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Game Recap: Angels Enter Perdition. Astros Show No Mercy, Sweep Series, Take Game 3, 6-2

Framber Valdez superb in 6 inning relief of injured Charlie Morton. Magic number to clinch down to three.

Who has the Momentum?

The Astros have the momentum!

Despite injury to perhaps their most talented superstar, the Astros have the best record in September among AL contenders. See chart

September Records, AL Contenders

Team wins losses
Team wins losses
Astros 16 4
A's 13 7
Red Sox 12 8
Cleveland 10 11
Yankees 11 9

Yes, better than the seemingly irrepressible Oakland Athletics. (Who lost tonight)

This weekend the Astros beat up on the Los Angeles Angels, sweeping them in three games and outscoring them 27 to 10. In those games the Astros amassed 35 hits. Today, the Stros relented a bit, scoring fewer than 10 runs, only winning 6-2. Ok, the As swept them too, even beat them 21 to 3 in one game, but I insist, the Astros have the momentum.

Why? Early in the month it was Great White and Bregs providing the punch. But somewhat overlooked have been the contributions of Marwin Gonzalez and Yuli Gurriel. Going all the way back to August 1st, Marwin seems to have rediscovered his 2017 form, slashing .293/.354/.558 with 10 home runs in 162 PA’s. His wRC+ during this stretch is 150. In 2017 it was 145.

Yuli was a one man wrecking crew in this series, getting three home runs and ten hits in his last four games. But since September 3rd his slash line is .371/.403/.629, with five home runs and 23 hits in 67 plate PA’s. His wRC+ since then is 183. He has hit safely in 16 of his last 17 games. Here is his home run tonight.

The point is, these two season long underachievers are getting hot at the right time. And let’s not forget Evan Gattis, who was 5-7 in this series against the Angels with 4 RBI. With Carlos Correa entering the playoffs as a big question mark, the Astros will need big performances from these players and others to pick up the slack if they expect to make the kind of playoff run they did last year.

And let us not forget the pitchers. Since September, in four games and 27 innings, Justin Verlander has allowed 4 runs, 4 BB’s and has 40 strikeouts. His ERA in September is the mirror of his April numbers, 1.33. His FIP is even better; 1.23.

Though somewhat more pedestrian, Gerrit Cole sports a 3.42 ERA in September, but with a 2.86 FIP.

And what about the kids, Josh James and Framber Valdez? James has a 2.81 ERA and in his last start threw 5.1 innings of shutout ball. Today Valdez threw six innings, allowing only one run, with nine strikeouts and two walks, an improvement for him. Instead of “regression,” Framber just keeps getting better. His record is 4-1, with a 2.08 ERA

The Astros started early in the game today, scoring three runs in the first, the hitters named above instrumental for most of the action. Gurriel hit a two run homer, and with two outs Marwin Gonzalez doubled, and Evan Gattis singled him home.

In the third Gonzalez picked up an RBI on a single, scoring Alex Bregman, who opened the frame with a single as well.

The Astros added another run in the fifth when Marwin Gonzalez and Tyler White opened the inning with singles, and Gattis hit Gonzalez home with a single.

The Astros added their last run in the seventh when Josh Reddick walked with the bases loaded, scoring speedy rookie Myles Straw, who was pinch running for Tyler White, who opened the inning with a single.

Now for the pitching. I saved the bad news for last. While we are proud of Framber Valez’ performance, why he came in in the second inning is quite a .... yes.... I’ll say it, concern. Charlie Morton started the game, and threw one inning, with limited velocity, allowing one run due to a double and a wild pitch. He did not come back. Official reports at this time say he has “shoulder discomfort,” similar to what put him on the DL recently. Will he be “playoff ready?”

Still, the Astros have the momentum!

No rest for the weary. The Astros start a series with the Toronto Blue Jays tomorrow in Toronto. Dallas Keuchel faces Marco Estrada. Game time 6:07 CDT.

With seven games remaining against very weak teams, and needing only 3 wins or 3 A’s losses to clinch the West Division championship, it will take a monumental meltdown at this point for the Astros to fail to win said championship.

Box score and videos here