overall the Astros staff is best in MLB in ERA, K’s and second in WHIP. Meanwhile, the bullpen is third in ERA and WHIP.

3. Defense...On a day when Lance McCullers, with only 3 K’s, clearly lacked his best stuff, the defense kept the game close until the bats finally ignited later in the game. Although McCullers gave up 8 hits and a walk in 6 innings, and had multiple base runners in four of his six innings pitched, the fielders bailed him out with 4 double plays.

But perhaps the turning point of the game, with the White Sox ahead in the third, 1-0, came when last night’s offensive hero, right fielder Josh Reddick, directed a missile to the plate, eliminating Yoan Moncada, who was trying to score from second on Jose Abreu’s single. (A very close play upheld on appeal). What could have been a fatal White Sox rally against a pitcher on the ropes was killed in its tracks.

The White Sox opened up the scoring in this game in the second inning with a Matt Davidian double followed by another double by Yolmer Sanchez, plating Davidian.

Thanks to the aforementioned stellar defense and gutsy pitching, this would be the Sox’s only score of the day.

The Astros would begin their onslaught with a run in the fifth, starting with a George Springer double, an Altuve ground out to advance Springer, and a Carlos Correa sac fly. That would be their only run against 24 year old starter Reynaldo Lopez, who pitched admirably but was removed in the fifth inning after 100 pitches.

That was just preparation for the fatal barrage. The Astros’ seventh would begin with a single by pinch hitter Jake Marisnick against the losing pitcher, Aaron Bummer. After a wild pitch by Bruce Rondon and a passed ball sent Marisnick to third, George Springer walked, and Jose Altuve stroked a solid single to left, scoring Marisnick. A Correa walk loaded the bases, and Springer scored on a clean Alex Bregman single to left. The decisive hit of the day was Marwin Gonzalez’ ground rule two run double, his second in two nights. The scoring that inning was completed when Evan Gattis hit a sharp grounder to shortstop with Bregman running home from third. Bregman just beat the tag at home for the fifth run of the inning, Gattis getting the RBI on the fielder’s choice.

The game’s last run scored when Evan Gattis lumberjacked a solo homer to left in the eighth inning, his first of the year.

Notes: Carlos Correa is making his early bid for MVP and for this week’s player of the week. Here are a few key stats for this week, and ytd, for seven of the leading contenders in the AL. (If you can think of others add your comment.)

Carlos Correa

Season: BA .351 OPS .993 HR 4 RBI 19 WAR 1.2 Week: BA .542 OPS 1.439 HR 2 RBI 7

Aaron Judge

Season: BA .324 OPS 1.070 HR 6 RBI 15 WAR 1.5 Week: BA .286 OPS 1.159 HR 3 RBI 6

Mike Trout

Season: BA .306 OPS 1.088 HR 9 RBI 17 WAR 2 Week: BA.429 OPS 1.452 HR 3 RBI 4

Mookie Betts

Season: BA .366 OPS 1.191 HR 6 RBI 14 WAR 1.4 Week: BA .400 OPS 1.528 HR 4 RBI 4

Mitch Haniger

Season: BA .314 OPS 1.062 HR 7 RBI 22 WAR 1 Week: BA .360 OPS 1.210 HR 3 RBI 7

Jed Lowrie

Season: BA .351 OPS 1.008 HR 6 RBI 23 WAR 1.6 Week BA .357 OPS 1.079 HR 2 RBI 9

Didi Gregorius

Season: BA .333 OPS 1.184 HR 6 RBI 20 WAR 1.4 Week: BA .381 OPS 1.319 HR 3 RBI 7

For the week Carlos is first in BA, third in OPS and tied for second in RBI.

Question: Who is player of the week?