The Thursday Takeaway
Back on Tuesday, the Royals ended the Astros' 11-game winning streak with an improbable comeback. Kansas City then had the audacity to return to Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday and pick up a win. All of a sudden, this Houston team that had been steamrolling their way through May and early June was starting to look a little bit human. However, it appears that this may have just been a 48-hour jaunt into the realm of mortality for Houston, because they returned to form by the time Thursday night’s game had ended.
The first eight innings of this game belonged to the pitchers, and especially Lance McCullers. McCullers went into Thursday’s start with a DRA of 2.44 and a cFIP of 80, and he was about to add a major highlight to his 2017 reel as he flirted with a no-hitter after six innings. The flirting turned into out-and-out rejection by the Royals once the seventh inning rolled around, because that’s when Lorenzo Cain ended the no-hitter bid with a triple.
Mike Moustakas tied the game at one in the very next at-bat, and even though McCullers did get through the seventh, he no longer had a no-hitter or the lead. Instead, McCullers had to “settle” for seven innings with eight strikeouts, two walks, and two hits.
After a scoreless eighth inning, it seemed like this one was destined to head to extras, which would’ve been a fitting conclusion to a bit of a frustrating four-game series for Houston. As it turned out, the ninth inning ended up being when Jose Altuve decided that enough was enough and it was time to leave Missouri on a high note.
That 430-foot bomb off of Kelvin Herrera put the Astros up by two, and they’d eventually win it by five thanks to some insurance runs and a shutdown frame from Chris Devenski. They may be returning to Houston with just a measly winning "streak" of one game and their top starter may be on the DL, but the Astros could at least rest easy on Thursday night knowing three things were for certain—Jose Altuve’s still a monster, Lance McCullers is still having a lovely season, and they can still put a crooked number on a scoreboard when they need to.
In the latest edition of “Tropicana FIeld Misadventures with Kevin Kiermaier,” yesterday’s installment saw the defensive maestro bring his recent penchant for weird things in that stadium to the basepaths. First, he got caught up in a lengthy rundown that resulted in a double play.
Later on, he was involved in another incident when his throw from right-center field was misplayed and led to a wacky series of events that somehow resulted in the Rays recording an out at home.
Finally, Kiermaier rounded off his weird day by injuring himself while sliding into first base. All I’m going to do now is politely ask all baseball players to stop sliding into first base. Please stop doing this. Nothing good comes from sliding into first base.
Gary Sanchez went through the first two months of the season with four home runs over 109 plate appearances. He’s now got four home runs in his past 28 plate appearances, and that includes two dingers last night against the Red Sox. As if it wasn’t clear last week, the power in Sanchez’s bat is still alive and well.
Welcome to the 2017 season, where things like the Rockies being a first-place team in June and the Cubs being a team that’s floating around .500 are real. These two started what should be an intriguing four-game series, and the team from the mountains came out on top in the first game. It helped that they got an amazing defensive play from Nolan Arenado to help retain a near wire-to-wire lead in this one.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks are doing their best to keep pace with their friends in surprise contention in the NL West. They easily beat the Padres on Thursday, and they did it largely thanks to the exploits of .252 TAv hitter Chris Iannetta having a monster night at the plate. It’s not quite what Scooter Gennett did the other night, but I’m sure that Iannetta and the rest of the D-Backs will take a 3-for-5 night with one homer and seven RBIs. Hopefully a special fan in Washington D.C. was able to catch most of it before going to sleep at a reasonable time.
Arizona’s drubbing of San Diego got to the point where a position player had to pitch. With the grand Christian Bethancourt experiment apparently on ice since he’s not even on their 40-man roster anymore, that meant that Eric Aybar was the position player who had to take on pitching duties last night.
Defensive Play of the Day
It was going to take something really special to beat out Arenado’s barehanded play for this award. Congratulations to Byron Buxton for being up to the task and pulling something amazing out of his bag of tricks to lock up the play of the day.
What to Watch on Friday
The matinee matchup of the day is happening at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs will continue their series with the Rockies. Mike Montgomery is getting the start for the Cubs, and while his ERA, FIP, and cFIP are in line with what he did last season, his DRA is currently more than a full point above his 2016 number. This will be his first start of the season, so we’ll see if he can make a dent in that number. He’ll still have some very tough competition on his hands, as evidenced by what the Rockies did to Chicago last night.
Over in the AL East, there’s really no rest for the weary. Hot off the heels of a big series win over their hated rivals, the Yankees now have to deal with the Orioles for a weekend series. New York easily dispatched of David Price last night, and they’ll be looking to do the same to Dylan Bundy and the O’s tonight. Bundy did limit the Yankees to two runs in their last matchup in late May, so there’s a chance that Bundy could deftly work his way through New York’s lineup again.