The Astros’ AAA affiliate the Fresno Grizzlies are heading for the PCL championship game. They could probably use two of the stars of tonight’s game, Tony Kemp and Tyler White, both of whom started their seasons with the Grizzlies, and both of whom have become surprise heroes of the 2018 Astros.
Light hitting, on base specialist, Tony Kemp, hit a two run homer (6) in the second, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead. And Tyler White poked an 0-2 slider just over the left center field fence (12) in the fourth to complete the Astros scoring, and giving then a 5-0 lead. All runs came off of Tigers starting pitcher and loser Jordan Zimmerman
They would need it. Another important asset for the 2018 Astros from AAA, Framber Valdez, experienced his first major league meltdown in the bottom of the fourth, surrendering four runs, the big blow a 3 run homer by Jacoby Jones.
Valdez came into the game with a 1.37 ERA, and after starting five games still maintains a 2.66. His record in five games replacing Lance McCullers is 3-1, and his team has won four of the games he started.
In tonight’s game a chronic bad habit finally came back to punish Valdez; lack of control. He walked four in four innings, and has given up 14 free passes in 23 innings pitched. He only threw 51 strikes out of 92 pitches. Although his ground ball rate is a phenomenal 68.8% for the year, it was inevitable that he would finally give up a home run, and tonight he did, with two men on, one of them from a walk.
Must say, in Valdez’ defense, an easy ground ball for out three of that inning took a weird hop right over shortstop Carlos Correa’s head, and the next batter homered. If not for that, this article would be about another phenomenal performance by the rookie just up from Fresno.
After the fourth inning the Astros’ bats went silent, but the Astros’ bullpen went dominant, pitching five scoreless innings after the early departure of Valdez. Joe Smith, Will Harris, Hector Rodon, Collin McHugh and Roberto Osuna shut down the Tigers from innings five through nine respectively, with only Rondon allowing a hit, two that is. Harris was given credit for the win, and Osuna got his 17th save.
A good time to review how good and how important Tony Kemp and Tyler White have been for the Astros this year.
In 184 PA’s, Tyler White is slashing .307/.386/ .620. He has 12 home runs and a 175 wRC+.
Tony Kemp, in 263 PA’s, is .289/ .378/ .431 with a very surprising for him 6 homers and a 129 wRC+
For some time now conventional wisdom has been expecting “regression” from these players, but so far they have confounded the experts. When you consider that every Astros player except Alex Bregman has been significantly worse in hitting than he was in 2017, and Carlos Correa dramatically so, we should remember how important the unexpected contributions to this team of Kemp and White are for a team struggling to maintain its lead in the AL West.
Without Kemp and White, the A’s would have gained another game on the Stros tonight.
Here’s the Kemp homer.
And here’s the Shark attack.
Tyler White fun facts. Through an 0-2 count he has a phenomenal .417 BA before tonight, and including tonight he has 6 home runs in 39 PA’s. That has to be some kind of record.
Before tonight he had a .667 slg. pct. against sliders, and including tonight has five homers against them. Maybe the league will stop throwing him sliders on an 0-2 count. But don’t tell anyone I said so.
When the count is 0-2 for Tyler White, he has the pitcher right where he wants him.
Tomorrow Gerrit Cole faces Daniel Norris looking for the sweep.
Early game time, 12:10 PM CDT.
Box score and videos here.