Buoyed by four "crooked numbers" and the three-hit pitching of Gerrit Cole and his bullpen, the Astros made quick work of Detroit on Saturday, 9-1, before a full house of 40,405 at Minute Maid. Combined with late night results, Houston has built a five-game lead over Seattle and a nine-game edge over Oakland in the AL West.
Reddick: Power stroke returning
(c) Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle
In our "everybody gets a new car" season, Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano picked up their World Championship rings on Saturday and, before anyone scoffs because they weren't World Series players, it should be pointed out that Fiers threw more regular-season innings than any Astro pitcher (153-1/3rd) last season who saved his best for that stretch of June when he was seemingly the only healthy arm in the rotation. Liriano, a trade deadline acquisition, added lefthanded innings (20 games) when a struggling Tony Sipp was the only other lefty option in the bullpen.
From the mound, Cole delivered 5-2/3rd innings of three-hit pitching on Saturday, allowing the one run and four walks while striking out eight. Joe Smith earned the last out of the sixth before Chris Devenski and Cionel Perez hurled three frames of no-hit ball to finish off the Kitties.
Josh Reddick and Evan Gattis hit back-to-back homers in the fifth to highlight the offense. Tyler White drilled a two-run shot in the seventh to close out the scoring. Houston scored twice in four separate innings during the game.
It didn't take long. A sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an RBI double by Reddick in the first opened the scoring. All-Stars George Springer and Alex Bregman plated runs in the second although Springer was thrown out at the plate when the Astros tried to get greedy. Marwin Gonzalez singled home Gurriel in the third to build a 5-0 cushion.
In 2017, the Astros finished the "first half" at 60-29 (.674). With one game to go before the Break, Houston is 64-34 (.653) this season. There will be just 63 games left in the regular season when they return to action next Friday.
Before we get there, though, Justin Verlander (9-4) gets to finally pitch against his former team Sunday in a 1:10 pm Central finale. Curiously, Liriano (3-5) will be his mound opponent.
The Verlanders have announced they are expecting a child. Best wishes are in order but, whether a boy or girl, this kid will have a lot to live up to given the fame and talents of his parents.
Two other side notes: Catcher Wilson Ramos of Tampa Bay pulled a hamstring on Saturday which is expected to land him on the disabled list. Ramos has been linked to the Astros in trade rumors and this may scuttle those plans. Also, newcomer Kyle Tucker is quietly struggling with a .154 average and .434 OPS in 26 at bats since making his big league debut. How much longer will the Astros let him adjust to big league pitching before sending him back to Fresno?
Don't be surprised to see a few roster moves during or after the All-Star Break.
- Bob Hulsey