In some ways, this game was the epitome of contemporary baseball. More and more it is about true outcomes, fewer hits than strikeouts, more home runs than ever. The Astros staff broke a club record by recording 24 strikeouts. Justin Verlander had a personal high of 15 strikeouts, looking plain unhittable. Out of 100 pitches, 29 were swinging strikes.
Unhittable, that is, except when he was, because along with his 15 strikeouts and no walks in seven innings were three home runs, one by Ryan Braun in the first, another by Yasmani Grandal in the second, and the third by Eric Thames in the seventh. Verlander had over 19 K’s per nine innings, but a HR/ FB rate of 60%. He allowed only five fly balls, but three were home runs.
Currently, Verlander’s batting average against is just .152, which, if it continued for an entire season, would break Pedro Martinez’ all-time record. And yet he has allowed 17 home runs, but only 28 total runs all season (courtesy David Schoenfield, ESPN)
Meanwhile, in fourteen innings the Astros struck out fourteen times, but unlike the Brewers, could not get a ball out of the park, and finished the game with only five hits. The Astros runs all came in the fourth inning with two outs. It started with a Yuli Gurriel single, followed by a Yordan Alvarez walk (he had no hits but three walks tonight). Robinson Chirinos then singled home Gurriel, and Tony Kemp doubled in Alvarez and Chirinos. This gave the Astros a 3-2 lead until the seventh inning, when Eric Thames’ homer tied the game, setting the stage for extra innings.
Here’s the Astros’ action in the fourth
Verlander was followed by an impressive array of Astros relievers who held the powerful Brewers scoreless from the eighth inning through the thirteenth. They were, in order, Ryan Pressly, Roberto Osuna, Will Harris, Josh James and Hector Rondon, Special credit to Josh James, who struck out the meat of the Brewer order in the eleventh inning.
Cionel Perez held the Brewers in the thirteenth inning, but in the fourteenth he gave up the fourth Astros home run, a two-run shot by Mike Moustakas. A third run scored on a Myles Straw error, who was playing out of position at shortstop.
Straw figured in a crucial play earlier in the game. In the tenth inning, Straw pinch hit for Tony Kemp against the formidable reliever Josh Hader. After walking the speedster Straw attempted to steal second, and appeared to be picked off, and yet when he slid into second he was called safe. This would have given the Astros a roadrunner on second with no outs.
After a lengthy appeal the eyes in New York reversed the call, although here in Houston it seemed there was little evidence for overturning the original ruling.
It is easy to blame Cionel Perez for the loss, but there was no way the Brewers were going to be shut out indefinitely. The fault lies with the hitting. After the fourth inning, the Brewers staff almost completed a nine inning no-hitter until Jake Marisnick got the Astros’ fifth hit in the thirteenth. Despite getting nine walks, the Astros could only score three runs in fourteen innings. There was a familiar culprit, the evil GIDP, (G— damned double play ball); four of them.
Particularly irksome was the role certain products of the Astros organization performed against their old organization tonight. Two players acquired by the Brewers in the infamous Carlos Gomez trade contributed to the Astros loss. Josh Hader threw a scoreless tenth inning, although he allowed two walks, but a lesser known part of the trade, Adrian Houser, pitched the final two innings for the Brew Crew, getting three K’s and the win.
All four players the Astros gave away for Gomez have become major leaguers, and ironically, the piece most prized at the time of the trade, Brett Phillips, has had the least success. Of course, Josh Hader is perhaps the most feared reliever in baseball, and Domingo Santana is bopping long dingers in Seattle.
The Astros are off tomorrow.
Box score and videos HERE