The Houston Astros have the best record in baseball, a ridiculous 31-16. They have been doing it with a beautifully balanced attack; an offensive onslaught that rivals that of the 1927 Bronx Bombers, pitching that is second in the AL in ERA, and an AL leading defense as measured by Defensive Runs Saved. That is how a team gets two 10 game winning streaks before June. If one aspect of the game lets the team down on any given day, the other two are still there to pick the team up.
Today two of the three legs failed the Astros, and yet they were just one run, and one clutch hit, from sweeping the Red Sox in Fenway Park against Chris Sale, a rare feat indeed.
The Astros managed only three runs on but four hits today. The scoring came in the second when Yuli Gurriel, who walked to open the inning, and advanced to third on a Josh Reddick double, scored on a Chris Sale wild pitch. The other two Astros runs came on a 448 foot, two run homer to straight-away center by Carlos Correa in the third inning.
There were missed opportunities. In the fourth inning Josh Reddick got his second double of the game with one out, but Jake Marisnick and George Springer both struck out, stranding Reddick at third. According to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe:
I believe Josh Reddick is the second left handed hitter to collect two extra-base hits vs Sale in one game. Eric Hosmer did it on 6/10/16. Reddick - viewed as likely a strict platoon guy when he arrived in the big leagues w/the Sox- has drilled doubles on a fastball and slider.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) May 19, 2019
In the sixth inning, after a Yuli Gurriel double, and walks to Robinson Chirinos and Josh Reddick, with one out Jake Marisnick hit into an easy double play. Even a sacrifice fly or sacrifice bunt would have given the Astros a lead at that point.
The Astros were struck out 13 times today, ten times by Chris Sale. Marisnick fanned twice, including a swinging strike that hit him in the thigh, Tyler White twice, and George Springer three times in three at bats. George was swinging so hard he hurt his back and had to leave the game. This is a development we need to watch very carefully.
And yet, with three runs the Astros could have won this game with their normal level of defensive proficiency. The Red Sox’ first run was unearned, caused by an Alex Bregman error on what should have been a double play ball. The resultant runner safe at second eventually advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a routine grounder to shortstop.
Nevertheless, Astros starter Wade Miley very efficiently took a lead against the Sox into the fifth inning, when, with two outs, Michael Chavis hit his eighth homer to cut the Astros lead to one. Mookie Betts followed with a double, but it looked like Miley was able to limit the damage when Xander Bogaerts hit a high pop-up on the fringe of the infield that second baseman Yuli Gurriel appeared to have lined up. But perhaps because of wind, Gurriel misjudged the ball, allowing Betts to score from second. And although it was not scored an error, one has to believe that with the regular contingent of right side infielders, Jose Altuve or even Aledmys Diaz, the ball would have been caught, rather than misjudged by the out of position Gurriel.
The Red Sox took the go-ahead run in the seventh when Mookie Betts doubled in Michael Chavis, who had singled to lead off the inning.
The Astros did not mount a serious offensive challenge after the seventh inning. Hector Rondon took over for Framber Valdez in the seventh and threw 1.1 scoreless innings to keep it close.
The pitching staff did its job today against a very tough Red Sox lineup, allowing only three earned runs, and really only two when you consider the bogus Bogaerts base hit. A clutch hit, (the Astros were 0-5 with runners in scoring position), and a couple of defensive plays that were not made, and this game recap would have been about the statement the Astros made in sweeping the hot Red Sox in Fenway.
Such exuberance would have been a little uncalled for. For although the Astros outscored the Sox 13-8, it was a hard fought series, and the Red Sox actually out-hit the Astros 25-23. Except for yesterday’s starter Hector Velazquez, it seems Red Sox pitching put a bit of a chill in the Astros bats that were so hot coming into Boston. And let us hope against hope that George Springer’s back injury is not long-term. He has had successful campaigns curtailed in the past when he has had to rediscover his timing after injuries.
Tomorrow (Monday) the Astros come home to battle the Chicago White Sox at 7:10 PM CDT. Brad Peacock takes the Mound for the Stros against unannounced.
Box score and videos HERE.