Is Astros pitching truly this invincible?
The Astros staff leads the major leagues in fWAR, and is second in team ERA. But there remains in the back of one’s mind the lingering doubt. “Don’t we play most of our games against the weak sisters of the AL West?”
So off to the East the Stros go to face battle-tested playoff contender the Tampa Bay Rays. And the Astros staff shuts them out for two games in a row.
Are you kidding me?
Bring on the Dodgers.
The Astros opened the scoring with one run in the first. But it should have been more.
Jose Altuve did his thing, leading off against Shane McClanahan with a single, followed by another by Jeremy Pena. After one out, Kyle Tucker doubled to left. Coach Gary Pettis made the uncharacteristically conservative decision to hold Pena at third. Unfortunately, Aledmys Diaz hit a rocket line drive to the third baseman, who was able to double up Pena, who was off the bag.
But the Astros would make up for the lost opportunity in the third inning. Martin Maldonado and Jose Altuve started the inning with a walk and single respectively, and Jeremy Pena cleaned up the bases with his 19th homer.
The Astros added another run in the fifth when Rays starter McClanahan suddenly had trouble throwing strikes and walked Altuve and Pena to start the inning. With a three ball count on Jeremy Pena, McClanahan was replaced by Shawn Armstrong, who got Alex Bregman on to fly out, but intentionally walked Kyle Tucker to load the bases.
Altuve scored on a sac fly by Aledmys Diaz.
Cristian Javier completed five scoreless innings, allowing only one hit but four walks with six strikeouts. The Rays did not get a batter to third base against Javier.
The Astros bullpen of Phil Maton, Ryne Stanek, Will Smith, Bryan Abreu, and Ryan Pressly held the shutout, but Abreu walked the bases loaded in the ninth before Pressly came in to bail him out.
Rookie Yainer Diaz got his first major league hit, a double to deep left-center field on a tough pitch. The kid’s got some pop.
First of many.— Houston Astros (@astros) September 21, 2022
Yainer Diaz with his first career hit! pic.twitter.com/JXaOHlGv2h
The Astros scored five runs in four innings against McClanahan, increasing his ERA from .213 to .236, and reducing his already meager chances of surpassing Justin Verlander in the Cy Young voting.
The Astros go for the road sweep tomorrow at 5:40 CT. Lance McCullers faces Corey Kluber.