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Game 11: Astros can’t outlast Rangers

The result: Robinson Chirinos smacked a two-out single into center field to score Kevin Kouzamanoff from second base with the winning run to send the Rangers to a 1-0 walk-off win in 12 innings over the Astros on Friday night at Globe Life Park (story and boxscore).

The analysis: It was a tough night offensively for the Astros, who managed just two hits — both by Matt Dominguez — in 12 innings against the Rangers. Yu Darvish did what he usually does against the Astros — dominate. He retired the first 15 batters he faced for the third time in his career and had it all working, allowing one hit in eight innings.

“You never have much margin for error going against a guy like that,” Astros starter Scott Feldman said. “Really no matter who you’re facing, try to go out there and limit the damage and get as deep into the game as I could. Obviously, he’s one of the best doing it right now. Pretty typical game for him. He does this all the time.”

Feldman certainly didn’t need to hang his head. He held the Rangers to two hits in seven scoreless innings and lowered his ERA to 0.44 in three starts as an Astros. And extra kudos for him for taking the mound two days after the death of his father. That took some serious guts, focus and heart.

Player of the game: RHP Scott Feldman. You can’t say enough about his effort.

Stat of the game: Feldman has gone at least seven innings scoreless innings with two hits allowed in two of his three career starts against the Rangers. In eight seasons with the Rangers, he never had a start of at least seven scoreless innings and two or fewer hits.

Quote of the day: “I knew that he would want me to. He was a big baseball fan,” Feldman on his father’s desire for him to pitch Friday. His father died Wednesday.

Other stuff: The Astros are  hitting .188 as a team through 11 games. … The Rangers have won 12 games in a row against the Astros. … The top six  hitters in the Astros’ lineup were 0-for-25.

Links:

New dad Albers rejoins team

Luhnow knew Abreu would make an impact

Astros’ bullpen reliable holding leads

Tweets of the day:

 

 

 

Game 7: Astros, Cosart can’t overcome mistakes

The result: The Astros dropped the finale of a four-game series against the Angels, losing 9-1 on Monday afternoon at beautifully sunny Minute Maid Park. Jarred Cosart walked four batters and gave up a career-high five runs, including three in the first inning, and the Astros simply were shut down by C.J. Wilson (story and boxscore).

The analysis: This one was ugly. We’ll begin with Cosart, who got himself in trouble early with walks. If you remember, Cosart walked 38 batters in 60 innings last year and came into 2014 looking to cut down on free passes. He didn’t walk any batters in his first outing Wednesday but walked the first batter he faced Monday and three more.

Cosart righted the ship after the three-run first and managed to work six innings and allow five earned runs and three hits.

“It’s not just the walks,” manager Bo Porter said. “When you start to look at the number of pitches per at-bat and the ability to command the strike zone, I feel like we also aided in that with some poor decisions with the baseball that allowed their big innings to kind of open up.”

When Cosart left the game, Porter met him at the dugout steps and had a little talk with the young right-hander.

“I told him I was proud of him,” he said. “After what happened in the first inning and him being a highly talented young pitcher, there’s going to be some growing pains at the Major League level, and I challenged him after that first inning to go out and put up zeroes. I was proud of the job he was able to do to get us through six innings.

“I told him, ‘You want to be a front-of-the-rotation guy in the Major Leagues, you’re not going to have your A stuff all the time. It’s not going to go right all the time. The reason you’re in the front of the rotation is you’re going toc hew up innings, even when you don’t have your good stuff.’”

Now let’s get to the mistakes. The Astros made three mental errors that won’t show up in the boxscore, but sure had an impact on the game.

  • In the first inning, Angels leadoff hitter Kole Calhoun was at first base with one out when Albert Pujols hit a grounder to shortstop Jonathan Villar, who unsuccessfully tried to beat Calhoun to the bag at second instead of trying to throw out Pujols. As a result, Pujols reached first.

“Now, you have two guys on base and it opens up an opportunity for a big inning,” Porter said. “Again, that’s understanding the speed of the ball, the speed of the runners, the men on base, the batter, runner. We had way too man mental mistakes from a standpoint of execution.”

  • In the seventh inning, with Calhoun on second and Mike Trout on first, Pujols hit a fly ball to center fielder Robbie Grossman, who went back and still tried to throw out Calhoun at second, which allowed Trout to take second. He eventually scored.

“He threw the ball to the wrong base,” Porter said. “It doesn’t go into the column of an error. Obviously, you have Mike Trout, who’s arguably one of the fastest guys in the league, and you go back on the baseball and it’s first and second and you have no chance of throwing out the guy third base. Throw the ball to second and he stops. He continued on because the ball went to third base and we had to try to redirect the ball.”

  • In the eighth inning, outfielder L.J. Hoes was on first base when Villar hit a grounder to Angels shortstop Eric, Aybar. He faked a throw to first, and then caught Hoes off second base for an easy out. The Astros were down 8-1 at the time.

“Not smart,” Porter said. “It’s basically fundamental baseball. The scoreboard is the most important object on the baseball field. Your run doesn’t mean anything as it relates to the number of batters we need to get to the plate. Like I explained to L.J., even if he throws the ball to first base you still should have tried to go to third base. The ball is on the field and that’s not when you take a chance or you risk an out when you’re down by seven runs. It’s just not smart.”

Player of the game: C Carlos Corporan kept the Astros from being shutout with an eighth-inning homer off C.J. Wilson.

Stat of the game: The Astros have 41 hits this year, and 10 have been home runs. This is the first time since 2006 the Astros have double-digit homers through seven games.

Quote of the day: “At the end of the day, we go 3-4. That’s not the goal. The goal is to win every series. I feel like we played with a lot of energy. We came out the gate and have played good baseball for the most part, but at the same time this one here hurts because I don’t feel like we played good baseball today,” Astros manager Bo Porter on team’s 9-1 loss to Angels.

Other stuff: Wilson, who started for the Angels, is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 11 career games (five starts) at Minute Maid Park. … Corporan’s homer was only his second of 12 in his career off a lefty. … Some Astros hitters are in slumps: Robbie Grossman (0-for-19), Marc Krauss (0-for-13) and Jose Altuve (0-for-9).

Links:

Astros to activate Zeid as Albers goes on paternity leave

Fowler back with Astros, but not in lineup

Krauss still waiting for his first hit

Dominguez has two hits, and both are homers

Tweets of the day:

Zeid on his way up to replace Albers

Astros relief pitcher Matt Albers will be placed on paternity leave Tuesday and will be replaced on the roster by right-hander Josh Zeid, who began the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, a source told MLB.com. Zeid is expected to be in Toronto for Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays.

Albers and his wife, Tara, are expecting their first child Tuesday in Houston.

Albers, signed to a one-year, $2.45-million contract in December to pitch for his hometown Astros, pitched in three games during the first week of the season, allowing four hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Players are allowed to take up to three days of paternity leave for the birth of their child.

Zeid was optioned to Triple-A late in spring camp after posting a 4.15 ERA in seven games. He appeared in 25 games in relief for the Astros last year in his Major League debut and was 0-1 with a 3.90 ERA, stranding 15 of the 17 runners he inherited.

Albers, who attended Clements High School in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, appeared in 56 games last season for Cleveland and was 3-1 with a 3.14 ERA. He’s pitched eight years in the Majors, including his first two with Houston (2006-07) and three with Baltimore (2008-10).

Fowler rejoins team, not in lineup

Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler rejoined the team Monday following a bout with a stomach virus that had kept him at home for a few days and even put him in the hospital for a night. He told reporters feeling better, but was still unavailable to play.

Fowler, who has lost eight pounds during the ordeal, hasn’t played since Thursday, when he went 2-for -4 for the third game in a row. He was set to travel with the team to Toronto for a three-game series against the Blue Jays beginning Tuesday.

“I’m pretty weak right now,” Fowler said. “I’m going to see if I can eat some food now. I haven’t eaten in three days. It’s all been liquids and rice and stuff. I’m getting better and just happy everything has slowed down a little bit and I can go out there and be with the team.”

Fowler was in good spirits as he joked around with teammates prior to Monday’s game.

“I’m just happy to be around the guys,” he said. “I was happy for them [for Sunday’s win]. I missed them a lot.”

The Astros haven’t definitely missed Fowler at the top of the lineup, but manager Bo Porter understands Fowler needs to build up his strength. Fowler went 6-for-12 in the team’s first three games with two doubles, a triple and a homer.

“One of the best decisions the doctor made was allowing him to rest the last few days instead of trying to rush him back,” Porter said. “He showed up today in better condition than he would have shown up yesterday, so that’s promising.”

Fowler said he hasn’t been told what caused the virus and said doctors are still doing tests.

“It happens,” he said. “It’s part of life. Like I said, it’s a blessing that it wasn’t worse than it was. It was pretty bad, but luckily I’m still not hospitalized.”

Game 6: Feldman benefits from five-homer outburst

The result: The Astros got five home runs from five different players — two-runs shots by Jason Castro and Jonathan Villar and solo blasts by Matt Dominguez, Jesus Guzman and Alex Presley — and rode seven strong innings from Scott Feldman to snap a three-game losing streak with a 7-4 win over the Angels on Sunday (game story and boxscore).

The analysis: You certainly wouldn’t expect the Astros to beat other teams via the long ball very often, especially when slugger Chris Carter isn’t in the lineup. They only managed seven hits against the Angels, but when five of them leave the yard, it makes life easier on everyone.

“Home runs always help,” manager Bo Porter said. “The biggest one was Villar’s home run there late in the game that gave us that extra cushion (in the seventh, which made it 7-1), and as you can see, we definitely needed it.”

Things got hairy in the ninth when the Angels scored three against Anthony Bass, but Chad Qualls came in and closed it out. He struck out Kole Calhoun to end the game and strand Mike Trout on deck. The Astros’ bullpen is 2-for-2 in save situations so far this year, which is a huge plus after last year’s struggles.

And how good was Feldman? More on him below.

Player of the game: RHP Scott Feldman. The big right-hander, making his second start for the Astros, threw seven innings and allowed three hits and one run to improve to 2-0. He did a great job keeping Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and David Freese off base, holding them to 1-for-14.

“You’re kind of lucky at some point,” he said. “Trout, this guy is not even a human being up there sometimes. Just thankful I made some pretty good pitches with him and I was able to keep him off the bases. That’s huge.”

Stat of the game: Feldman is just one of four Astros pitchers to pitch at least 6 2/3 innings and allow one run or less in his first two starts in an Astros uniform. The others are Roger Clemens (2004), Robin Roberts (1965) and Dean Stone (1962).

Quote of the day: “It’s almost like when you play poker and a person folds their hand. I’m not going to show you my cards,” — Astros manager Bo Porter when asked how they would have approached Mike Trout had he batted in the ninth.

Other stuff: The save by Qualls was the 52nd of his career and first since June 9, 2010. It was his first for the Astros since Sept. 26, 2007. … 3B Matt Dominguez already has two home runs after not hitting his second homer of last season until May 11. He finished with 21. Both of his hits have been homers. The last Astros player with two homers for his first two hits was Rick Ankiel last year. … The Astros have scored first-inning runs in five of their six games this year.

Links:

Fowler still not available, but resting at home

Porter thinks Corporan blocked plate properly

Castro returns to lineup, homers in first AB

Williams gives teammates scouting report on Angels

Crain set to leave for Florida, continue rehab

Tweet of the day:

Astros still without ailing Fowler

At home recuperating from a stomach virus that had forced him to the hospital, Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler wasn’t at the ballpark for Sunday’s game against the Angels. Manager Bo Porter said doctors wanted him to continue to rest at home.

“We’ll continue to monitor it and hopefully get him back soon,” Porter said.

When asked if Fowler would be available to travel to the team to Toronto for a three-game series against the Blue Jays beginning Tuesday, Porter wasn’t sure.

“When you start talking about a virus running through your body, it takes time,” he said. “We don’t know how much longer it’s going to be. We know the doctors are treating him and we’ll see how the rest of [Sunday] goes.”

Fowler hasn’t played since going 6-for-12 in the Astros’ season-opening series win over the Yankees. He went 2-for-4 in each of the three games with two doubles, a triple and a home run, becoming the first player to record at least two runs and two extra-base hits in the first two games of a season since Barry Bonds in 2002.

“He was off to a great start, and we like having that guy at the top of the lineup and manning center field,” Porter said. “Not only that, the energy he brings to the ballclub off the field as well is missed in all those areas.”

While the Astros have missed Fowler, they’re fortunate to have Alex Presley available to play center field in his absence (he started Friday and Sunday). The Astros were going to carry 13 pitchers to enter the season before claiming Presley off waivers just prior to the start of the season in a move that has been beneficial.

“It was definitely something you look at now and had we not made that decision, it would have been very difficult with everything that’s happened to Dexter the last few days here,” Porter said.

HOUSTON ASTROS vs. LOS ANGELES ANGELS
MINUTE MAID PARK – HOUSTON, TX
APRIL 6, 2014 – 1:10 PM CT
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (2-3) HOUSTON ASTROS (2-3)
Player Player
RF Kole Calhoun (L) SS Jonathan Villar (S)
CF Mike Trout LF Robbie Grossman (S)
1B Albert Pujols C Jason Castro (L)
LF Josh Hamilton (L) 2B Jose Altuve
3B David Freese 1B Jesus Guzman
DH Raul Ibanez (L) DH Marc Krauss (L)
2B Howie Kendrick 3B Matt Dominguez
C Hank Conger (S) CF Alex Presley (L)
SS Erick Aybar (S) RF L.J. Hoes
Starting Pitcher Starting Pitcher
RHP Jered Weaver RHP Scott Feldman

Game 3: Lack of execution costs Astros sweep

The result: Coming off a pair of rousing victories over the Yankees to begin the season, the Astros squandered early scoring chances, grounding into four double plays in the first five innings, and flubbed in the field to drop a 4-2 decision in the series finale at Minute Maid Park (story and boxscore).

The analysis: The Astros nearly walked out of Minute Maid Park with a sweep of the Yankees, though winning two of three games isn’t bad. Their biggest problem in the series finale was executing in the clutch. They grounded into four double plays in the first five innings, and then the Yankees bullpen absolutely shut them down.

“We had our chances, especially early,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “We had base runners everywhere. We were probably one big hit away from kind of getting some separation early in the game, but give the New York Yankees credit. They fought and found a way to get out of here with a win.”

The Astros, who have yet to commit an error this season, had a huge flub defensively in the seventh when a two-out pop up between home plate and the pitcher’s mound dropped, allowing Ichiro Suzuki to score from second to make it 4-2. Catcher Carlos Corporan was under the ball before looking towards pitcher Brad Peacock and third baseman Matt Dominguez to his left as the ball fell.

“I went after it because I didn’t want that thing to fall on the ground,” Corporan said. “I saw the pitcher and saw Matty and I kind of was in the middle of everybody. I should have caught it and took charge of the ball. Things happen.”

Starting pitcher Brett Oberholtzer didn’t pitch poorly, coming within an out of a quality start. He’s still working on a curveball, which he threw with confidence. Also, reliever Brad Peacock did a nice job picking up the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and one run on the dropped pop up.

Player of the game: CF Dexter Fowler once again. He went 2-for-4 for the third consecutive game, this time with two singles a run scored and an RBI. he’s the first Astros player with at least two hits in his first three games in an Astros uniform since Ken Caminiti from July 16-18, 1987 as a rookie.

Stat of the game: Oberholtzer has pitched at least five innings in each of his 11 Major League career starts. That streak ranks second in franchise history behind Mark Lemongello, who went at least five innings in each of his first 14 career starts with the Astros (Sept. 14, 1976-May 29, 1977).

Quote of the day: “We could have communicated better. To give them a free out like that later in the game, it was tough. Like I said, you just learn from it and move forward and chalk it up to a learning experience,” Astros first baseman Marc Krauss on the two-out pop up that dropped to the ground in the seventh inning, costing the Astros a run.

Other stuff: Astros starter have posted a 1.56 ERA through the season’s first three games.

Links:

Jason Castro is day to day with a bruised foot

Replay used to check count in Astros-Yanks

Crain heading to Florida to continue rehab work

Porter happy with Astros approach at the plate

Astros have top pool for international signings

Tweets of the day:

 

Astros vs. Yankees lineup

HOUSTON ASTROS vs. NEW YORK YANKEES
MINUTE MAID PARK – HOUSTON, TX
APRIL 3, 2014 – 7:10 PM CT
           
NEW YORK YANKEES (0-2) HOUSTON ASTROS (2-0)
           
Player Player
11 Brett Gardner (L) CF 21 Dexter Fowler (S) CF
2 Derek Jeter SS 19 Robbie Grossman (S) LF
36 Carlos Beltran (S) DH 15 Jason Castro (L) C
25 Mark Teixeira (S) 1B 27 Jose Altuve 2B
12 Alfonso Soriano LF 23 Chris Carter DH
29 Francisco Cervelli C 18 Marc Krauss (L) 1B
14 Brian Roberts (S) 2B 30 Matt Dominguez 3B
31 Ichiro Suzuki (L) RF 8 Alex Presley (L) RF
26 Yangervis Solarte (S) 3B 6 Jonathan Villar (S) SS
Starting Pitcher Starting Pitcher
47 Ivan Nova RHP 39 Brett Oberholtzer LHP

Game 2: Albers backs Cosart’s scoreless start

The result: The Astros got five scoreless innings from Jarred Cosart, another big day at the plate from Dexter Fowler and a lock down job by the bullpen to beat the Yankees for the second day in a row, 3-1, on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park (game story and boxscore).

The analysis: You can’t say enough about the job Matt Albers did by striking out Derek Jeter to end the seventh and then fanning three in a row after Carlos Beltran had started the eighth with a double. This is exactly why the Astros brought him aboard, along with Chad Qualls and Jesse Crain (injured), to give them a fighting chance in key situations.

“We’ve been in these situations before, and when you get put in these situations just be aggressive,” Albers said. “That goes for not only me and Chad, but for everybody in the bullpen. ‘Let’s go after these guys and see what happens and trust your stuff and try not to let the situation overtake you emotionally.’”

Then there was Jarred Cosart, who threw five scoreless innings. You could say he picked up where he left off last year, but that wouldn’t be totally accurate. He didn’t walk anybody. If you remember, walks were a big issue last year for Cosart, who had more walks (35) than strikeouts (33) in his 10-start Major League debut.

“I think you look at the number of curveballs he threw for strikes,” manager Bo Porter said. “He was able to throw his curveball for strikes early in the count. He actually threw a couple of 3-2 curveballs. We all know he has an overpowering fastball, his changeup is coming. But the way he used his breaking ball today really allowed him to keep them off balance and he was able to go five strong innings.”

Player of the game: CF Dexter Fowler, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of extra-base hits for the second night in a row. Fowler homered in the first inning and tripled and scored in the third and has proven to be a huge boost at the top of the lineup through two games.

“Being a leadoff guy, you’re the catalyst,” Fowler said. “That’s all I was trying to do, just get on base and let the other guys do their jobs. We work together as a team and we can win a lot of games.”

Stat of the game: Cosart threw 57 of his 88 pitches for strikes. At 64.8 percent, it was the highest strike percentage for a single game in his brief career.

Quote of the day: “I love coming in any time they call my name. If I get a chance to come in and close a game out, I love that, too. I had a lot of fun out there. It was fun, especially against the Yankees. A team like that, with the type of lineup they have, it was a blessing to be able to get the job done,” Astros reliever Josh Fields, who got the save.

Other stuff: The Yankees were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. … Fowler is the first player in Astros history with two runs scored in each of his first two games with the team. … Fowler and Robbie Grossman both had triples, marking the Astros’ first game with multiple triples since Aug. 23 against the Blue Jays when they had three. They only one had the rest of that season. … The Astros are 4-13 against the Yankees all-time.

Links:

Astros shower Jeter with applause, gifts

Timing of Springer call-up depends on many factors

Bo Porter explains why Altuve will hit fourth sometimes

Astros unveil Minor League rosters

Krauss, Presley get to start vs. Yanks

Tweets of the day

 

Why is Jose Altuve hitting cleanup?

As promised, Astros manager Bo Porter had catcher Jason Castro hitting third and second baseman Jose Altuve hitting fourth Wednesday against the Yankees. It was only the third time in Altuve’s career – the other two came in his rookie season in 2011 – he batted cleanup.

With Dexter Fowler entrenched the leadoff spot and Robbie Grossman batting second, Porter is flip-flopping Castro and Altuve based on matchups – Castro (left-handed bat) hitting third against right-handers, and Altuve (right-handed bat) hitting third against lefties.

“Obviously, Altuve and Castro are arguably our two best hitters, and having Fowler and Grossman at the top, those two guys are switch-hitters who can get on base,” Porter said. “When you hit Castro third and a right-hander is pitching, you’re basically making sure the left-hander gets the extra at-bat given the matchup scenario.

“When it’s a left-hander pitching, you put Altuve in the three-hole to make sure the right-hander gets the extra at-bat given the match-up scenario.”

The rest of the lineup will also depend on matchups for the most part, though third baseman Matt Dominguez has hit seventh and shortstop Jonathan Villar has batted ninth in each of the first two games. Designated hitter Chris Carter hit sixth against lefty CC Sabathia on Tuesday and fifth against a right-hander on Wednesday.

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