The Astros came into this game with the fewest defensive errors in MLB, only 30. They led the league in fielding percentage and were third in defense efficiency ratio. In English that means the Astros play a clean game of baseball with very few errors.
Tonight might be the only game all year where errors cost them a win.
The troubles began in the fourth inning. The Rays opened the bottom of the inning with a swinging bunt infield single by Daniel Robertson, followed by a line drive single to center by Joey Wendle moving Robertson to third.
Here’s where it gets ugly. Adeiny Hechevarria hit a long fly to deep center but playable by defensive wunderkind Jake Marisnick. He snow-coned the catch, and when his body hit the wall the ball left his glove. Robertson scored, an earned run because he would have scored on the sacrifice if Marisnick caught the ball, but Wendle went to second and Hechevaria got first base on the error charged to Marisnick. It was his only error of the year.
After a sacrifice advancing the runners to second and third, Kevin Kiermaier hit a routine ground ball to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez short hopped his throw to first baseman A.J. Reed, who scooped the ball, but could not maintain control. Two runs scored on the error.
Reed is playing first replacing Yuli Gurriel, who is on paternity leave. Gurriel has been almost perfect this year at scooping bouncing throws.
Utility player Gonzalez is playing shortstop instead of Carlos Correa, who is on the DL. Correa has made two errors all year. Gonzalez has made two errors in two games.
Gerrit Cole was the hard luck loser in this game. He surrendered one earned run on five hits in six innings. He added five strikeouts and is second in the AL with 151. He is 9-2 for the year.
However, as in his last game he did not have his best put away stuff, getting only 10 swinging strikes on 103 pitches, and allowing 26 fouls. There were nine balls classified by Statcast as hard hit balls against Cole tonight.
Of course Cole easily pitched well enough to win, but besides the defensive miscues, the Astros did not mount a serious rally all night, getting only three hits and only one runner in scoring position. Last night the Astros’ only run came on a solo home run by Jake Marisnick, and tonight the only scoring came on a two run home run by Alex Bregman, his fifteenth, tied for the team lead.
Bregman continues his quest for All-Star consideration, with seven home runs in his last fourteen games, and ten in the last thirty days. His OPS for the last month is 1.054.
The Rays’ pitchers came into this series with a 1.31 ERA in their previous seven days. They have basically maintained that pace against the Astros, who have been held to three runs in two games by a staff that is the baseball equivalent to a tag team. The Rays sent five pitchers against the visitors tonight.
The Astros face the Rays tomorrow in the third game of a four game series in Tampa Bay. Justin Verlander (9-3, 1.82 ERA) faces “opener” Ryne Stanek (1-1, 1.85 ERA) Game time 3:10 CDT.
Box score and videos here.