Astros get a walk-off win over Mariners

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 2-1 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Astros were still at home Friday night, looking to start a new series with the Mariners on a better foot than they ended their last with the Pirates. Here is a rundown of the first of three games with Seattle:

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 2, Mariners 1.

Record: 51-32, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Will Harris (2-1, 1.20 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Matt Festa (0-2, 4.67 ERA).

1) Miley does his part

Wade Miley was able to provide the Astros with a strong start on Friday night to keep them close in the game and give the offense a chance to take and hold a lead. Although Miley would work in and out of trouble a couple of times over his innings, the only real damage he allowed was a solo home run in the top of the third which gave Seattle a 1-0 lead.

Wade would go on to finish six innings while just allowing that one run, getting plenty of help on defense behind him while he induced a lot of soft contact. He would, unfortunately, not be able to get a win out of his quality start. Miley's final line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR.

2) Relief pitching keeps it close

After Miley's night ended, the bullpen came in and was able to keep it a one-run game to give Houston's offense plenty of chances to tie or go ahead. Josh James pitched a scoreless seventh despite loading the bases with two outs, then Ryan Pressly had a 1-2-3 eighth.

After finally getting a run on the board to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, Houston sent out their closer Roberto Osuna to keep the game tied in the top of the ninth. He would do just that, getting a scoreless frame with two strikeouts to give the offense a chance to walk it off in the bottom half.

After coming up empty in the bottom of the ninth, Will Harris took over to start extra innings and worked around a leadoff single in the top of the tenth to keep the tie intact going to the bottom of the inning.

3) Offense does just enough

After looking mostly helpless on offense through the first seven innings, the Astros still had just a one-run deficit to overcome in the eighth. Things continued to look dreary until Josh Reddick delivered a two-out solo home run to tie the game and help shift the momentum back in favor of the Astros.

After getting a scoreless top of the ninth from Osuna, Myles Straw led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jake Marisnick. He'd be stranded there, though, sending the game to extra innings.

Yuli Gurriel would play hero in the bottom of the tenth, hitting a one-out solo home run to win the game.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will be nationally televised on FOX tomorrow night with first pitch at 7:15 PM. Justin Verlander (10-3, 2.67 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston looking to continue his great season as he goes opposite of Yusei Kikuchi (4-5, 5.11 ERA) for Seattle.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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