Despite loss on Sunday night, Astros put together stellar 5-1 week
After getting the win against the Angels in primetime to cap off a winning week last week, the Astros got right back to work on Labor Day afternoon in another important week of games. Here's how they fared:
Monday, Sept. 3: 63-73 Twins (Kyle Gibson) vs. 84-53 Astros (Dallas Keuchel)
The Astros had a quick turnaround after the late game Sunday night, getting an afternoon game on Labor Day to start the series with the Twins. Alex Bregman didn't show any signs of fatigue, getting the scoring started with a solo home run in the bottom of the first to put Houston ahead 1-0. The Astros tacked on two more runs in the next inning, getting an RBI single from Brian McCann down the right field line then an RBI groundout from Evan Gattis, extending their lead to 3-0. Yuli Gurriel gave Houston their second solo home run of the day in the fourth, making it a 4-0 game since to that point Dallas Keuchel had kept the Twins scoreless. Keuchel struggled to find the zone in the first inning but managed to keep the Twins without a run and then found a rhythm all the way to the sixth inning. Minnesota finally strung some hits together along with an error against Keuchel in the sixth, getting their first run of the game to make it 4-1, but Keuchel limited the damage there to end his day with six innings of one-run (unearned) baseball on five hits to go with six strikeouts. Collin McHugh came on for the seventh and ended up eating up two innings as he painted the corners to get five of his six outs via the strikeout. Hector Rondon was given the save opportunity in the ninth, likely to save Roberto Osuna's arm. Rondon took a comebacker off of his right arm, resulting in him coming out of the game with a runner on first. Will Harris was next and walked a batter while getting two outs before another call to the pen to bring out Brad Peacock. Peacock would allow a single to load the bases but would get a big strikeout to end the lengthy inning to give Houston a win to start the week.
Final Score: Twins 1, Astros 4
Tuesday, September 4th: 63-74 Twins (Trevor May) vs. 85-53 Astros (Justin Verlander)
Houston gave their ace Justin Verlander a big lead to start Tuesday night's game, going up 4-0 early in the bottom of the first. It was Alex Bregman getting the scoring started, hitting an RBI double to make it 1-0 before Tyler White made it 2-0 with an RBI of his own and then scored on a two-run homer by Yuli Gurriel. Verlander worked well with the lead, allowing just one run on a couple of hits in the third inning to make it a 4-1 game, but worked past that to complete seven strong innings with only the one run and eight strikeouts. Alex Bregman struck again in the bottom of the seventh, getting yet another RBI double to make it 5-1 to give the Astros bullpen more of a cushion to work with. Ryan Pressley took over on the mound in the eighth and threw a perfect inning striking out all three batters he faced. Chris Devenski started the bottom of the ninth, but after allowing a leadoff homer to start the inning and walking the next batter, was quickly pulled in favor of Roberto Osuna who was able to convert the newly created save opportunity to finish off the win.
Final Score: Twins 2, Astros 5
Wednesday, September 5th: 63-75 Twins (Jake Odorrizi) 86-53 Astros (Framber Valdez)
Houston did not slow down on Wednesday, even though it could have easily been a trap game where Minnesota could have caught the Astros looking ahead to the Red Sox. Like the night before, it started with Alex Bregman who knocked another home run, a two-run blast to put Houston up 2-0 in the third. Evan Gattis matched that with a two-run homer of his own to double the lead to 4-0 in the fourth. With Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers still out, Framber Valdez made another start for the Astros and it was another quality one. Valdez pitched five and one-third innings during which he allowed just one run, a solo home run in the fifth inning, putting him line for the win with the early runs backing him up. Yuli Gurriel drove in a run in the bottom of the fifth to bring the lead back to four at 5-1. After Will Harris finished the sixth for Valdez, Joe Smith pitched the seventh followed by Brad Peacock in the eighth, both scoreless. During that span, Jose Altuve added to the lead with an RBI double, then the Astros loaded the bases in the eighth for Alex Bregman, who of course delivered with a bases-clearing double to put the game way out of reach at 9-1. Tony Sipp came on to face a couple of batters in the top of the ninth, getting one out before newly called up Dean Deetz made his MLB debut and got the last two outs, the final being the first strikeout of his career, to complete the sweep of the Twins.
Final Score: Twins 1, Astros 9
Friday, September 7th: 87-53 Astros (Gerrit Cole) vs. 97-44 Red Sox (David Price)
In the first of a three-game preview of a likely playoff matchup, Boston struck first in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI by the league-leading J.D. Martinez to go up 1-0 early. Both offenses would go quiet for a while after that, with both Gerrit Cole and David Price pitching effectively against the opposing strong offense. Xander Boegarts extended Boston's lead to two with a solo shot to lead off the fourth, giving Cole his second of two runs he would allow on the day over his six innings of work, during which he struck out eight. Down 2-0, Houston was finally able to get Price out of the game in the top of the seventh after a leadoff double by Alex Bregman and a one-out walk by Tyler White. Once into the Boston bullpen, the Astros were able to capitalize with an RBI double from Yuli Gurriel to cut the lead to 2-1, then took a 3-2 lead after a two-RBI double by Tony Kemp. Collin McHugh started the bottom of the seventh but after a strikeout and walk left in favor of Ryan Pressly. Pressly would issue a rare walk then allowed Boston to tie on another RBI by J.D. Martinez. Houston answered right back with a huge eighth inning, tagging Joe Kelly with three runs on RBIs from Carlos Correa and Tyler White and a run scoring on a wild pitch. Hector Rondon kept the three-run lead intact after working around two hits in the bottom of the inning, then Roberto Osuna notched another save in the bottom of the ninth with a quick three up, three down inning to start the big series off with a strong win.
Final Score: Astros 6, Red Sox 3
Saturday, September 8th: 88-53 Astros (Charlie Morton) vs. 97-45 Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez)
Much like the night before, Boston jumped out to an early lead on Saturday afternoon getting an RBI single in the bottom of the first off of Charlie Morton to go up 1-0. Houston didn't wait to answer back this time, though, getting a lead of their own in the top of the next inning with a big RBI triple from Tyler White then a sac-fly from Jake Marisnick to go up 2-1. Alex Bregman was able to perform another dugout celebration after he blasted a solo homer over the Green Monster in the top of the third, extending the lead to 3-1 for Houston. Martin Maldonado matched Bregman with a home run of his own in the fifth, followed later in the same inning by a sac-fly from Yuli Gurriel, making it a 5-1 Astros lead. Morton, after allowing the first inning run, was able to get through the next three innings scoreless before allowing a solo home run to Boston in the fifth, his last inning, to cut the lead to 5-2. With Morton's day done, Houston turned to flamethrower Josh James, who after a great debut last week did great out of the bullpen eating up the sixth, seventh, and two outs of the eighth while only allowing one hit. Ryan Pressly finished the eighth, then Roberto Osuna took over in the ninth and worked around a run on two hits to close out Houston's seventh consecutive win and also secured a series win against one of the best teams in the league.
Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 3
Sunday, September 9th: 89-53 Astros (Dallas Keuchel) vs. 97-46 Red Sox (Rick Porcello)
In the Sunday primetime slot for the second time in as many weeks, Boston once again in the series scored an early run, getting a leadoff double off of Dallas Keuchel in the bottom of the first that would come around to score on a single later in the inning to put the Astros in a 1-0 hole. Marwin Gonzalez drilled a homer just fair down the right field line to tie the game right away to leadoff the second, but the top of Boston's lineup struck again in the third inning to break the tie and regain the lead at 2-1. The top of the Red Sox lineup made it 3 for 3 on generating runs when they came up again in the bottom of the fifth, getting a leadoff walk and infield single to put two on base for J.D. Martinez who made Keuchel pay with a hanging pitch that he drilled for a three-run homer to give Boston a commanding 5-1 lead. Jose Altuve responded for Houston by getting a run back to leadoff the next inning with a home run on the first pitch he saw, trimming the lead to 5-2, followed later by back-to-back one-out singles by Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa. After a flyout to end Rick Porcello's night, Tyler White took advantage of Boston's bullpen with a two-out, two-RBI double to cut the lead to one at 5-4. After a walk to Brian McCann, Josh Reddick delivered with a game-tying RBI single to erase the four-run deficit and make it a four-run inning. Keuchel was back on the mound in the bottom of the sixth and retired the side in order to complete his rough night of five runs on nine hits over six innings. Luckily for him, he would not factor in the decision thanks to the offense bailing him out. Altuve got on base with a bunt single to start the seventh and advanced to second on a bad throw, then to third on a passed ball. Altuve attempted to score on a groundball from Yuli Gurriel, but the throw home was called an out and after a lengthy review which to many showed Altuve being safe, the call stood and left the game tied. Joe Smith was first out of Houston's bullpen and impressively retired the first three of Boston's lineup in order, something Keuchel was unable to do the first three times through the order. Still tied in the bottom of the eighth, Collin McHugh came out of the bullpen but loaded the bases with one out, prompting a call for Tony Sipp. Sipp came through with two huge strikeouts to leave the bases loaded and the game tied. The top of Houston's order came up empty in the top of the ninth, setting up Boston for the walk-off win which they got off of Hector Rondon to give Houston their first loss of September.
Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 6
Despite the heartbreaker on Sunday night, the Astros had an impressive 5-1 week including taking two out of three against the Red Sox in Boston in a huge momentum building series. They'll need that momentum because the A's simply will not go away sitting still just 2.5 games behind Houston in the AL West. The team had an all-around strong week, with the offense having great performances to back up strong starting pitching that set up the bullpen to lock things down. They have gotten back to having a dangerous lineup from the one to nine spots with guys like Tyler White and Tony Kemp grinding out productive at bats. Carlos Correa continues to struggle at the plate and hinted this week that it may be lingering issues with his back injury causing that. If he can get healthy while playing, it's worth his defense to let him find his way at the plate, but if not, that's a big question mark for Houston going into October. Jose Altuve, meanwhile, appears to be on the rise and could be getting hot in time for another great playoff performance. Marwin Gonzalez also returned to the lineup at the end of the week, capitalized with his big home run on Sunday night, and having him available in a utility role will be big for Houston down the stretch as well. They're healthy and playing great baseball at the right time, so as long as they can keep it together, they're in great shape.
MVP of the Week - Alex Bregman
Tyler White is an honorable mention with how great he's been recently, but this week belonged to Alex Bregman. Bregman went 10 for 21 this week for a .476 average, but more notably Bregman got his 30th home run of the season this week to go along with his 97 RBIs (including the five-RBI game on Wednesday), and 48 doubles. He might not overtake Mookie Bets or J.D. Martinez in the MVP race, but he sure is putting his name in the conversation and for good reason. He's having an amazing year for such a young player and will be a huge asset if he can play at this level in the postseason.
- Mon-Wed: (89-54) Astros @ (59-84) Tigers
- Fri-Sun: (76-67) Diamondbacks @ (89-54) Astros
The Astros will have a quick turnaround after the Sunday night game to travel to Detroit for the first of three games starting Monday night. Monday night's game will mark Justin Verlander's first game back in Detroit since his departure from the Tigers a little over one year ago. After the series in Detroit, the Astros will head back home for a tough weekend series against the Diamondbacks who are in the thick of a three-way battle for the NL West Division crown. Similar to last week, look for the Astros to squash the weaker opponent in the first series then gear up for the stiffer foe to end the week.