If it is possible for a first place team with a 17-10 record to have a break out game, then this is it.
Yes, the Astros are winning, mostly with great pitching, but somehow, something has been missing. Something, somehow has felt not quite right. The Stros have seemed like a mighty stallion, maybe a Secretariat, who started slow from the gate, and got stuck in the pack.
But you all know how that movie ends. When the jockey shakes the reins, when he taps his steed on the neck, leans forward, gives a little kick, the mighty horse with the heart of a champion finds a new gear, unleashes his full power and speed, and leaves the rest of the pack breathing his dust.
Tonight may be the night when the Astros opened up, when they kicked in that second gear and let everything fly. The night they left the pack and asserted their rightful and natural place as the strongest and fastest, the best, many lengths ahead of the rest.
It was a complete victory, beginning to end in all aspects of the game. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.
The Astros scored runs in every inning but one. Yes even the early innings, in which the Stros have been below average this year. And at home no less, breaking another disturbing pattern.
Every starter in the line up either scored at least one run or batted one in. There were four Astros with one home run each, Derek Fisher, Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, and Jose Altuve. Altuve’s blast hit the train tracks at the top of Minute Maid Park.
Altuve had four hits tonight, the 26th time he has done so, tying Jeff Bagwell for the most 4 hit games in a career by an Astro. My money says Jose is only half way to where he will end up. He is currently hitting .351, and after a slow start, has seen a recent resurgence of his power game, with his second home run in 3 games.
Jake Marisnick even got his first walk of the season!
From the mound Lance McCullers was utterly stifling, pitching five perfect innings before surrendering 2 hits in the sixth inning. Through seven innings these were the only base runners he allowed, striking out 7 and lowering his ERA to 3.71 for the season.
Losing pitcher Daniel Mengden, former Astros prospect, was not so fortunate, leaving the game after 2.1 innings getting tagged for 5 runs.
In his last three games, through 20 innings, McCullers has allowed only 11 hits, 2 runs and 2 walks. He has had 21 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.90 during this stretch.
Once again, the Astros bullpen finished an Astros win without allowing a run. Tonight it was Hector Rondon and Tony Sipp closing out the Astros victory.
Do you really want to know how the Astros scored all 11 runs? OK, here goes
FIRST INNING: Springer singled. Altuve singled. Carlos Correa walked. Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa each had sacrifice flies. Alex Bregman ended the first inning scoring by knocking in Correa with a double.
SECOND INNING: Derek Fisher got on base with a hard hit grounder to short that was scored an error. He was plated by an Altuve double.
THIRD INNING: Josh Reddick singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Alex Bregman followed with a swinging bunt single. Reddick scored on a Marwin Gonzalez sac fly.
FOURTH INNING: Brian McCann singled, and then scored on Derek Fisher’s second home run of the season, a smash to straight center field.
FIFTH INNING: No runs scored. Bases were left loaded.
SIXTH INNING: George Springer launched a moonshot to left field. Jose Altuve launched a Mars rover to left field.
SEVENTH INNING: Marwin Gonzalez launched an upper decker to right field.
EIGHTH INNING: Jake Marisnick walked. Altuve got his fourth hit, a single. Correa singled, loading the bases. Bregman then got an RBI walk, ending the scoring.
The Astros had 13 hits and accumulated 27 total bases. They were 4-10 with runners in scoring position and left only 8 men on base after scoring 11.
This was a pleasure to watch and a needed catharsis after last night’s embarrassment at the hand of Sean Manaea. Everyone loves to see his best thoroughbred run away from the pack. No photo finish tonight
The Astros are 18-10 for the season and 1.5 games ahead of the second place Angels. They are 2 -1 favorites in tomorrow’s rubber match against Oakland at 1:10 PM. Even odds for the Angels Yankees for the daily double. Astros Phenom Gerrit Cole goes against Trevor Cahill of the A’s.
Box score here
QUESTION: Back in my day, in a galaxy long ago and far away, the Minnesota Vikings had a defensive front four nicnamed the Purple People Eaters. All four members made the Pro Bowl one year. Given the amazing performance of Lance McCullers in his last three starts, will the Astros Orange People Eaters land four starting pitchers on the All Star roster? Is that even allowed?