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Game Recap: Bullpen Breakdown. Astros Lose to Tribe in 14 inning Struggle, 10-9

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Gattis’ 2 home runs, Altuve’s 4 hits not enough.

MLB: Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

This is a tale three games. The first game was the much awaited pitching duel between two rivals, former UCLA teammates Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, the first drafted #1 overall in 2011, the other drafted #3. Both among the best pitchers in the American League. Recent tweets by Bauer implying that Gerrit Cole cheats made the drama in this game irresistible. Who would win this grudge match?

The second tale is what happened when both these pitching masters departed the game. First the Astros’, then the Indians’ bats were unshackled, and the fury of Hell was unleashed on both teams’ bullpens.

The third tale was the tale of extra innings, and on this day the Indians were just a little more clutch, even though the Astros did not go down without a fight.

Tale One:

If you score the Cole/ Bauer matchup through seven innings, slight edge goes to Bauer. Cole gave up three runs, Bauer two. Both gave up 4 hits. Cole had 8 K’s, Bauer 13. Cole looked very shaky to start the game, allowing a first inning two run home run to Jose Ramirez, but settled down. Bauer’s only mistake was a solo home run to Max Stassi, a 411 foot rocket.

Tale Two

Trouble for Bauer was, his manager, Terry Francona does not trust one of the worst bullpens in baseball. He wanted one more inning out of Tyler, uh, I mean Trevor, and he just couldn’t deliver. With one out George Springer doubled, and then Alex Bregman walked. This chased Bauer, who had thrown 126 pitches, bringing on Evan Marshal to keep it close. Instead Jose Altuve singled, his 10th straight hit in three games (a new Astros record), to tie the score. Marshal then gave up an RBI single to Carlos Correa, leaving Bauer on the record as having surrendered 4 runs total and liable for the loss. Yuli Gurriel added another RBI single, chasing Marshal and bringing on Ben Taylor to pitch to Evan Gattis. Gattis lumberjacked one 406 feet to left field, a three run home run, to give the Astros an 8-3 lead with the Indians having only two more at bats.

The Astros before today had the best bullpen in the American league measured by ERA. Two innings to protect a five run lead? We’re cruisin.

Chris Devenski got it started right, getting the Indians 1, 2, 3, in the eighth, even had a nifty fielding play to boot.

In the bottom of the ninth the gates of Hell broke loose, and Indian bats unleashed a fury of pure evil on the Astros bullpen.

Although not a save situation, Ken Giles was sent in to “get some work in.” He faced three batters and gave up three hits. The most notable at bat was the seventeen pitch showdown between he and Jose Ramirez, which ended in a Ramirez double.

No problem, we’ve got former all-star Will Harris to put out the flames. But no, he gives up two hits and only gets one out.

So let’s bring in the new guy, former Cubs closer, Hector Rondon. Someone’s got to get these guys. No luck. He gives up two hits before finally getting out three on a scorching line drive caught by Yuli Gurriel. In all the Indians accrued 5 runs and tied the score.

Tale Three

Extra Innings: After disastrous breakdowns by both bullpens, for three innings both teams seemed to have found Sandy Koufax’s to pitch. For the Astros, their guy, with the highest ERA going into the game, Joe Smith, threw two perfect innings, and had three strikeouts. He was followed by Houston’s most reliable relief pitcher so far this year, Colin McHugh, who started with a perfect inning of his own.

Likewise the Indians were able to shutdown the Astros for three innings, but then Anthony Otero served some Italian cooking to our bearded wonder in the 13th inning, who launched his second lumber-jack 421 feet into outer space.

McHugh’s in there. We got it now.

No we don’t. Yonder Alonzo would tie the game with his own moonshot way over yonder in the bottom of the 13th to tie the game.

After the Astros were scoreless in the 14th inning, another old reliable was sent in, Brad Peacock. His first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball down the middle on the lower edge, was sent 389 feet by Greg Allen. Game over.

Box score and videos here.

Tomorrow the Astros take on the New York Yankees in the Bronx. Justin Verlander (6-2, 1.08 ERA) will face off with Domingo German (0-2, 5.59 ERA). Although a seeming pitching mismatch, German was effective against the Astros earlier this season in Houston.

Game time is 12:05 CDT

Questions for discussion: The Astros are experiencing regression in their pitching which, probably most of us knew, was inevitable to some extent. In the last two games alone the team ERA has grown from 2.39 to 2.61. This is still easily good enough to lead the league of course, but last night Lance McCullers melted down, and for the second game in a row Gerrit Cole has looked pretty average, giving up 3 runs in both games. Meanwhile the bullpen’s ERA has gone from a recent 2.76 to 2.96, which, nonetheless, still leads the American League. But clearly, tonight’s loss was on them.

Question. Are the last two games just a blip on the pitching radar, or is this the beginning of serious regression? If it is, will the Astros have enough offensive firepower to match teams like the Yankees and Red Sox?

Another question: With left handers Josh Reddick and Derek Fisher returning soon from DL, what to do with Tony Kemp? He is hitting .333, .400 OBP, .500 slugging. Has he earned it, does he stay in the starting lineup, does he go to the bench, or is he sent back down? Is Marwin Gonzalez playing his way out of a major role?

Comment below.