The Houston Astros showed up on a sunny Saturday in Arlington eager to shake off Friday night’s defeat to the Texas Rangers. Though they finished that game strongly, the first three innings were filled with moments that Bo Porter’s men would rather forget.
The Astros’ aptly-named starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel was keen to do what Lucas Harrell could not the night before – hit the ground running. Keuchel was in absolute command for the first three, in total contrast to his teammate. The Astros are the youngest team in the league and are at the mercy of their emotions, so it is crucial that they get on the scoreboard first. They did just that.
Rookies came through big and early for Houston. Brandon Barnes hit a two-run shot to start things off, and newly-promoted Marc Krauss, facing the first bases-loaded situation of his short career, smashed a double into right field, scoring his first two career RBI. The Astros young guns are making mistakes, leading the league in errors, but of course they are. They’re learning. Nights like tonight are extremely important to the egos of athletes who play a game where confidence is the difference between a star and a dropout.
Keuchel was having a sterling night, crucially throwing 14-of-17 first-pitch strikes, something of an alien concept to many Astros starters. Going behind in counts has become a huge problem for Astros pitchers, and this has to be their goal every game. However Keuchel was pulled after 5.1 innings with the Rangers yet to score. Texas proceeded to score four runs before Porter could even know what had happened and you could sense Astros fans around the country sighing in harmony, “not again.”
The Astros dug deep and decided that this was going to be their night, and they would fight hard.
Jason Castro was named an All-Star earlier in the day, his first selection. He played like a star. Having defended resiliently all game, he approached the plate in the seventh inning with two runners on, the score tied, and waited for his pitch. He took a fastball over the center of the plate deep into the center-field stands, grabbing a lead that the Astros would then never relinquish.
Brett Wallace quietly had a fantastic day of his own, reaching base all five times, including two walks, two doubles and a misplaced slider caught him in the elbow for the fifth on-base moment. Since returning from the minors, he is looking more and more each day like the player the Astros had hoped he would become. Let’s see if the powerful first-baseman’s evolution continues.
Before tonight, the Texas Rangers had been 31-1 in any game where they had scored five runs. Make that 31-2.