So that is something we are not used to all that often. Jose Veras worked the ninth inning for a 1-2-3 save to give the Astros a 7-6 victory over the Angels. However, it was not without drama.
Robbie Grossman (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Robbie Grossman ended up being the deciding factor for the Astros tonight. After Dallas Keuchel gave a run back in the sixth inning inning on a Howie Kendrick home run to make it 6-4, Grossman extended Houston’s lead to 7-4 by scoring what would turn out to be the deciding run.
Grossman led off the inning with a single and literally ran his way around the bases. He stole second and third base and then scored when Hank Conger tried to throw him out at third base. Those were Grossman’s first two stolen bases of his career, and hopefully it is the beginning of a trend. After Travis Blackley gave up a two run home run to Albert Callaspo in the eighth inning, that run was even more critical.
Admit it. In the top of the first inning tonight, you thought, “Here we go again”. I know I did. But at least for one night, we were wrong.
Following a day that saw three Astros depart (Rick Ankiel, Fernando Martinez, and Brandon Laird) and three reinforcements arrive from Oklahoma City and the disabled list (Jimmy Paredes, Trevor Crowe, and J.D. Martinez), Houston had other ideas against C.J. Wilson and the Angels.
After a leadoff double to Erick Aybar and a one out walk to old friend Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo came to the plate. And at that point, you would not be blamed if you turned the game off as Trumbo hit a three run home run off Jordan Lyles. But unlike what has happened with the majority of Astros starting pitchers, two of which who are no longer in the rotation (Erik Bedard and Brad Peacock), Lyles recovered.
Lyles retired the Angels in order in the second inning, but he had at least one baserunner in each of his next three innings. However, he still only threw 82 pitches in five innings while striking out six, and was never really not in control. It was another positive start from Lyles, but I would have thought Bo Porter would have stuck with him at least for one more inning. With so many Astros starting pitchers not being able to last five innings, I would think a starter actually producing would give him another inning.
Between the aforementioned roster moves yesterday and the decision to rest both Carlos Pena and Jason Castro against the lefty Wilson, Porter was able to experiment with his batting order. That meant Jose Altuve was now batting in the all important number three spot. While he is not your typical number three hitter, this is also not your typical team. Especially with Pena and Castro out of the lineup, there really is not much power on this team, so speed and stringing together hits is how the Astros will win.
However, Altuve rose to the occasion and got a run back for Lyles by hitting a solo home run in the bottom of the first. Altuve has been unquestionably the best player on the Astros once again this season, and he added another RBI with an infield single during the Astros’ five run third inning as they took a 6-3 lead.
Brandon Barnes, who should be getting more playing time, got the inning started with a single. After Robbie Grossman reached on a sacrifice bunt, thanks to the first of two errors in the inning by catcher Hank Conger, Paredes made his presence felt by driving in Barnes with a double into a deep left field cranny.
After Altuve tied the game, Chris Carter then showed why Porter is keeping him around both on the team and in the lineup. Wilson mistakenly tried to sneak an inside fastball past Carter, but instead it ended up in the Crawford Boxes. That was the seventh long ball on the season for Carter, as he gave Lyles a lead to work with that he did not relinquish.
Playing the Angels certainly seems to agree with the Astros, let’s just hope that it continues for the next two days.