Odorizzi finds footing, shows leadership

April 19th, 2021

Being new to the Astros doesn’t mean that pitcher can’t play the role of a veteran, which is why he pulled center fielder aside Sunday and gave him some words of encouragement.

Straw, who took over for George Springer as the Astros’ starting center fielder this year, was involved in a pivotal play in Sunday’s 7-2 loss in Seattle in which he couldn’t reel in a one-out fly ball to deep center in the Mariners’ four-run fifth inning.

“It was a big point of the game,” Straw said. “You could say it cost us the game or whatever, but it’s nice for him to come up. He told me he still has confidence in me and it means a lot. I got there. I gave that play my all. Obviously, I didn’t grab it and it sucks, but it’s baseball and it happens. It was good to hear that from him.”

The bright sun and high sky appeared to play a factor in Straw not being able to corral the fly ball off the bat of Mitch Haniger, who was credited with a two-run triple off Odorizzi that put Seattle ahead, 3-2. Two pitches later, Ty France hit a two-run homer off reliever Brooks Raley, and the Mariners were on their way to sending the undermanned Astros to their seventh loss in eight games.

The sun may have also kept the Astros from being no-hit. The only hit Houston managed was a second-inning RBI double by Aledmys Díaz that Seattle left fielder José Marmolejos lost in the sky.

“It was tough to see out there,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “I could tell that he really didn’t know kind of where [the ball] was ... because usually Straw catches that ball. That was a tough ball to see. Their left fielder missed Díaz's ball earlier. I knew the sun was going to be a factor; it was just a factor at the wrong time.”

Odorizzi, in his second start with Houston, walked a pair of batters in the first inning and gave up an RBI single to Evan White before retiring the next 10 hitters, including six by strikeout. There were were runners on first and second with one out in the fifth when Haniger sent a fly ball 401 feet to center field and towards Straw.

Straw ran straight back and onto the warning track before reaching out his glove and having the ball glance off his left wrist. The fly ball had a 95 percent catch probability, according to Statcast, based on the distance Straw ran and the time the ball was in the air. The sun made it much more difficult, Straw said.

“It was a tough sun at that point,” he said. “It was directly behind home plate and the way Haniger swung at that ball, it looked like he was out in front. I know he’s a strong guy and I know he’s got some power. I noticed the ball was back and it literally took right off into the sun and I knew it drove me back. I saw it at the last second and sure enough I couldn’t get it.”

Odorizzi told Straw not to sweat it and that he was going to need to make some plays for him as the season progresses.

“He got there,” Odorizzi said. “Sometimes you lose track when you’re out there, especially when the ball is right on the edge of the sun. I thought it was important for him to not dwell on this, flush it and move on. He’ll be good for us. It’s a game of inches and that’s what it boils down to. I think he’ll make that play more times than not in normal conditions. It was a tough one.”