Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Back at home after a 6-1 road trip including the 14th inning win over the Mariners on Thursday, the Astros looked to open a homestand on a good note with a victory in the first of three games against the struggling Orioles. Here's how Friday night's game went:
Final Score (11 innings): Astros 4, Orioles 3.
Record: 44-21, first in the AL West.
Winning pitcher: Cionel Perez (1-0, 0.00 ERA).
Losing pitcher: Branden Kline (1-3, 5.89 ERA).
1) Bad start, great finish for Cole
Gerrit Cole started his night with a near-disastrous first inning, allowing Baltimore to score two quick runs in an inning with an error hit batter, and two hits which gave the Orioles an immediate 2-0 lead. Cole would get dinged again in the third after a solo home run extended the deficit to 3-0.
Cole would lock in and dominate after that, though, allowing just one hit the rest of his night, a night where he would throw 113 pitches over seven innings and hit a season-high in strikeouts. His final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 14K.
2) Reddick and Kemp tie it in the fifth, Chirinos walks it off in the eleventh
After a slow offensive start and watching the Orioles build a 3-0 lead, Josh Reddick finally broke through in the fifth inning with a leadoff solo home run to trim the lead to 3-1. One out later, Tyler White worked a walk before Tony Kemp connected and launched a two-run bomb into the upper deck in right-field to tie the game at 3-3.
After missing their chance to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth and tenth, Houston would eventually get the walk-off in the bottom of the eleventh on an RBI from Robinson Chirinos.
3) Cionel Perez supports a fatigued bullpen
After logging a lot of innings on the recent road trip, including the 14-inning game in Seattle on Thursday, the bullpen looked to keep Baltimore off the board and give Houston's offense a chance to go-ahead. Hector Rondon took over for Gerrit Cole in the eighth and worked around a two-out single for a scoreless inning.
Cionel Perez, who was called up after Brady Rodgers was optioned down to AAA, was called on for the ninth inning and was able to retire the Orioles in order. After the offense came up empty in the bottom half of the inning, Perez returned for the top of the tenth and would make it back-to-back 1-2-3 innings. He'd return for another inning in the eleventh making it nine batters sat down in a row and setting up the Astros for their eventual walk-off.
Up Next: Houston and Baltimore will continue this series tomorrow with a Saturday afternoon game starting at 3:10 PM. With Corbin Martin's move back to AAA, Framber Valdez (2-2, 3.12 ERA) will get at least one start in the rotation as Houston tries to fill the starter spot on the roster originally vacated by Collin McHugh. He'll go up against Andrew Cashner (6-2, 5.04 ERA) for the Orioles.
The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.