On paper, it appeared that the Astros had the advantage in the starting pitching department in the middle game of their three game home series against the Angels. Blanton was sporting an ERA over five while looking for only his second win of the season to go with ten losses. Granted Lyles was coming off a poor outing Sunday against the Cubs, but he has been very good lately for Houston.
Prior to his start in Chicago, Lyles had quality starts in five of his last six outings. The one start that was not “quality” was because he only went 5.2 innings instead of the necessary six while giving up just two runs.
The first three innings went pretty smoothly for Lyles. Once again defense proved to be an issue for Houston as Mike Trout reached via a Jake Elmore throwing error in the first inning. After a walk to Albert Pujols, the 22-year old right hander got out of trouble by getting Mark Trumbo and Howard Kendrick to ground out. Elmore did redeem himself later in the game by making a nice running grab sprinting into foul territory, but he also added another throwing error. At least today, the miscues did not adversely effect the result of the game.
A Josh Hamilton second inning double proved to be meaningless as Hamilton was doubled off at third base to end the inning as Matt Dominguez caught a line drive. Later in the game, Hamilton would pay Dominguez back as he robbed the third baseman of what potentially could have been a home run.
However, the fourth inning was a different story for Lyles. He flat out lost his touch and command of the strike zone.
Trumbo led off the inning with a single, and from there things got bad. It was quickly apparent that Lyles was struggling with his mechanics as he lost control of a changeup and hit Howard Kendrick in the head. A Hamilton walk then loaded the bases for third baseman Alberto Callaspo who promptly drove in two with a single.
After Lyles retired the next batter, he once again lost command, hitting Peter Bourjos. A single by Erick Aybar then made it 4-0 for the Angels before the next two batters were retired to end the inning and the afternoon for the Houston starter.
Following his start, Lyles said all the right things about bouncing back and regaining his command for his next start while he puts this one out of his mind. It truly was just the one inning that did him in, and it would not have been as big of a problem if the bats were not asleep.
Houston managed only four hits all day. The scoring was limited to a two run home run for Brett Wallace following a leadoff walk to Chris Carter. Thus far after his return to the major leagues, Wallace has looked more comfortable at the plate.