The Astros won tonight 7-0, dominating the Mariners, eliminating Seattle from contention for the division championship , and reducing their own magic number to clinch the divisional title to 8 games.
So, the real story is Josh James. Is he too good to leave off the playoff roster? Is he the future of Astros pitching?
When he struck out All Star Nelson Cruz, one of the grand old men of the game, for the third time, it felt like a changing of the guard. Here is James taking down Cruz with his slider.
It was hard to dismiss James tonight as a raw fireballer, although he did reach 100 MPH on the four seamer. His game score was a very good 65. Yes he had domination, seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings, only 4 hits, and 0 runs. Sixteen out of 87 pitches were whiffs. But he had control too, only two walks, 55 strikes out of 87 pitches. But best of all he flashed finesse. His best pitch was the change up, which he threw eighteen times, 14 times for strikes, twelve of those whiffs. Only two change ups were put in play, harmlessly.
With a change up with almost 10 inches of armside motion, and a slider that tails five inches the other way, or 100 MPH heat, all pitches he can throw for strikes, Josh James looks for real. He showed it tonight against Cruz and the Mariners, and he showed it two Saturday’s ago against the Red Soxes’ killers row, Mookie Betts and J. D. Martinez.
Question is: Will he get to show it against them again, or against Judge and Stanton, or Edwin Encarncion, or Kris Davis. He’s a fresh rookie for sure, but so was Nolan Ryan when he made his only World Series appearance, saving a game for the Miracle Mets in 1969.
For some more analytical information on James garnered from a national publication go here.
The offensive hero of tonight’s game was Marwin Gonzalez, who was 2-3 with a walk, 2 RBI and two runs scored. He delivered the crushing blow, a two run home run in the 3rd, originally a double, but upon review ruled a home run just over the yellow line in left center field. Here’s Marwin’s dinger.
Before the home run Tony Kemp doubled Brian McCann to third, who scored on a George Springer single up the middle. Kemp would score on a Jose Altuve grounder before the Gonzalez homer.
The Astros added a run in the seventh when Brian McCann singled home Yuli Gurriel, who doubled in front of him.
Two more runs came in the eighth on a Tyler White double, scoring Altuve and Gonzalez. The deep fly ball seemed catchable, but the Seattle left and center fielders let it drop between them, giving White his 27th extra base hit in 203 PA’s. He is slugging .601 for the year.
Tony Sipp, Will Harris, Collin McHugh and Chris Devenski combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless relief. Will Harris made a strong claim on the playoff roster, throwing 1.1 perfect innings, and Chris Devenski’s performance was heartening, as he threw a scoreless inning after giving up eight earned runs in the last three innings he has pitched.
The Astros go for the series victory tomorrow.
Game time 7:10 CDT
Box score and videos here.