What’s going on here!
The Astros weren’t supposed to be this good this season.
When the Astros began putting themselves ahead of the AL West pack earlier in the season it was mostly on the strength of pitching. Pitching that according to all advanced metrics, was overperforming long term projections. Meanwhile, the hitting was a disappointing “meh.”
Guess what? The pitching just keeps getting better. In fact it is simply amazing. Two immaculate innings in one game. A combined no-hitter against the Yankees in New York. The starter in that game followed up last night with a seven inning one-hitter, and combined for 27 strikeouts in 14 combined innings in the two games. In the last nine games, the Astros starters have allowed only seven runs, those against big run producers the Mets, Yankees and Angels
Today the Astros pitchers struck out the greatest hitter of our time, Mike Trout, four times in four plate appearances. Jose Urquidy alone struck out Trout three times using just nine pitches total. Urquidy staked his claim to remain in the rotation today when Jake Odorizzi and Lance McCullers return, going six complete, allowing two hits, three walks, while striking out eight.
Right now, the Astros have five starters pitching at or near ace-level, with two more “aces” about to come off IL.
But as the pitching ascends to a new-unexpected level of other-worldly excellence, the bats are beginning to resemble the Orange Wagon level of 2021. Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, and even the catchers are getting hot, with Jason Castro hitting the game winning homer Thursday, and Martin Maldonado hitting two...that’s right folks...two jacks today.
Astros bats got another early start today. After the Astros starter Jose Urquidy retired Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Jared Walsh, striking out Trout and Walsh, to open the game with a scoreless first frame, the Astros answered by striking early and often.
Jose Altuve led off with a double and Yordan Alvarez followed with a one out walk. With two outs Kyle Tucker singled Altuve home, and after a Yuli Guriiel walk, Jake Meyers singled in two more runs to give the Astros an early 3-0 lead.
The Astros piled on with two more in the second starting with a lead off Martin Maldonado homer all the way to the train tracks above the Crawford Boxes. Jose Altuve followed with another double, and after stealing third, go home on an Alex Bregman single.
The Angels took one run back in the third on a Taylor Ward homer into the Crawford Boxes.
In the fifth the Angels mounted a serious threat as Urquidy had allowed two runners to reach base with the mighty Trout at the plate. He proceeded to strike out Trout on three pitches, the third time in the game Urquidy had done so. (Trout would later strike out on three pitches to Seth Martinez in the eighth.)
The Astros began July 4th fireworks early in the sixth and seven innings, getting homers from Maldonado (his second of the game) and Jose Altuve in the sixth, and two more from Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick in the seventh inning.
Here’s Jose, his 16th.
And Chaz, his second in two days.
Following Urquidy’s departure in the sixth, the Astros bullpen continued to baffle the Angels, with Phil Maton, Seth Martinez, and Enoli Paredes shutting out the Angels through the last three innings.
The Angels seek redemption from an ignominious sweep by the Astros tomorrow at 1:10 CT. Framber Valdez is scheduled to be their next assassin.