It wasn’t a best case scenario for the Astros last night, but every Astros fan will take it. After all, we all remember some 2-1 victories last October against this team, and they counted too.
We would have been surprised and disappointed after what we’ve seen so far this year if Charlie Morton wasn’t dominant. Yes, even against the team coming in with a nine game winning streak, with the league’s highest OPS, the league’s most runs, the league’s most home runs. What we hoped for was a runfest against the struggling Yankees starter Sonny Gray, and maybe a runaway win before the Stros met the meat of the Yankees rotation.
Instead it was a pitcher’s duel. But nobody was going to out duel Charlie Morton on this night.
In 7.2 innings, his longest outing as an Astro, he gave up only 1 run, 2 hits and struck out 10, mostly with a curve ball that seemed to have the trajectory of a Tomahawk Cruise Missile. And it was just as accurate, and just as deadly.
After going into the sixth inning with a no-hitter, Morton was still dominant until giving up a double with two outs in the eighth. Brad Peacock was brought in for Morton to face pinch hitter Aaron Judge, and he wisely kept the ball away from Judge, who walked on a 3-2 count. Chris Devenski was brought on to face lefty Brett Gardner, who immediately singled to left, scoring Gleybar Torres. This brought up perhaps this year’s best hitter so far in MLB, Didi Gregorius. After his mistake, Devo achieved atonement, nay salvation, with a strikeout, baffling Gregorius on strike three with his lethal Circle of Death change up.
Aj Hinch elected to use the pariah of the World Series, newly reinvigorated Ken Giles, to try for the save in the ninth. He would face Giancarlo Stanton, he of the 59 home run season in 2017, Gary Sanchez, who merely hit 33 last year, and tough lefty Aaron Hicks.
Stanton might as well have been Tim Tebow, watching and whiffing at two pitches at 99 mph, and flailing at a killer slider right on the outside corner. Three pitches, three strikes, sit down. Next Sanchez went down looking on a 3-2 fastball on a pitch where Giles earned his nicname 100 miles Giles. Aaron Hicks made Tebow look good, and like Stanton flailed at the third pitch for strike three. For Giles 13 pitches, 10 strikes, 3 batters, three pitiful strikeout victims.
Oh yeah, the Astros did score. In the first the Astros eked out a run after George Springer squibbed a grounder just up the middle, and he advanced to second on a Sonny Gray balk. Two grounders later and Springer had the first Astros run.
In the second Jose Altuve got another single through the middle and advanced on a Carlos Correa walk. Gurriel doubled to score Altuve, but with runners on second and third and no outs the Astros ended up stranding these runners.
Perhaps they knew that with a staff hurling guided missiles at the Bombers that’s all they would need.
Really, they had better hit better the rest of the series, even with Verlander et al coming in behind Morton. Five hits, and 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, won’t get it most nights. But tonight, they had Morton and Giles, winnin in style.
Box score here
Game 2 of the 4 game series is tomorrow, 7:10 CDT, Minute Maid Park. Jordan Montgomery faces Justin Verlander.
Question: No doubt the Yankees found a silver lining in this game: the improvement of Sonny Gray. Assuming he returns to his career norms, as well as Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, who have slumped so far this year, who improved more this year, The Astros or the Yankees?