Astros Win On Bizarre Walk-Off

A little luck and hustle propels Astros to best nine-game start in franchise history

April 07, 2018 - 11:04 pm
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Gerrit Cole had already made a great first impression with an 11-strikeout performance in his Astros debut last weekend in Arlington, tossing 7 strong innings in route to an 8-2 victory over the Rangers on Easter.

Saturday night, he was making his Minute Maid Park debut, and did not disappoint the announced sellout crowd of 42,306, who saw some extra baseball as the Astros topped the Padres 1-0 in ten-innings, improving to 7-2, matching a franchise best start after 9 games.   

While Cole didn't get the win, his manager, AJ Hinch says he gave his team the confidence it needed to believe they could win a game despite the bats struggling at the plate. 

"He's just a very, very impressive high end starting pitcher and that makes us obviously feel good whenever he gets the ball. We feel in complete control of the game", Hinch said. 

The fastball was electric and the Padres bats looked more like foam pool noodles. Cole needed just 7 pitches to strike out the first two batters he faced on the evening, and that set the tone for his first ever outing at his new home ballpark. 

Cole earned plenty of swings and misses through the first three innings on sliders and the knuckle curve, set up by his steady dose of 96 mph heaters. The knuckle curve really kept hitters off balance. 

Despite allowing the leadoff hitter to reach in third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings Saturday night, Cole remained strong over his 7 innings of work, notching his 2nd straight double digit strikeout performance to begin his Astros career with 11 more punchouts, lowering his ERA to 0.64 on the season. 

The two consecutive starts of 11 strikeouts in each, is a club record by any Astros starting pitcher. The previous record, held by 4 different pitchers was 20. 

Cole was surgical at times with his mix of his fastball and off speed pitches, but humble after the game. 

"It feels good to be able to contribute, eat innings. With having to use some guys yesterday [Saturday], you know you just try to get as deep as you can", Cole said after the game. 

Astro bats were silent against Bryan Mitchell, the strong righty worked mostly fastball during his 5 2/3 innings, mixing in the occassional curve ball to keep Astro batters off balance. Allowing just 3 hits in his appearance while walking 6, Mitchell did what most hurlers these days find it impossible to do against the defending World Series champs, he kept the ball out of the air, inducing 11 ground ball outs on the night. 

It looked as if the Astros might be able to scratch a run across the plate in the bottom of the 6th inning, after seeing Mitchell twice through the order, the bats were a little more patient and Mitchell began to get wild. Walking Altuve to lead the bottom half of the inning off, he got Carlos Correa to hit into a double-play, but walked the next two batters before being yanked for Craig Stammen, who escaped the trouble Mitchell had gottent the Padres in, getting Evan Gattis to fly out to right field. 

The Astros were hitless since the 5th and looked as though they might again be able to manufacture something in the 8th as Padres submarine pitcher Kazuhisa Makita came on in relief and quickly allowed Alex Bregman to reach on a leadoff single, but after retiring Jose Altuve on strikes, Makita induced a double play ball from Correa to end the inning.  

Giles in relief of Harris in the 9th, quickly had action on the basepaths, allowing Christian Villanueva to reach on a long double to right-center field. Laboring through the next two batters, Giles, afteran 8 pitch at bat to Hunter Renfroe, induced a ground ball to third baseman Alex Bregman, who made a tremendous play and decision to run at and tag Villanueva out in between 2nd and 3rd base. 

Derek Fisher, running for McCann in the bottom of the 10th, who reached on a leadoff single, was called out trying to steal 2nd. AJ Hinch challenged the ruling and it was overturned with Jake Marisnik at the plate with no outs and a chance to end it. Marisnik sent Robbie Erlins full count fastball screaming to left-center, but it was hauled in by Manuel Margot for the first ot of the inning. After a hard hit foul ball by Springer, who Erlin eventually got to strike out for the 2nd out in the inning, the Padres pulled Erlin for Phil Maton. 

Alex Bregman, who had singled in his last at bat in the 8th, worked the count full on Maton with 2 outs and with Fisher waiting to be waived in at 2nd, hit a mile high pop up in between the pitchers mound and home plate. With the catcher AJ Ellis and pitcher Erlin pointing to it for first baseman Eric Hosmer to reel it in...

It dropped.

Hosmer over ran it. Fisher scored and Bregman gave the Astros their first walk-off win of the season. 

Alex Bregman explained after the game, the team is unselfish and they play hard. At the end of the day, if that isn't good enough...they'll try harder tomorrow. 

Bregman's walk-off pop up does look like a line drive in the scorebook, but he gave all of the credit to a heads up and hustling Derek Fisher following the game. 

"That's one of the good things about this team. Derek Fisher doesn't take the play off. We don't take anything for granted. He's busting his butt from second base and scores. He could've easily jogged and said 'they caught it, whatever' but that's not how we play here. We play hard and Derek did a great job", Bregman said. 

NOTES:

Gerrit Cole, in 33 starts for the Pirates in 2017 had only 2 double-digit strikeout games (10 in both). 

Gerrit Cole set a new franchise record for most strikeouts by an Astos starting pitcher in his first two starts with 22. The previous record was 20, held by four different Astro pitchers.