Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Peacock came into this Friday night looking to get the Astros home-stand back on the right track. It has been a roller coaster ride and facing the Seattle Mariners is probably the ticket the Astros needed. Brad was about as good as it gets through the top half of the first, an inning that has been troublesome for the Astros at times this season.
Jose Altuve did not waste any time getting the party started versus “King” Felix Hernandez, lacing a first pitch double into the left field corner. The party was short lived however when Jason Castro went down looking and George Springer took a huge hack for strike three. The two struggle from very different problems with two strikes in the count. Often Jason finds himself fooled by a pitch on the outer half of the plate, and George takes huge rips when he should be looking for a single. A two strike approach can be taught, but when a team is struggling it is the easiest thing to abandon.
The Astros squandered a second run scoring opportunity in as many innings. With walks to Krauss and Dominguez, Jonathan Villar took a called third strike to end the inning with two ducks on the pond.
The Astros continued their ability to get on base into the third. Altuve bunted for a base knock and Dexter Fowler followed with a sharp single through shortstop. Jason Castro broke the scoring drought with a shot to center field that was ruled an error by Abraham Almonte. Even though Almonte failed to touch the ball with a glove he was charged an error, so much for hometown scoring? Marc Krauss answered his critics as he laced a single up the middle to give the Astros a 2-0 advantage.
The Astros kept the positive vibes rolling as a sweet double play ended the top half of the fourth from six to four to three. When Villar and Altuve are at their best they have amazingly good defensive chemistry. With the negativity surrounding the team to this point they have been a pleasure to watch in the field.
In the bottom half of the fourth the Astros remained relentless on applying pressure when Jonathan Villar walked and immediately stole second base. He was left at second when Altuve and Fowler failed to drive him in. The Astros through four had left six men on base while plating two runs, one of which was unearned. Their at-bats showed progress from days prior, but the runs were still hard to come by.
The runs the Astros failed to plate came back to haunt them in the top of the 5th when Mariners catcher Mike Zunino hit his fourth home run of the season into the Laundry’s Crawford Boxes for a two run shot. However, defense also played a factor in one of the runs when Kyle Seager swiped second base on a ball that Villar dropped. Had Villar caught the ball Seager would have been dead to rights.
The Astros kept tradition alive in the fifth when they got Jason Castro in scoring position with one out. Jason was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Marc Krauss got his second RBI single of the game lacing a tracer into the right field corner. Krauss proved speed is not his game when he was thrown out by Michael Saunders at second base. Nonetheless the Astros took a much needed one run advantage going into the sixth.
Peacock was worked more in the top of the sixth when he gave up a bunt leadoff single to Saunders and Walked Robinson Cano. Corey Hart punched a single into left loading the bases with one out. George Springer’s defensive journey continued when he clanked a ball in right field that could be easily caught. While it was a two run double for Kyle Seager near the bullpen fencing, it is a catch that you would expect an athlete such as George Springer to make. Peacock escaped the inning with no further damage awarding the Mariners a 4-3 advantage after five and a half. Peacock was looking brilliant up until the fifth of this game, and I would be curious to re-watch this game and see if he made any inning to inning adjustments? The Mariners approach to his fastball was much better the second time through the order, making me believe he is pitching in more of a template than switching up his approach each time through the order.
Felix Hernandez was removed from the game after surrendering three runs — two of which were earned. Tom Wilhelmsen checked into the game and gave up a two out single to Villar. Villar with good hustle advanced to second base when Almonte juggled the ball in center. Almonte’s defensive skills have sure looked ugly in only four games versus the Astros. Villar continued to leg his way around the bases as he swiped third with no throw. Altuve drew a walk and immediately legged a stolen base to second, giving Fowler a great opportunity. Dexter however went down swinging on a fastball leaving two runners in scoring position, and totaling eight runners left on base for the Astros in the game.
Jose Cisnero took over for Brad Peacock in the top half of the seventh. Cisnero got himself into some two out trouble after issuing a walk to Saunders and giving up a base knock to Brad Miller. Bo Porter then made a call to the bullpen, bringing in Tony Sipp to make his Astros debut against left-handed hitting Robinson Cano. Sipp saved the inning when Cano lined one right back to the pitcher’s mound and Tony made a quick glove save.
Lefty Joe Beimel checked in the game during the bottom of the seventh solely for Jason Castro, where he got Jason swinging at a pitch in the dirt for a strikeout. Then, 22-year old Dominic Leone checked in throwing gas and making George Springer look foolish taking strike three. Krauss went down swinging as well. Leone is not a guy I know well, but I feel like I should. His 4-seamer is a weapon that any bullpen would like to have in the late innings.
In an interesting move, Bo Porter left the newly acquired Sipp in to face Corey Hart leading off the eighth. The move proved to be worth the risk as Sipp got Hart on strikes swinging, Seager with a ground out, and Smoak waving in the dirt.
The Mariners continued to throw new arms at Houston as Yoervis Medina came in for the bottom of the eighth. Alex Presley drew a one out walk and then the Astros executed a perfect hit and run with Matt Dominguez at the plate. Dominguez got a single placing runners at first and third. Villar tapped a ball back to the mound, while not a hard hit it was enough to plate Presley and get the back runner to second at the same time. That was all the Astros would get making the game 4-4 after eight.
Sipp remained in the game to start off the ninth, retiring left-handed hitting Dustin Ackley. It was a most impressive debut for Sipp as an Astro, as he gave way to Chad Qualls. Mike Zunino lined a single up the middle, and was caught stealing to the end of the inning. The Astros headed to the ninth with a chance to claim victory for their third win on the home-stand.
The Mariners brought in their sixth pitcher of the evening with right hander Danny Farquhar. Jason Castro laced a one out single to right. George Springer’s atrocious start to his career continued when he struck out swinging on a fastball. He went back to the dugout clearly frustrated, and is leaving me without answers. An interesting point to note on Springer is how many pitchers are pitching him backwards. I have seen a lot of cut fastballs and off speed pitches to him early in the count as opposed to the regular 4-seamer. Krauss continued his excellent evening drawing a full count walk. The rally was quickly erased when Guzman swung at the first pitch, grounding to shortstop and sending the game to extras.
Anthony Bass took the mound for the Astros in the top of the 10th. Bass looked as good as I have seen him, setting the Mariners down one, two, and three.
Farquhar mystified the Astros in his second inning of work in the 10th putting them down in order.
Anthony Bass looked absolutely on fire in top of the 11th punching out Hart, Seager, and then getting Smoak to roll over on a grounder.
Lefty, Charlie Furbush entered the game for the Mariners in the bottom half of the 11th and the Astros had to be happy. Altuve laced a single up the middle to start the inning, followed by Fowler laying down a beautiful bunt single to put two on with no outs. Carlos Corporan came up to bunt. He bunted the ball hard back to Furbush who tried to get a force at third. Altuve beat the play and the bases were loaded. George Springer chopped a bouncer over third base and Seager had no play. The Astros won on a walkoff single by George Springer, can you say slump buster?
This may be the most rewarding win of the season for the Astros, and a huge lift for George Springer. Baseball is a funny game in which you can go from goat to hero in a matter of innings. The Astros following their first walk off victory will be back at it tomorrow to face the Mariners at 3:10 as Hisashi Iwakuma takes on Dallas Keuchel.