Marwin Gonzalez' bloop single to left in the eighth plated Jake Marisnick with the winning run Friday night as the Astros nipped Baltimore, 2-1, to post their 101st win of the season, matching last year's regular-season win total. The franchise record is 102 set by the 1998 squad. Taking two of the final three games would set a new club mark.
Cole: Solid but no decision
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Gerrit Cole allowed an RBI double to Adam Jones in the first which brought home former Astro Jonathan Villar. With the Astros' infield shifted, there was plenty of room for Jones' excuse-me liner down the right field line to hop into the corner before Josh Reddick could dig it out.
Cole settled down to finish six innings on five hits and one walk. He struck out four to likely end his regular season with 276 whiffs, behind only teammate Justin Verlander in the league's strikeout list.
Cole also eclipsed the 200-inning mark, joining Verlander and Dallas Keuchel in that department.
Meanwhile, David Hess was handcuffing the Houston batters. It wasn't until the sixth that the Astros tied the game, courtesy of Reddick's 17th home run of the year - a solo shot that nestled onto the right field patio seats above their auxiliary scoreboard. Hess lasted seven innings and allowed just three hits.
Tony Sipp followed Cole and became the winning pitcher, lowering his season ERA to 1.86 in 54 appearances. Collin McHugh and Roberto Osuna closed it out.
Tanner Scott took over for Hess in the eighth and gave out free one-out passes to Marisnick and Kyle Tucker before Alex Bregman beat out an infield hit to load the bases. Gonzalez picked out a 1-2 slider and muscled it into shallow left, just in front of the oncoming left fielder. Tucker was in danger of passing Marisnick who had tagged up but held up in time and then waited at third while Marisnick came home.
Thursday's rain out now creates an old-fashioned doubleheader Saturday afternoon. Verlander (16-9) is slated to pitch the first game against Dylan Bundy (8-16) in a 3:05 p.m. Central lidlifter. In the nightcap, Keuchel (12-11) is expected to start against righty Yefry Ramirez (1-7) at Ralph Kramden Yards.
So are we seeing the likely postseason rotation for the Houston-Cleveland Division Series that starts Friday October 5th at Minute Maid? Cole, Verlander and Keuchel in the best-of-five? Keuchel was a notorious home-park pitcher in his Cy Young season of 2015 but this year he was 4-6 with a 3.90 ERA at home and 8-5 with a 3.61 ERA on the road.
Cole was roughly equal home and away while Verlander was distinctly a roadie (12-2 away and 4-7 at home). However, you don't want to use your best starter on the road in Game 3 where he's unable to come back at full strength in a potential Game 5. Therefore, the smartest option would be to pitch Verlander in Game 1 and Cole in Game 2 followed by Keuchel. That way, Verlander can come back in the critical Game 4 on the road and Cole can have the decisive Game 5 back at home.
Then there's Charlie Morton who was great anywhere, as his 15-3 record attests. Does he pitch Game 4 and set up a Verlander-Cole tandem for Game 5? Lots of ways to play this, fortunately.
- Bob Hulsey