ASTROS DEFEAT WHITE SOX

Hunter Brown deals, Astros even series against White Sox

Astros Hunter Brown
Astros defeat White Sox, 4-1. Composite Getty Image.

Hunter Brown tossed six innings of one-run ball for his third straight win, backup catcher César Salazar had a pair of RBI singles and the Houston Astros topped the Chicago White Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Jake Meyers lined a pair of doubles to end an 0-for-17 slump and scored two runs to help Houston end a two-game slide. Mauricio Dubón drove in a run with a groundout and single to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. Chas McCormick added a sac fly.

Andrew Benintendi hit a solo homer in the fourth for Chicago, ending Brown’s streak of scoreless innings at 16, a season high for an Astros pitcher.

Brown (4-5) scattered seven hits, struck out six and walked none in his sixth straight quality start. The 25-year-old right-hander, in his second season in Houston's rotation, lowered his ERA to 4.72 after a rough start.

Three relievers followed with three innings of one-hit ball. Josh Hader worked around a single in the ninth for his 10th save.

Salazar went 2 for 2 in his second game this season and first multihit game of his career. He entered in the third inning after starting catcher Victor Caratini left with discomfort in his left leg after he was thrown out at the plate.

Recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land on June 11, Salazar started the night with just three hits in 20 career at-bats in 14 contests.

White Sox starter Garrett Crochet (6-6) labored at times through six innings, allowing three runs and nine hits. The lefty struck out eight and walked one.

The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the third after loading the bases with one out. McCormick scored from third on Dubón’s groundout when Chicago got a force at second, but couldn’t complete a double-play.

Houston made it 2-0 in the fourth on Salazar’s single.

Benintendi’s homer down the line to right in the bottom half cut it to 2-1.

After Meyers doubled in the sixth, Salazar followed with a grounder up the middle to make it 3-1.

Meyers scored again on McCormick’s sacrifice fly in the eighth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: OF Kyle Tucker (right shin contusion) still has not started on-field baseball activities, manager Joe Espada said. “The recovery is slow, and we all hoped it would have been faster,” Espada said. The slugger had 19 homers when he was hurt on June 3 when he fouled a pitch off his shin against the Cardinals.

White Sox: Manager Pedro Grifol said RHP Mike Clevinger (right elbow inflammation) will need at least one more rehab start with Triple-A Charlotte. The 33-year-old right-hander allowed two runs and four hits in three innings on Tuesday. Clevinger went on the 15-day IL on May 28.

UP NEXT

Houston will send Spencer Arrighetti (3-6, 6.37) to the mound against Chicago’s Chris Flexen (2-6, 5.35) in the series finale Thursday afternoon.

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Examining baseball's run scoring dilemma. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Baseball can’t run away from its lack of runs.

Batting averages are near half-century lows. Velocity is at an all-time high.

"Run scoring, it’s not easy to do. It’s hard and it’s getting harder,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Pitchers are getting better by the outing.”

The major league batting average was .240 through April and .239 in May, the lowest since the bottom of .237 in 1968’s Year of the Pitcher. It’s risen slightly along with the temperature as spring turned to summer: .246 in June and .250 in July, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Still, the season average of .243 heading into the All-Star break was just ahead of 2022 and 1968 as the lowest since the dead-ball era ended in 1920.

“Batting average was down a little bit. That’s not necessarily a good thing if you’re looking for action in the game,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in late May.

And the drop isn’t just in the big leagues. This year’s minor league batting average is .243, down from .256 in 2019.

“I didn’t see 100 (mph) when I was playing. It’s commonplace now,” said Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, whose last season was 2008.

Average four-seam fastball velocity is 94.2 mph this year, matching 2023 and up from 91.1 mph in 2008. There were 3,880 pitches of 100 mph or higher last year, up from 214 in 2008.

Just at Triple-A this year there have been 461.

“You can tell as a hitter. Guys are going to the top with the fastballs,” said Dylan Crews, the No. 2 draft pick last year and now at Washington's Triple-A Rochester farm team.

In an age of shortened attention spans, Major League Baseball has tried to increase action by instituting limits on defensive shifts in 2023 along with a pitch clock to cut dead time. The average time of a nine-inning game dropped from 3 hours, 4 minutes in 2022 to 2:40 last year and 2:36 thus far this season, but runs remain near post-Steroids Era lows: 4.39 per team each game, down from 4.62 last year and up from 4.28 in 2022.

Still, hitters have cut down slightly on strikeouts: the rate of 8.36 per team per game this season is the lowest since 2017, down from 8.61 last year and a record 8.81 in 2019.

“There’s more spin rate. There’s harder throwers,” San Diego star third baseman Manny Machado said. “There’s just so much information and I think that’s what creates the havoc and makes hitting a little bit harder.”

The percentage of fastballs — four-seamers, sinkers and cutters — is 55.5% this year, just above last season’s 55.4%. It was 62.5% in 2015.

Spin rates on sliders, sweepers and slurves have increased from 2,106 revolutions per minute in 2015 to 2,475 this year and their use has increased from 10.9% to 22.5%.

Team wonks view video and dissect data to provide pitchers pointers and batters blueprints. The Dodgers employ senior directors of baseball systems applications and baseball systems platforms along with directors of baseball strategy and information, quantitative analysis, baseball product development, integrative baseball performance, performance innovation lab and baseball innovation.

As a result of the perpetual perusal, pitchers are told what to throw, when to throw and how to throw.

Atlanta’s Max Fried mixes seven pitches: four-seamer, sinker, cutter, slider, sweeper, curveball and changeup.

“The information is so prevalent that there are no secrets,” Fried said. “Baseball is still a game of changing speeds and mixing up looks and if you can just kind of keep guys off balance as much as you possibly can there, you’re going to give yourself the best chance to be successful.”

The New York Yankees built a pitching laboratory known as the “Gas Station” at their minor league complex in Tampa, Florida, ahead of the 2020 season, a type of facility that is now becoming more commonplace. Pitchers from big leaguers down to high school have gone to Driveline in Kent, Washington, to develop their repertoires. “Pitch shape” has become a common term.

“You could go long periods, months maybe, where teams were not adding new pitches,” Baldelli said. “And now you see almost every series, you run in against a team and someone’s doing something completely different. I think the fear has kind of left the major league clubhouses when it comes to making adjustments.”

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