Popcorn on the warning track in right field was not the only thing lost today in Minute Maid Park. Despite their best efforts, the Astros dropped the rubber game of their series with the Indians.
Erik Bedard (Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)
Unlike last night’s blowout, the Astros very easily could have, and in fact should have won the game today. Games like last night are going to happen as there is nothing you can do about it, given the Astros’ situation. Philip Humber was pitching very well this season up to that point, and nights like that are to be expected from the right hander.
Not to blame Humber for this, but a growing trend for the Astros this season is that their starting pitchers just are not logging any innings. Beyond the results of their actual performance, which for the most part has been pretty good, the issue is that a lot of stress is being placed on the bullpen. For that reason Brett Oberholtzer was called up from AAA for today’s game to give the bullpen a fresh arm.
Based solely on his performance thus far this season, Oberholtzer had no business being promoted along with his 9.39 ERA — but there were no other options. And then since Erik Bedard was only able to last four innings, Oberholtzer was pressed into duty to start the fifth inning.
Compared to not getting out of the first inning in last start, today was a lot better for Bedard. Statistically, Bedard did well today. Four innings, eight strikeouts, and only two runs. But the problem is that Bedard gave up six hits and two walks and only lasted four innings. It took him 75 pitches to get through those four innings, and that is simply unacceptable.
Bedard gave up a solo home run to Yan Gomes in the second inning and then got into trouble in the third inning allowing a Ryan Raburn RBI single. The problem though, is that he only lasted four innings. Houston cannot continue to operate like this the rest of the season — not getting any innings from their starting pitchers. It will simply not work.
On a bright note, Fernando Martinez wasted no time making an impact in the first inning hitting a two run home run to drive in Jose Altuve after the leadoff man’s walk. The return of Martinez and the installation of him as the second hitter allows Porter to move Justin Maxwell a few spots down in the batting order to better utilize his power.
After Altuve’s RBI triple plated Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth inning, Porter played the match up game and won pinch hitting Chris Carter for the lefty Martinez against the left hander Nick Hagadone. Carter tied the game with a sacrifice fly, and that was the end of Houston’s offense output for the afternoon.
When Oberholtzer entered the game in the fifth inning, he wasted no time in giving the Indians the lead. Carlos Santana was the first batter he faced, and Santana promptly hit a solo home run. The sixth inning saw Drew Stubbs hit a solo home run to right field that will likely be replayed on highlight shows.
Stubbs hit an opposite field line drive to right field that was just out of Rick Ankiel‘s reach. However, if it were not for a fan’s bucket of popcorn, perhaps Ankiel would have had a shot at catching it. Instead the fan used his popcorn bucket to catch the ball and the right field warning track was then littered with popcorn.
Just as popcorn littered the warning track after the Stubbs home run, the Astros left base runners littered on the base paths over the last three innings. At least they showed some fight, but they just could not get any rallies going.
In the ninth inning after an Ankiel double and a Matt Dominguez hit by pitch, it really looked like Houston at least was going to tie the game. After a Gonzalez sacrifice bunt, the Astros then had two runners in scoring position with only one out.
Instead, following an intentional walk to Altuve to load the bases, a Carter strikeout and Jason Castro ground out ended the game. After losing 19-6 Saturday night, losing 5-4 today certainly was a lot better, as it was a competitive game.
Going forward, it is proving to be more and more imperative that the Astros starting pitchers start to pitch deeper into games. Not only will it simply give them a better chance to win, but it will help sort out the bullpen. Also something has to be done, because it is not looking like Jason Castro is cutting it as the number three hitter.