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Game Recap: Verlander’s Excellence, Springer Dinger Lead Astros to Quick Two-Game Sweep of Giants

The Houston Astros will now head to Cleveland and then New York with a lot of momentum after a 4-1 home stand.

San Francisco Giants  v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Deeper Look into Justin Verlander’s Start

Coming off a start in which he went the distance and struck out seven against the division rival Los Angeles Angels, Verlander would have had to accomplish a lot this afternoon in order to top that start. Although he didn’t quite pitch nine innings today, Verlander was extremely effective. Let’s take a look at how he fared against the Giants.

First off, Verlander’s whiff rate this afternoon was impeccable. On 97 pitches, Verlander induced 18 swinging strikes, good for a whiff rate of 18.56%. For comparison’s sake, in his amazing outing last Wednesday night against the Angels, Verlander’s whiff rate finished at 11.86%.

In that start, Verlander was getting a decent amount of called strikes, but also was helped by some good defense behind him and some luck on batted balls in play. This afternoon, Verlander’s stuff was playing well as his breaking pitches looked sharp and he kept Giants hitters chasing the high fastball. It certainly also helps that the Giants have the 4th highest strikeout total (465) for an offense in all of major league baseball.

Verlander’s ability to stay efficient and keep his pitch count at a decently low number was looking good through the first few innings, but then he began to labor a bit more in the 5th and 6th innings, forcing him to not go as deep into the game as many Astros and Tigers fans have become accustomed to seeing. The fact that Verlander only surrendered one walk in today’s outing helped him get through six full innings of work.

Notable Offensive Performances

George Springer clubbed his 10th home run of the young season that broke the tie in today’s game and gave the Astros a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning. The Astros are through 50 games now in 2018, and Springer has appeared in 48 of those 50 games. Assuming Springer plays a full season and takes a day off every now and then for a total of 154 games played, the 2017 World Series MVP is on pace to hit 32 home runs in the 2018 campaign.

Additionally, walks machine Alex Bregman was awarded two more free passes this afternoon to go along with one base hit. Entering today’s game, Bregman was the #1 Astros hitter and 23rd best in the MLB in walk rate (BB%) with a 13.8% mark. With two walks, I’d imagine that Bregman climbs that list a bit further when it refreshes. Through 50 games, it is very impressive that Bregman is striking out significantly less (almost 2.5% less) than he is earning walks.

Finally, it seems like Carlos Correa broke out of a bad May slump a bit today with a 2-for-4 afternoon along with one run batted in. Correa knocked in the “insurance” run in the fifth inning and the Astros would not score after that. Coming into this game, Correa was batting just .166 in May and this was his first multi-hit game since May 4. If the Astros offense is going to improve, they’re going to need more days like this from their cleanup hitter.

Bullpen Shuts it Down

Will Harris, Brad Peacock, and Ken Giles all did their jobs by pitching one clean inning each. Each struck out at least one hitter and each allowed exactly one base hit. Through 19.2 innings of work, Peacock’s ERA on the young season is now down to 1.83, so it looks like he has transitioned very well back to the bullpen after getting a lot of relief appearances last postseason.

Final Score and Looking Ahead

The Astros won the game by a final score of 4-1 and will quickly hop on a plane up to Cleveland, Ohio for a four-game series against the Indians. After this weekend’s series, the Astros are done playing the Indians for the remainder of the regular season.

CKuno will have a lot more coming out about that series, but here are the pitching matchups:

Thursday: Charlie Morton vs. Mike Clevinger

Friday: Dallas Keuchel vs. Corey Kluber

Saturday: Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Carlos Carrasco

Sunday: Gerrit Cole vs. Tyler Bauer

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, and check out this video of Andrew McCutchen dropping a fly ball.