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The Thursday Takeaway

The first at-bat of yesterday's game between the Astros and Athletics went about as badly as it could possibly go for Houston. George Springer was awarded first base, but he was hit by a 92 mph fastball and had to exit the game as a result.

It would’ve been easy to think that this would be a bad omen for Houston, but that was far from the case. In fact, the rest of the lineup wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as they put up two runs in the first inning and then proceeded to have one of those offensive explosions that we’re getting so used to seeing from Houston this season.

The Astros collected six hits and a walk in the top of the second inning, with four of those hits being of the extra-base variety and two of those being three-run homers. Just like that, the Astros had another crooked number on the board and it seemed like we were on our way to seeing a blowout of massive proportions at the Coliseum.

Before we move on to the rest of the game—which actually did end up getting interesting by the end—we have to mention the embarrassment of riches that the Astros currently have. Their starting center fielder lasted only five pitches during his first at-bat of the day, and then his replacement comes in and hits a monster shot on an inside pitch over the fence for a three-run dinger.

We should also talk about how Josh Reddick had a walk, a double, a triple, and a homer. It won’t go down in the record books as a cycle, but it was as close as you could get to hitting for the cycle without actually doing it. Either way, what a time to be alive and a member of the Astros.

So, with the score being 10-0 after two innings, it was safe to assume that the team with the best record in baseball was just going to continue rolling over the cellar-dweller of the AL West. That appeared to be the case for the next five innings when Oakland got three runs on the board, but were still way behind.

That all changed in the bottom of the eighth inning, which is when Oakland’s offense sprung to life in a big way. Dayan Diaz hasn’t been the most reliable reliever for the Astros this season and that trend continued when he gave up three doubles and two walks while only recording one out. Michael Feliz replaced him after the second walk, and gave up a double of his own. Five pitches (including a wild pitch) later, the A’s had somehow clawed their way to within striking distance of Houston by making it a 12-9 game.

Unfortunately for Oakland, the day was proof that falling into a 10-run hole is never a good idea, because their boom inning in the eighth still wasn’t good enough to topple the Astros. As a result, Houston is the first team to reach 50 wins this season and are still tearing through the rest of the American League like a hot knife through butter.

Quick Hits

It’s a good time to be a strikeout merchant in baseball. Craig Kimbrel’s strikeout rate is at an astonishing 53 percent. Kenley Jansen’s number is nearly 47 percent, and Corey Knebel’s rate is at 44 percent. However, Knebel does have something over those other relievers in that he now has the record for consecutive appearances for a reliever with a strikeout. He’s set the record at 38, and I think it’s safe to bet on him stretching out that number a bit.

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Don’t look now, but Jose Quintana appears to be settling back into a groove. Quintana had a couple of rough starts to end May, but he’s been solid ever since the calendar switched. He appears to be rounding out the month of June in solid form and confirmed it by nearly throwing seven shutout innings against the Twins.

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The Yankees didn’t win last night, and that’s starting to become a regular occurrence since they’ve now lost eight of their last nine games. On the bright side, another thing that’s become a regular occurrence for the Bronx Bombers is seeing Aaron Judge hit monster dingers. This one wasn’t quite on the level of the 495-footer that he launched a while back, but Judge’s 25th homer of the season was still impressive to behold.

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Meanwhile, Atlanta appears to be actually serious about moving Freddie Freeman to third base upon his return from a wrist injury. They’re doing this to keep Matt Adams’ bat in the lineup, as the former Cardinals first baseman has done a good job keeping the production up while Freeman’s been absent. It’s a bit of a short-sighted decision, but when Adams is hitting homers like this on a regular basis (and he went into Thursday’s game with a TAv of .315 since joining the Braves), you can understand why the Braves are actually considering it.

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Colorado’s been getting plenty of attention for their amazing start, but the Diamondbacks paid a visit to Coors Field this week and it seemed like they wanted to make sure that they were the ones getting attention once they left Denver. A 16-5 win on Wednesday and a 10-3 on Thursday (including this massive shot from Paul Goldschmidt) will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

Defensive Play of the Day

The balls were flying out of and around SunTrust Park with relative ease on Thursday night, but Gorkys Hernandez made sure that at least one ball stayed in the park. It wasn’t enough to keep the Braves out of the “W” column, but it was enough to at least keep San Francisco ahead at the moment.

What to Watch on Friday

For all the east coast people reading this, there is plenty of incentive to stay up late on a Friday night to watch some baseball. That’s because this game involves the red-hot Dodgers and the aforementioned surprise package of the Rockies. These two teams are going to begin their battle for the top of the NL West this weekend and the pitching matchup for the first game is a doozy. The Dodgers will be sending Alex Wood to the mound, and while you don’t need me to tell you that he’s been excellent this season, it’s still nice to point out that the lefty is currently sitting on a 1.90 ERA, a 2.53 DRA, and a cFIP of 79.

Wood will be tasked with finding a way to slow down Colorado’s offense and Nolan Arenado in particular. Going into Thursday’s game, the star third baseman has been hitting .367/.393/.684 in the month of June and appears to be going on a tear in order to make sure that he’s going to end this hot month on a high note. He may only have three hits in 13 career at-bats against Wood, but two of those hits were homers. We’ll see if Arenado can add to that tally in his latest encounter with Wood, and this should definitely be an entertaining game to follow tonight.