Tonight began with some measure of optimism. The Astros had just been swept by the Mariners to begin the second half of the season, and now they had a crack at the A’s. Based on how Houston has played against Oakland so far this season, that alone is nothing to get excited about. And now they are 0-10 against their new AL West rivals on the season.
Jonathan Villar (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
But tonight, Jonathan Villar was making his major league debut. Villar had an up and down start to his major league career, but for most of the game, it looked like the Astros would be victorious in his debut.
Bo Porter wasted no time inserting Villar into the leadoff spot which also allowed him to slide Jose Altuve down to the second spot. Along with forming a good double play combination, which was already on display in game one of their partnership, the middle infield combination offers a lot of speed at the top of the lineup.
I know it was just one game, but it did look like Altuve had a little extra spark and spring in his step tonight that has been missing at times this season. Let’s hope that continues going forward.
Villar did look comfortable in the field at shortstop as he made a few plays without issue and also started a double play. Along with the defense, the 22-year old also showed some speed and stole a base. The speed and defense though, are not the problem.
We saw what happened to Robbie Grossman earlier this season when he was potentially prematurely placed at the top of the order, and it is something to be on the look out for with Villar. He quickly fell behind 0-2 in his first at bat before working the count full and then striking out swinging on a bad pitch.
In the third inning, Villar wasted no time getting his name in the box score. He led off the inning with a bunt single and then promptly stole second base. Then with two outs in the inning, Chris Carter singled up the middle scoring Villar to put the Astros ahead 2-0. A Justin Maxwell pop up then caused trouble for second baseman Grant Green and ultimately dropped in allowing Carter to score from first base to finish the Astros’ scoring for the night. Carter deserves some credit here for running hard and not assuming that the ball would be caught to end the inning.
And that was all the scoring Houston would do tonight. Maxwell was also involved in the first run of the game for the Astros. He led the second inning off with a double and then stole third putting him in position to score on J.D. Martinez‘s ground ball.
The game started off promising for the Astros, but after the fourth inning they did not even register one hit. In the eighth inning Altuve walked as the Astros showed a little bit of life. He then moved to second base on a passed ball but got greedy and was thrown out trying to steal third base. That was all she wrote for the Astros tonight as they wasted a good outing from Dallas Keuchel.
Keuchel pitched six innings giving up one run and was taken out, I think, too soon by Porter after 88 pitches. Travis Blackley then failed to provide relief as Chris Young hit a solo home run in the 7th inning to make it a 3-2 game. The southpaw was then relieved by Hector Ambriz who got out of the inning without incident.
Ambriz then gave up a single to Nate Freiman to lead off the 8th. After retiring the next batter Porter brought in Wesley Wright to face the lefty Josh Reddick. The move backfired as Reddick hit a two run homer to right field putting Oakland ahead for good.
Jarred Cosart takes the hill for the Astros Tuesday as they look to get their first win of the season against the A’s.