It was the return of Showtime, Shohei Ohtani time, to the mound and national stage tonight after a several month hiatus. He was pretty good, except for the walk he gave up to Tony Kemp, and the curve, just like the pitch before, that he threw to George Springer, yielding a Crawford Box home run. It was George’s first home run since August 5th, his 20th of the year, and it was all it took to make Ohtanisan the losing pitcher.
His opponent, Gerrit Cole, like Ohtani and the Astros’ newest pitcher, Josh James, one of the very few starting pitchers this year to throw 100 MPH, was just a little bit better. He went 5.2 innings and allowed two earned runs. Although it required 116 pitches, he got nine strikeouts, allowing him to regain the AL strikeout lead from Justin Verlander. Twenty one of the 76 strikes he threw were of the swing and miss variety.
Cole avoided disaster in the 3rd inning when he got Andrelton Simmons to pop up to Tyler White on a nifty basket catch to strand three runners.
In the fourth Cole got into even deeper trouble, allowing the first two batters to get on base, and after a passed ball there were runners on second and third, no out. Then, on a sharp grounder, Tyler White made another crisp play, throwing out Jose Fernandez at home. However, the Angels would score on a fielders’ choice grounder to Alex Bregman, whose bobble of the ball prevented what would have been an inning ending double play. However, Cole would end the threat with a strikeout of Kole Calhoun.
The Angels would score again in the sixth when Tony Sipp, in for Cole, walked the bases loaded, and then Joe Smith hit David Fletcher, scoring Taylor Ward, a run charged to Cole. Mike Trout would end the inning with a line out, stranding two runners in scoring position.
As a team the Angels were 0-9 with runners in scoring position.
The Astros scored their third run in the fifth inning on a bases loaded Carlos Correa walk, but that was the only run they scored after the bases were loaded and no outs.
Alex Bregman, who homered last night, calling his shot to a child in the stands, homered again in the seventh to give the Astros an insurance run. Here’s the Bregatron, his 27th.
After Smith got out of the bases loaded jam by getting Trout, the trio of Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, and Roberto Osuna, a group we should expect to see a lot of in close games, shut down the Angels in innings 7-9 respectively. Osuna earned the save.
Even in a tight penant race, the Astros love to keep it loose, keep it fun. Here’s the latest Bregman stare down.
Even old man Verlander went for a few laughs on national TV.
Tomorrow, Labor Day, the Astros open a new series against the Minnesota Twins. Dallas Keuchel (10-10, 3.58 ERA) faces Kyle Gibson (7-11, 3.79 ERA).
Game time 1:10 CDT.
Box score and videos here.