Late big fly lifts Astros over Giants again
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Astros' plan coming in for two games at AT&T Park was to play small ball against the Giants.
Then, of course, the homers blossomed. Tyler White earned Tuesday afternoon's 2-1 win with a two-run eighth-inning blast less than 24 hours after Marwin Gonzalez secured Monday's win with a three-run ninth-inning big fly.
"We came into this series with the mindset that we weren't going to rely on the long ball," right fielder Josh Reddick said."We were going to have to switch some things up. And it ended up being the two homers that won us the ballgames."
The two-game sweep of San Francisco completed a road trip in which Houston went 6-2 without some of its biggest bats in the lineup. Second baseman Jose Altuve hasn't played since late July and shortstop Carlos Correa and catcher Brian McCann haven't played since late June. Outfielder George Springer then landed on the 10-day disabled list for this series.
"The depth that we have is pretty incredible," Reddick said. "We talk about being a really good lineup, top to bottom, and now is the time when we really have to prove that, especially with our big horses out. Those were two really big swings that won us the ballgames."
For seven innings on Tuesday, the Astros got few big swings, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They were kept in the game by starter Dallas Keuchel. He allowed three hits and one run in six innings, then complained about the hitting -- his own hitting, to be exact.
"It was a lackluster couple of at-bats for myself," Keuchel said. In the second, he came up with Reddick, who had tripled, on third and Jake Marisnick on second but struck out. In the fifth, Keuchel wanted to bunt following a leadoff double from Marisnick, but he couldn't, eventually striking out against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner.
"I could have helped myself out on that second at-bat with a bunt," Keuchel said. "But that's a tough gig [against Bumgarner]."
White had troubles of his own. He left a man at second base in the first inning, then was thrown out at the plate by first baseman Buster Posey after a one-out triple in the sixth.
Those came against Bumgarner. By the eighth, the lefty ace had been replaced by hard-throwing right-hander Ray Black. White fell behind 0-2, then had to duck as a 96-mph heater came toward his head.
"That was scary; it got away from him," White said. "But you've got to be ready on the next pitch."
White was. Black came back with another four-seam screamer and White centered it with his bat, driving it out to left. The pitch was clocked by Statcast™ at 99.1 mph. It is the fastest pitch on which an Astros player has homered this year and the fourth-fastest for a Houston hitter since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hector Rondon took over in the ninth inning and threw a scoreless frame for his 13th save and his second in less than 24 hours. All of that has taken place since he replaced the since-traded Ken Giles as the closer on July 6.
"His heart beats slow," manager AJ Hinch said approvingly of Rondon. "There's no panic in him."
After allowing one run in six innings Tuesday, Keuchel has a 1.97 ERA and a 5-1 record over his past seven starts.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The 99.1-mph fastball from Black that White turned into Tuesday's game-winning homer is tied for the fourth-fastest pitch to have been hit out of an MLB park this season.
After an off-day on Wednesday, the Astros are facing one of their prime problems, Seattle lefty James Paxton, on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. CT with Justin Verlander going against him. Paxton has more wins vs. Houston (six) in his career than any other team, and this year, he's 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA against them. The Astros will be without their only player to homer against Paxton this year, Springer.