For a while today it looked like the Astros might actually win a game. Arizona starter Josh Collmenter was basically throwing batting practice and the light-hitting Astros were getting a few good swings against him. Houston took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth with back-to-back doubles by Scott Moore and Chris Johnson to start the inning.
Johnson advanced to third on a groundout by Brian Bogusevic and the Diamondbacks were forced to play the infield in. Then Justin Maxwell stepped to the plate, having already drilled a 433 foot homer off Collmenter earlier in the game. If there was ever a chance for the Astros to put up a big inning, this was it. But Brad Mills had another idea. Mills asked Maxwell to try and squeeze bunt Johnson home. Maxwell failed to make contact and Johnson was a dead duck. The Astros now had two outs and nobody on base. Forget about that big inning – and forget about winning this game.
Did I mention that Jordan Lyles was on the mound for Houston? Lyles has been a consistent performer all season for the Astros. His outings go like clockwork. Lyles typically throws three to five excellent innings before coming unglued and coughing up six consecutive hits in an inning. Why would Mills expect Lyles to break that pattern today? The Diamondbacks were going to score plenty of runs in this game and everyone knew it. They had scored 13 times on Friday and 12 yesterday. Were they only going to score two today… against Lyles and a shoddy bullpen? I would gladly bet against that happening.
Playing for one run with a man on third and one out in this situation was stupid, idiotic, moronic, ignorant, asinine, ridiculous, insane, bonkers, and just plain dumb.
In the bottom of the inning Lyles, as expected, ran out of gas. With one out and two runners on base Jason Kubel strolled to the plate. The Astros were still clinging to a 2-1 lead and it was time to get Lyles out of the game. Kubel was one of six left-handed hitters in Kirk Gibson’s lineup and Mills had lefties Wesley Wright and Fernando Abad available in the bullpen.
Lyles has taken his lumps this season and had to be thinking “oh no, not again.” Kubel, probably the hottest hitter in the league, had three homers in last night’s game and another off Lyles earlier in the day. Mills could get the youngster Lyles out of the game with a chance for the win but elected not to. Kubel promptly stroked a single to rightfield to load the bases. Pitching coach Doug Brocail paid a quick visit to the mound and Lyles was left in to sustain more damage.
Miguel Montero, another left-handed hitter, then hit a hard shot up the middle. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez was able to flag it down and tossed the ball to Jose Altuve at second base. Was Lyles going to get out of this with an incredible double-play? No, not quite. Altuve tried to make a bare hand catch and couldn’t hold onto the ball. Two runs scored on the play and the Astros failed to record an out. It also looked like the ball may have gotten a piece of Lyles on the way by. But did anyone go out to the mound to check on him, or better yet get him out of the game? Of course not.
The D-Backs now had the lead and would continue to batter a punch-drunk Lyles. Arizona would bat around in the inning before Mills pulled his head out of his ass and took the kid out of the game. Handling a 21 year-old pitcher who is supposed to be a big part of the team’s future with such recklessness is simply inexcusable. Brad Mills needs to be fired!
The seven-run sixth inning took the air out of the Astros balloon and this game was over. And it was all Mills’ fault. The Astros are obviously shorter on talent than most teams and we expected this to be a tough year. But this loss lands squarely on the shoulders of the skipper. Furthermore, Mills has done a piss-poor job of protecting Lyles and may have set the youngster’s development back several steps.
Mills has thoroughly proven that he has no business managing in the big leagues. It’s time for him to go… NOW!