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3 takeaways from Astros' series-clinching win

Brantley breaks out; Miley delivers Houston’s best start of ‘19
@brianmctaggart
April 19, 2019

HOUSTON -- The Astros erupted for their biggest inning of the season Saturday night, getting two-run homers in the fifth from George Springer and Michael Brantley to back a scoreless outing from starter Wade Miley en route to a 6-0 win over the A’s at Minute Maid Park. Miley, making

HOUSTON -- The Astros erupted for their biggest inning of the season Saturday night, getting two-run homers in the fifth from George Springer and Michael Brantley to back a scoreless outing from starter Wade Miley en route to a 6-0 win over the A’s at Minute Maid Park.

Miley, making his first start at Minute Maid Park with the Astros, delivered the first scoreless outing by an Astros starter this year, and the four-run outburst in the fifth was a welcomed sight for an Astros offense that had scored just 13 runs in its previous seven games. The six runs was Houston’s highest output of the season.

Here are three key takeaways from Saturday’s win:

Miley the magnificent

Miley (1-1) held the A’s scoreless for 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits (three singles) with two walks and four strikeouts. He finally walked a batter in his 10th inning into the season. Miley, of course, relied heavily on his devastating cutter, which he threw 42 times, but credited catcher Robinson Chirinos for helping believe he “could get people out with changeups and curveballs.”

“That was definitely fun working with him,” Miley said. “I was commanding the ball pretty well and moving it in and out and keeping the guys off balance.”

Miley, who threw 16 curveballs and 18 changeups, said that wasn’t exactly the game plan coming into the game. He got the ball on the ground when he needed and got a couple of big strikeouts when he needed.

“It looked like early on those guys were ready for the cutter in and it really wasn’t all that great tonight, so we just moved to the changeup and used the fastball more,” he said.

Bunt kickstarts Brantley

Brantley was in an 0-for-17 funk when he came to the plate to lead off the fourth inning and decided to drop down a bunt for a hit. He wound up scoring on a double by Yuli Gurriel, and the bunt seemed to break him loose at the plate. He blasted a two-run homer in his next at-bat to put the Astros ahead, 5-0.

“I was leading off the inning and [looking] for any way to get on base and try to start a rally for my teammates,” Brantley said. “Most important, it led to us scoring a run. Yuli did a great job and had a great swing, and I was on the move on a 3-2 count. That was the most important thing.”

Brantley had gone 0-for-4 in four consecutive games prior to Saturday, tying the longest such streak of his career.

“He’s hitting in the middle of the order because of how good his at-bats are,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “I think the bunt showed he’s very aware of the situation given that they’re playing back and comes up the very next at-bat and hits a bomb. The at-bats have been good; the results have not been great to this point. His demeanor has been the same. It doesn’t surprise me he got a pitch to hit and did some damage.”

Marisnick walk sets up inning

With the Astros leading 1-0, nine-hole hitter Jake Marisnick drew a leadoff walk in the fifth against A’s starter Aaron Brooks, setting up Houston’s big inning. Brooks appeared to throw a strike in the lower right-hand corner on a 3-1 pitch during the at-bat, but it was called a ball and Marisnick had a key walk.

It was Marisnick’s second walk of the season and first since his first plate appearance of the season on March 28, which was Opening Day.

“Leadoff runners are something we need and want and I track, especially in that nine-hole,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen Tony Kemp do it a lot, we’ve seen the bottom of the order tonight -- Chirinos got a nice Crawford Box homer [in the sixth] -- you get production in the bottom of the order, and it rolls to George. We saw what George can do tonight, too.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.