O Marwin, where hath thou been?
Last season Marwin Gonzalez was one of the biggest surprises, and also one of the most valuable players on the Astros. A usually light hitting utility player who can float anywhere in the infield and gun down runners with the best of them in left field, last year he broke out with the bat, hitting .303, with 23 home runs and a 143 wRC+.
He will live in Houston sports immortality for his ninth inning home run in World Series Game 2, which put that game into extra innings, a game which the Astros famously and heroically won.
After such a season, in his contract year, many are the Astros fans who have asked, “Marwin, where have you gone?” Before the All Star break, Gonzalez was hitting .230, with only six home runs and an 83 wRC+.
In five games in August of this year he is hitting .368, with 4 home runs and 6 RBI, with a 258 wRC+.
The 258 is before tonight, because tonight, with his team down 1-0 with two outs in the ninth against one of baseball’s best closers, Marwin again came through, crushing a 3 run homer. It was his second hit of the night, his two hits accounting for half his team’s total hit production, and his home run accounting for ALL his team’s run production.
Marwin’s reappearance can not come at a better time, as the Astros have three All Star hitters on the DL, and on a night when the Giants’ starter, Derreck Rodriguez, was baffling the Astros lineup of AAA replacements, runs, even hits, were hard to come by.
That Gonzalez and the Astros came back against Giants closer Will Smith makes this achievement all the more remarkable.
Smith’s ERA for the season was 1.27 coming into the game. Since June 24th he has allowed only 2 runs, with no walks and a 0.16 FIP. He has had 22 k’s in 14.2 innings. For the season he has had only one blown save.
Give credit to Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman for patience and plate discipline, both working walks in front of Gonzalez. And of course to Gonzalez, for hitting the only home run hit against Smith all year.
Of course the lede in a baseball game recap has to be the winning ninth inning home run, but most nights we’d be talking about another shutdown performance by Uncle Charlie Morton, who held the Giants to one run, a Brandon Crawford homer, on 3 hits and 8 strikeouts.
Roberto Osuna made his Astros debut with a perfect eighth inning, and Hector Rondon got the save with a scoreless ninth. Osuna got the win.
With the hot Oakland A’s nipping at the Astros’ tails, and with the three players out on the DL who almost define the identity of the Astros, this was a great and needed victory.
Really, how many times has a team had three All Star position players out at the same time? How many teams even have that many All Star position players to begin with. A few only.
So welcome back Marwin. It’s just in time.
Tomorrow Dallas Keuchel tries to win the short series in San Francisco against Madison Bumgarner. Early game time 2:45 CDT.
Box score and videos here.