Robbie Grossman. That really is the story and the takeaway from today’s game. Not too shabby of a major league debut for the speedy center fielder at all.
The Astros are in the midst of a stretch where they are playing 17 games in a row. After completing the first six of those games at home, Houston is currently sitting at 3-3 after taking their second series of the season from the Seattle Mariners.
The Astros now take the show on the road for seven games (four in Boston against the Red Sox followed by a three game series in Yankee Stadium), and they have earned the right to feel pretty good about themselves. Granted this season has not exactly gone according to plan, and there have been some tedious moments, but things could be worse. And this season is all about finding reasons to be optimistic while looking towards the future.
Yes taking a 7-14 record into Fenway Park is not ideal, but at least the Astros were able to board the plane to Boston this afternoon with a lot to smile about.
For starters, Lucas Harrell pitched seven innings today. So far this season, that has essentially been unheard of for an Astros starting pitcher. The struggles of the bullpen and the rotating cast of characters in said bullpen are partly attributable to the inability of Houston starting pitchers to pitch deep into games.
As of late, Bo Porter has gotten better at managing the bullpen and the work of Paul Clemens and Jose Cisnero has at least been able to stabilize things. Considering the stretch of games (both the lack of days off and the opponents), this is more important than ever for the Astros.
In this afternoon’s rubber game, Harrell gave Porter seven strong innings against the Mariners only giving up one run, while allowing five hits, and one walk to go with five strikeouts. Harrell has had a streaky start to the season, so this was exactly the stabilizing performance that he was due for. The key for the right hander, was that he was able to manage his pitch count (105) and keep runners off the bases.
Rhiner Cruz (two walks and one strikeout) and Clemens (two runs allowed) finished off the afternoon for the Astros with one inning each. But by the time they got into the game, the outcome was already determined thanks to three Houston home runs.
Chris Carter began the scoring by hitting a blast out to left field that I am unsure has actually landed yet. That was his fifth home run on the season, and the more I see Carter hit, the more he truly looks like a legitimate power hitter.
Ronny Cedeno is not a power hitter, but that did not stop him from hitting a three run home run off of Seattle starter Joe Saunders in the fourth inning. So far this season Cedeno has proved to be a nice addition after he was claimed off of waivers late in Spring Training from the Cardinals. After today’s 3-4 effort the shortstop is hitting .333 on the season. While he is really nothing more than a utility man, it is nice to have some solid veteran production on the bench.
But now let’s get to what Astros fans are truly excited about. Brandon Laird continued the solid production today with an RBI double to drive in the fifth run of the game for Houston. The story is not that Laird had an RBI double (he also added a three run home run later on), but that he drove in Grossman who had doubled earlier in the inning.
After opening a lot of eyes in Spring Training, there were a lot of Astros fans looking forward to seeing Grossman in Houston this season. When Justin Maxwell broke his hand Tuesday night, that promotion happened sooner than expected, and Grossman did not disappoint.
Batting leadoff, the 23-year old doubled twice in five at bats and scored a run on Laird’s double in the fifth inning. In keeping with the theme of this season, he did fit right in by striking out twice, but that was to be expected. In 19 games so far this season in AAA, Grossman has struck out 23.8% of the time. However, he did also walk 19% of the time was hitting .324.
Not only does Grossman give the Astros a true leadoff hitter and it is always exciting to see a prospect called up, but now it allows Jose Altuve to move down to the second spot in the batting order. That coupled with Brandon Barnes batting in the ninth spot when he gets the start, gives the Astros a lot of speed on the bases for the middle of the order.
Let’s hope the momentum of the last two games continues as the Astros travel to Boston.