If you were watching last night, you were probably as nervous as I was in the top of the ninth. Here we were only four days since Dallas Keuchel pitched the Astros’ first complete game of the season, and Lucas Harrell was coming back out onto the mound to finish what he’d started against the San Diego Padres. Did I mention the score was only 1-0?
The 9th inning would prove to be the most batters that Harrell would face in one inning all night – 6. Six batters to get those three outs to claim a complete game shut out. He put the first two hitters to rest easily with ground ball outs (well, one was actually an amazing 7-2 out), but would then find himself with the bags loaded thanks to a walk, a single and another walk.
Did I mention nail-biting?
That 6th hitter of the inning? The Padres catcher, Nick Hundley, who was 0-3 at the plate at that point. I looked at my dad and said, “This will be a strikeout.” I’ve never been so glad to to be right, as Harrell threw two balls and three strikes to finish the game, 1-0. Chris Snyder walked immediately to the bump to hug Harrell and congratulate him on his first complete game…a shut out, no less.
This is the second complete game by an Astros pitcher in only five days, as Dallas Keuchel put the Cleveland Indians to rest on Saturday with a 8-1 victory while pitching the Astros first complete game of the season. What does this mean for the Astros as a ball club? Well, it means you can’t blame the pitching.
In the last 7 days, the pitching staff has managed a 2.45 ERA and the starters by themselves have put up a 1.83. And yes, that’s with Wandy’s start on Monday where he allowed 5 hits and 5 ERs. You get that, right? You know that means that the rest of the starters have been damn near perfect, right? Even if you look at Lucas Harrell’s start last week that he lost – it wasn’t the pitching.
So if it’s not the pitching….it’s the offense. The defensive, although not exceptional, hasn’t been awful. I mean, we’ve seen Carlos Lee dive for (or fall for) balls twice this week. But the offense? Not so much. When the bats kick in they’re great, but there’s no consistency or dependability in this lineup at the moment. Hell, without Matt Downs home run last night? We’d have ended up in extras and we all know that the Astros aren’t very good at playing free baseball.
If this pitching continues (and we’ll get to see all SIX starters through the All-Star break with Bud Norris coming back) all this team needs is for the offense to find some consistency and the Astros may just win more ball games than they lose.
Terri Schlather (AGirlintheSouth) is the tortured Senior Houston Astros Writer for Aerys Sports. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her ridiculous ramblings on sports, vodka and the weeone on twitter @agirlinthesouth.