It’s feast or famine for the Astros’ offense. Luckily, tonight it was feast, because the Marlins were having their own feast off Justin Verlander.
The Astros exploded on Marlins pitcher Jesus Luzardo right away. Although Jose Altuve grounded out to start the game on a 100+ MPH groundout, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker followed with home runs.
Yordan Alvarez then legged out a swinging bunt single capped off by a Chas Chomp homer to center.
Jon Singleton walked, and with two outs, Mauricio Dubon doubled home Singleton.
And it’s a good thing the Astros opened strong, because Astros starter Justin Verlander was not much better than Luzardo, and the Astros forgot clutch hitting and fielding in the middle of the game.
The Marlins answered in their half of the first with two singles and a double resulting in two runs.
Although the Astros padded their lead in the third with another run, they left the bases loaded with no outs, with Martin Maldonado striking out for out two on a pitch that was clearly ball four and Jose Altuve flying out on a 3-0 count.
The Marlins made the Astros pay in the fourth inning, or rather, the Astros simply handed over the loot. The Marlins did load the bases with one out on three consecutive singles, but a tailor-made double play was botched when Jeremy Pena threw errantly to first, allowing two runs to score, one of which was scored as earned as official scorers are not allowed to assume double plays.
The Astros have made 52 errors this year, the second most in the AL.
The Marlins made the score 6-5 in the fifth inning when Jake Burger singled with two outs and Bryan De La Cruz doubled him home. Verlander got out of the inning but was removed at the end of the inning, luckily for him, with the narrow lead giving him the official Win..
Kendall Graveman held the Marlins in the sixth, but in the seventh inning, the Astros blew the lid off the game with six runs. With one out, McCormick, Singleton, and Pena walked, singled, and walked, respectively, setting the stage for the most decisive play of the game.
Dubon hit a mid-distance fly to right fielder Jorge Soler. McCormick tagged and was safe by a hair, narrowly averting an inning-ending double play.
The Astros capitalized with two outs. Maldonado and Altuve walked off pitcher Jorge Lopez, Altuve’s walk scoring Singleton. Alex Bregman then doubled in two more runs, followed by a Kyle Tucker two-RBI single against the shift.
Through innings six-nine, the Astros bullpen of Graveman, Rafael Montero, Ryne Stanek, and Parker Mushinski held the Marlins scoreless.
It was a big win for the Astros tonight, but the performance of Verlander so far with the Astros and the other two ostensible TOR starters is troubling going forward.
Tonight, Verlander lasted barely five innings, allowing nine hits, two walks, while striking out only two Marlins.
In three games and 18 innings with the Astros, Verlander has a 4.50 ERA. His xFIP before tonight for the Stros was 4.68; in tonight’s game, it was 6.29. In those 18 innings, Verlander has allowed 21 hits and has only 13 Ks. Before tonight his swinging strike % was only 8.3%, and tonight he had only three swinging strikes in 94 pitches. Bottom line: Verlander is very hittable.
Since June 21, Cristian Javier sports a 7.56 ERA. Before that, it was 2.80. His K% is 18.9%. Before, it was 23.8%. Javier’s WHIP has gone up from 1.04 to 1.55.
Since June 27, Framber Valdez has a 5.33 ERA, up from 2.27, despite the no-hitter sandwiched in there. The K% has gone down to 20.8% from 26.7%, and the WHIP has gone up to 1.24 from and even 1.00. And although the EV and Hard Hit % for Valdez has remained steady, the all-important-for-Valdez ground ball rate has dropped from 57.2% to 49%.
Well, if the Astros keep scoring 12 runs a game, especially with a relatively cold Yordan Alvarez, it won’t matter.
Day off tomorrow.
The Mariners coming to Minute Maid Friday.