Tag Archives: Minute Maid Park

MLB Hot Stove: Astros beef up rotation with Cole

It’s been slower than expected since our last hot stove report in late December, but there was a significant trade made on Saturday, with the defending World Series champion Astros adding to their starting rotation, picking up SP Gerrit Cole from the Pirates. The other big name who solidified his future plans in the last couple of weeks was RP Wade Davis, who signed with his new team.

The Cole trade is the big news of this period. There were reports during the week that the Astros and Pirates had reached an agreement on a deal for him, but it turned out those stories were not true. On Saturday, though, the trade was finalized and officially announced by the teams. In exchange for Cole, the Astros sent Ps Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, 3B Colin Moran and minor league OF Jason Martin to the Pirates.

Cole was a top prospect for the Pirates  when he first came up, but he hasn’t lived up to the potential people thought he had in his first five seasons in the league. His best season came in 2015, when he posted a 2.60 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 208 innings. In the two years since then, his ERA has steadily increased to 3.88 in 2016 and 4.26 last year, both career worsts at the time. In the Astros rotation, barring injuries, he will likely be the No. 4 starter in the rotation behind SPs Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. That should take some pressure off of him as the Astros won’t be relying on him to be one of their top pitchers. He is, however, going from the National League to the American League — which means he’ll be facing designated hitters instead of opposing pitchers — and going to a more hitter-friendly ballpark at Minute Maid Park as opposed to PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

For the Pirates, the centerpiece of the deal is probably Musgrove. He has a career 4.52 ERA in 49 major-league appearances in the regular season, but he excelled in the second half of the season after the Astros moved him to the bullpen. In 23 games of relief, he posted a 1.44 ERA compared to a 6.12 mark in 15 starts last season. The Pirates’ rotation isn’t as deep as the Astros’, though, which should give Musgrove another chance to prove himself as a starter in the middle or back of the Pittsburgh rotation. Moran hasn’t had much experience in the majors yet in his young career, but he should get a chance to be the Pirates’ starting third baseman coming out of spring training — a chance he wouldn’t get in Houston with Alex Bregman the long-term option at third there. Feliz is just a middle reliever with a 5.13 career ERA  who can serve as a long man when needed.

The big recent free agent signing was Davis inking a three-year, $52 million contract with the Rockies. The veteran closer is coming off a season in which he set a career high of 32 saves (in 33 opportunities) with the Cubs, but his 2.30 ERA was his worst mark since 2013. He struck out 79 batters — the most since 2014 — in 58.2 innings. He takes over the closer role from free-agent RP Greg Holland, who has not yet signed on with a new team, but there are rumors about him potentially going to the Cubs.

Although the team has not yet officially announced the signings, the Mets have reportedly signed a couple of veterans, OF Jay Bruce and 1B Adrian Gonzalez. Bruce’s deal is reportedly worth $39 million over three years. Gonzalez, who the Dodgers traded to the Braves earlier this winter and was subsequently released by Atlanta, signed a one-year deal, pending a physical, that will pay him the league minimum as the Braves are on the hook for the rest of the $21.5 million he is owed for the 2018 season under his original contract.

In addition to Holland, other notable free agents who remain unsigned include SPs Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, along with hitters J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. There could be more players traded before the start of the season, as well, with names like Orioles SS Manny Machado, Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen, Rays SP Chris Archer, and Marlins SS Starlin Castro, OF Christian Yelich and C J.T. Realmuto all potentially on the trade block.

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Astros beat the Dodgers in Game 7, win first World Series title in franchise history

The matchup of the Astros and Dodgers in this year’s World Series guaranteed, for the second straight year, a team with a long championship drought would win the title — the Dodgers last won in 1988 and the Astros have yet to win a Fall Classic since entering Major League Baseball in 1962. With both teams winning more than 100 games this season — the first such World Series matchup since 1970 — it was set up to be a competitive series, and that proved to be the case. Ultimately, the ‘Astros won their first title in a series that went the full seven games.

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Photo credit: @JuliaMorales

The Dodgers struck first, winning the battle of the aces at Dodger Stadium in Game 1 as SP Clayton Kershaw outdueled Astros SP Dallas Keuchel, helping the home team win the game 3-1, as he and RPs Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen held the Astros to three hits. Kershaw struck out 11 batters in his winning effort. OF Chris Taylor and 3B Justin Turner provided the offense for the Dodgers, hitting a solo home run and two-run homer, respectively. A solo shot from 3B Alex Bregman accounted for the Astros’ run.

Game 2 looked like it was going to go the Dodgers’ way as well when they held a 3-1 lead heading into the eighth inning, getting the best of Astros trade-deadline acquisition Justin Verlander, who allowed three runs in six innings. When Morrow gave up a lead-off double to Bregman to start the inning, manager Dave Roberts brought in Jansen for what he hoped would be a six-out save. Jansen struggled, however, allowing the inherited runner to score, which made it a 3-2 game. The Dodgers went down quietly in the bottom of the inning, giving Jansen just the one-run lead to protect in the ninth. That lead didn’t last long as OF Marwin Gonzalez hit a game-tying solo home run to begin the inning.

That was the only run the Astros scored in the inning, and closer Ken Giles held the Dodgers hitless in the bottom of the ninth, so the game went to extra innings. The Astros got the scoring started in the 10th with back-to-back solo home runs by 2B Jose Altuve and SS Carlos Correa off of RP Josh Fields. After a double by 1B Yuli Gurriel, Roberts brought in RP Tony Cingrani, who got C Brian McCann to fly out and ended the inning when OF Josh Reddick grounded into a double play following an intentional walk to Gonzalez. Giles stayed in the game to pitch the 10th, but he immediately allowed the lead to be cut in half when OF Yasiel Puig hit a lead-off home run. After back-to-back strikeouts, Giles walked 2B Logan Forsythe, who made it to second base on a wild pitch and scored the tying run on a single by OF Kike Hernandez. RP Chris Devenski relieved Giles and got Taylor to fly out to bring the game to the 11th inning.

RP Brandon McCarthy came into the game for the Dodgers and after a single by OF Cameron Maybin gave up a two-run homer to OF George Springer that gave the Astros another two-run lead, 7-5.

McCarthy didn’t allow any further runs to score, leaving his team down two heading into the bottom of the inning. Devenski got SS Corey Seager and Turner to line out, then OF Charlie Culberson hit a solo shot that made it a 7-6 game. Devenski struck out Puig to end the inning, and 4 hours, 19 minutes after first pitch the Astros finally won the game, picking up the first World Series victory in franchise history.

The series shifted to Houston’s Minute Maid Park for Game 3, which was filled with significantly less drama than the previous game. The Dodgers started a trade acquisition of their own with SP Yu Darvish, and the Astros jumped on him early. He lasted just 1.2 innings — the shortest outing of his MLB career — and allowed four runs on six hits.

The four-run second inning was enough offensive support for Astros SP Lance McCullers Jr., who gave up three runs in 5.1 innings of work, but they tacked on a fifth run in the fifth inning. After McCullers departed, RP Brad Peacock pitched the remaining 3.2 innings, striking out four and not allowing a hit, to finish out the game and earn the save. That was the Astros’ first-ever home World Series win, and the 2-1 series lead was also the first time the team held a series lead in the World Series.

Game 4 featured a pitchers duel between SPs Alex Wood and Charlie Morton, who each gave up just one run in 5.2 and 6.1 innings, respectively. That 1-1 score held until the ninth inning, when the Dodgers put up a five-spot — three runs charged to RP Ken Giles, who didn’t record an out,  and the other to tagged to RP Joe Musgrove — highlighted by an RBI double by likely NL Rookie of the Year OF Cody Bellinger that broke the tie and a three-run home run off the bat of OF Joc Pederson that made it 6-1, which was more than enough of a cushion for Jansen, who gave up a solo home run to Bregman to make it a 6-2 final.

And then there was Game 5, which many called one of the best World Series games they’ve ever seen. Featuring the same pitching matchup as Game 1, the final game of 2017 in Houston turned into an offensive explosion. The Dodgers scored three runs in the first inning and another in the fourth, staking Kershaw to a 4-0 lead that he promptly gave up in the bottom of the fourth, with Gurriel doing the bulk of the damage, tying the game at 4 with a three-run home run, the first of what would be a World Series single-game record eight home runs in what ended up being a 10-inning game that ended up in a 13-12 victory for the Astros, who came back from two separate three-run deficits and lost a three-run lead of their own, with Devenski giving up three runs in the ninth inning to force extra innings. Musgrove held the Dodgers scoreless in the top of the 10th. After recording the first two outs in the bottom of the inning, Jansen hit McCann on the arm, then walked Springer to put the winning run in scoring position. Derek Fisher was brought into the game to pinch-run for McCann and ended up scoring on a line drive to left field by Bregman to give the Astros the victory in what ended up being the second-longest World Series game in history at 5 hours, 17 minutes.

There was way too much offense to try to summarize it so here’s a summary of it, followed by the box score

Winning that marathon gave the Astros a 3-2 lead, leaving them one win shy of their first championship in franchise history. But they would have to win another game in Los Angeles to get it.

In a fairly non-descript Game 6 in which Verlander gave up two runs and struck out nine batters in six innings but got the loss as the Astros only managed to score one run in a 3-1 loss that tied the series at 3-3 and forced a deciding Game 7 in Los Angeles.

The final game of the series featured the same pitching matchup as Game 3 with McCullers going for the Astros and Darvish for the Dodgers, and the result was even worse for Darvish this time. He lasted just 1.2 innings for the second time in the series and gave up two runs in the first inning, followed by a McCullers RBI groundout and a two-run home run off the bat of Springer in the second inning, putting the Dodgers in a 5-0 hole early.

After Morrow got the final out of the second, Kershaw came in and threw four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out four with two intentional walks. On the other side of the docket, McCullers was also wild, lasting just 2.1 innings. He allowed three hits and didn’t walk anyone but did hit four batters, including Turner twice. Peacock relieved him, going two scoreless innings with one hit allowed, one walk and two strikeouts.

After Peacock, Francisco LIriano and Devenski each recorded one out before getting the ball to Morton, who pitched the final four innings, allowing one run — a pinch-hit RBI single by Andre Ethier — on two hits with four strikeouts and a walk, earning the win in the Astros’ 5-1 victory, giving them their first championship in franchise history, and the first World Series for a Texas team.

Unsurprisingly, Springer earned World Series MVP honors. He had 5 home runs — tying Reggie Jackson and Chase Utley for the most in a single Fall Classic —  and 29 total bases, a new World Series record. He also became the first player to homer in four straight games in a single World Series. And he did all of that in the last six games of the series because he was 0-4 with four strikeouts in Game 1. Fitting that he was named the MVP because he was on the cover of the now-famous 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated that declared the Astros the 2017 World Series champs.

So a year after the Cubs won their first title in 108 years, the Astros win the first in their 50-plus-year history as a franchise.

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World Series preview: Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers — Another title drought ends

For the second straight season, we have a World Series consisting of two teams who have not won a championship in decades, with one team that has never won the Fall Classic. The Houston Astros, who are representing the American League after shutting out the New York Yankees 4-0 in Game 7 of the ALCS, have never won the World Series since entering the league in 1962 (as the Colts .45’s). This is just their second World Series appearance, having been swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005. On the National League side the Los Angeles Dodgers are playing in their 20th World Series, but it’s their first since 1988 when they won their sixth title. They advanced to the World Series with a 11-1 win over the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the NLCS.

Both teams finished the regular season with two of the three best records in MLB during the regular season. The Astros won 101 games, which was the third-highest total in the league, three behind the Dodgers’ MLB-best 104 wins. This is the first time since 1970 (and eighth time overall) that two teams that won more than 100 games during the season are meeting in the World Series. For the first time, the team with the better record has home-field advantage, giving the Dodgers Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home. If the old rule — the winning league in the All-Star Game gets home-field advantage — was still in effect, the Astros would have home-field thanks to the AL’s win in July.

Games 1 and 2 are at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday with first pitch scheduled for 8:09pm. After a travel day Thursday, the series moves to Minute Maid Park in Houston for Games 3-5 set for Friday through Sunday. First pitch for Games 3 and 4 is at 8:09pm, with Game 5 (if necessary) set to begin at 8:16pm. If the series goes beyond five games, Games 6 and 7 are back in Los Angeles on October 31 and November 1, respectively. First pitch of Game 6 would be 8:09pm with Game 7 getting underway at 8:10pm, if it’s played. All games are on Fox in the U.S., and all times are Eastern.

How did they get here?

After winning the AL West by 21 games, the Astros began their postseason run by beating the AL East champion Boston Red Sox, 3-1, in an ALDS before beating the East’s second-best team, the Yankees, in an ALCS that went the distance, with the home team winning all seven games. The Dodgers ended the regular season as NL West champions, winning the division by 11 games, then swept the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-game NLDS. They then beat the defending World Series champion Cubs, 4-1, in a NLCS that was a rematch of last year’s series. Through their first two series of the postseason, the Dodgers have played just one game over the minimum.

Pitching

Some of the game’s best pitchers are in this series, with two of them scheduled to kick off the series on Tuesday. The Astros send 14-game winner Dallas Keuchel to the mound in Game 1 to face potential NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who went 18-4 during the season. Game 2’s pitching matchup has Justin Verlander — who has been stellar since the Astros acquired him from the Detroit Tigers on August 31 — going up against Rich Hill for the Dodgers. The teams haven’t announced their starters yet beyond that, but the Astros are expected to go with Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. for their other two starters, with the Dodgers expected to use Yu Darvish, who they acquired at the July 31 trade deadline, and Alex Wood.

I give the Astros a slight advantage in starting pitching. Kershaw may be the best pitcher of the bunch — though Verlander’s 9-0 record and 1.23 ERA (including the postseason) since joining the Astros may have something to say about that — but I think the Astros have the better rottion overall. Verlander and Keuchel are a strong 1-2 at the top and the way McCullers pitched in the ALCS makes it seem like he’s healthy and has his stuff back, making him a better No. 3 in my mind than what the Dodgers have. Morton could be an X-factor. If he can have another start like he had in Game 7 against the Yankees, he would be a solid No. 4 for the Astros.

There’s no question the Dodgers have the advantage in the bullpen. During the season, they had the fourth-best ERA in the majors at 3.38, while the Astros ranked 17th with a 4.27 ERA. The difference is even more distinct in the postseason, with the Dodgers bullpen leading the pack with a 0.94 ERA. The Astros’ 5.03 ERA out of the bullpen ranks seventh out of the 10 postseason teams. Having RP Kenley Jansen in the closer role at the end of the game should give the Dodgers more confidence he’ll be able to close out games than the Astros have in their closer, RP Ken Giles.

Offense

The Astros had the best offense in the majors during the regular season. Among the offensive categories in which they led MLB were hits (1,581), doubles (346), RBI (854), average (.282), OBP (.346), slugging percentage (.478), OPS (.823), OPS+ (127) and strikeouts (1,087). They were also second to the Yankees in home runs. 2B Jose Altuve, who I think should win the AL MVP award, led the majors in hits for the fourth straight year and batting average for the third straight season. He also had 24 home runs, which tied his career high. Overall, the Astros had 11 players with double-digit home runs. OF George Springer led the team with 34, and SS Carlos Correa and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez — who led the team with 90 RBI — also had more than 20 home runs. The offense did go through a bit of a slump in the ALCS, including OF Josh Reddick going hitless until Game 7, but they scored 11 runs in the final two games of the season and it appears as though they are back to how they were during the regular season. In 11 games this postseason, the Astros are hitting .247 with 12 home runs.

The Dodgers didn’t have nearly as potent of an offense during the regular season, finishing outside of the top 10 in home runs and in the bottom third of the majors with a .249 average. Rookie 1B Cody Bellinger led them with 39 home runs, with OF Yasiel Puig behind him at 28. Their power was more top-heavy, with eight guys hitting at least 10 home runs and six of them at 21 or more. 3B Justin Turner led the team with a .322 average and 1B Chris Taylor was at .288 during the season; Turner and Taylor each hit 21 regular-season home runs. In the postseason, the Dodgers are hitting .273 with 13 home runs in eight games.

Now that it appears the Astros are out of their slump they were in at the start of the ALCS, I think they have the offensive advantage.

Defense

Although the Astros made some nice plays in the ALCS, the Dodgers are a better defensive team statistically. During the regular season, the Dodgers made 88 errors compared to 99 for the Astros. In the postseason, the Dodgers’ two errors are half of the four committed by the Astros.

Managers

A.J. Hinch, the 2015 AL Manager of the Year, is in his third season managing the Astros and fifth season overall as a manager. The 2016 NL Manager of the Year Dave Roberts is in his third season as a major-league manager, second with the Dodgers. Both are managing in their first World Series.

Prediction

I expect this to be a close series. One concern for the Dodgers is SS Corey Seager, who was left off of the NLCS roster as he dealt with a back injury. He is expected to be on the World Series roster and ready to play in Game 1 on Tuesday, but you have to wonder if he is at full health. I think the Astros have the advantage in starting pitching — assuming McCullers can pitch as well as he did in the ALCS — and on offense, where there’s no easy spot in the lineup for opposing pitchers to face. I’m going against the “pitching beats offense in the postseason” adage and the Dodgers having home-field advantage, but I think the Astros offense will be able to put runs on the board against Dodger pitching and will fulfill the prophecy predicted by Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter in 2014.

Astros in seven.

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Stadium Series: Recapping my first visit to Minute Maid Park

In December I wrote about my trip to Green Bay to see the Texans play the Packers at Lambeau Field. Last week, I took another sports-related trip to see another Houston team play in person. This time I went to Houston to see the Astros play at Minute Maid Park for the first time, attending the final two games of the series against the A’s and the three-game series against the Yankees in the Astros’ final homestand before the all-star break.

Austin

My trip began in Austin, where I spent a day before heading over to Houston. I didn’t get to check out as much of the Texas capital as I would have liked in my limited time there, but I did get to check out Graffiti Park at Castle Hills, a public art display that anyone can contribute to, and the Congress Avenue Bridge bats, who emerge from underneath the bridge around sundown nightly during the spring and summer months.

 

Congress Avenue bats

The bats at Congress Avenue Bridge

Houston

Then it was off to Houston for the main purpose of the trip, to check out Minute Maid Park for the first time. It is the 12th current Major League Baseball stadium I have been to and, as an Astros fan, one that I’ve been wanting to go to for a while. I would have liked to have seen the stadium in person when Tal’s Hill was still there, but it was still a nice stadium even with that unique feature having been removed during the offseason. And with the Astros maintaining the best record in MLB, it was a good time to attend games there in person, with the team playing well and interest in the squad higher than it usually is.

 

Game 1 (6/28/17)

The Astros lost the first game of the three-game series against the A’s the night I was in Austin, but I was there for the second game of the series. SP David Paulino got the start for the Astros and SP Jesse Hahn took the ball for Oakland in a game that proved to be anything but a pitcher’s duel. Paulino shut down the visitors with a 1-2-3 top of the first, then Astros OF George Springer got the offense going with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first, and the first Astros at-bat I would experience at Minute Maid Park. That got the train moving, as it does whenever an Astro player hits a home run at the stadium. Springer’s dinger was just the beginning of the scoring in the game, with the Astros scoring a total of nine runs in the first three innings. The A’s also got into the offensive action, scoring eight runs in the game, including seven between the second and fifth innings. The Astros tacked on a couple extra runs later in the game, eventually winning by a margin of 11-8. The home team totalled 17 hits on the night, with Springer’s leadoff homer the team’s only home run of the game. Oakland, on the other hand, scored their eight runs on eight hits that included five home runs, including two off the bat of OF Khris Davis. Hahn lasted just two innings, allowing six runs to score. Things weren’t much better for Paulino, who gave up seven runs in four innings. The Astros offense was able to make up for the subpar pitching, though, with all nine players in their starting lineup got at least one hit and six Astros recording multiple hits, including three-hit games for Springer and OF Josh Reddick.

 

That game also marked the 10th anniversary of when former Astros C/2B/OF Craig Biggio recorded his 3,000th career hit on June 28, 2007.

Part of a video montage honoring Biggio's 3,000th career hit

Part of a video montage honoring the 10th anniversary of Craig Biggio’s 3,000th career hit

Game 2 (6/29/17)

The Astros’ bats continue hitting for the series finale against Oakland but the visitors’ bats cooled down, losing 6-1. The A’s scored first, taking a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning but it was short-lived as the Astros scored two runs in the bottom of the inning to take a lead that would last throughout the game. The player of the game was Astros SS Carlos Correa, who hit two home runs in the game, both two-run shots, in the fourth and sixth innings. Astros SP Brad Peacock only allowed the one run in his five innings of work, but he needed 106 pitches to get through the fifth. He walked six batters and struck out seven in a good but inefficient outing. The bullpen went four scoreless innings to protect the lead after Peacock departed.

For this game, I chose to stand on the home-run porch in center field, where there is a gas pump, seen below, that tallies every home run that the Astros have hit at the park since it opened in 2000 (known as Enron Field at the time).

 

Game 3 (6/30/17)

The Yankees are in town for the weekend, with a decent amount of their fans at Minute Maid. The Astros took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning and were up 3-1 after four, but things went downhill from there. SP Lance McCullers Jr. had a good outing, allowing three runs in 5.1 innings with six strikeouts, but the bullpen did not help him out. RP Michael Feliz was the first reliever in the game and gave up three runs — two earned — in just .1 innings. RP Reymin Guduan then followed him. He went .2 innings and was charged with three earned runs, thanks in part to RP James Hoyt, who gave up a grand slam to Yankees OF Brett Gardner in the seventh inning. In all, the Yankees scored nine runs in two innings — five in the sixth and four in the seventh — to go up 10-3 after seven. The Astros added a run in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it 10-4, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch realized the game was out of reach so he brought in OF Nori Aoki to pitch in the top of the ninth, the first time Aoki has pitched in a game since high school. He had trouble finding the strike zone at first, with nine of his first 10 pitches being balls, and he allowed one hit, two walks and three earned runs in his inning of work. Yankees slugger Aaron Judge served as the DH in the game, going 0-4 including flying out to center field off of Aoki for the final out of the top of the ninth inning.

While this game didn’t go as well as I would have liked, it’s entertaining to see a position player pitch, and I believe that was the first time that has happened at a game that I have attended in person.

 

Despite the blowout loss, many of the fans stuck around for the whole game and stayed for the postgame fireworks that the Astros have following every Friday night home game. With the roof being closed all week due to the heat and humidity, it was the only chance for me to experience Minute Maid Park with the roof open.

 

Game 4 (7/1/17)

Saturday featured another competitive game to begin the month of July, with neither team scoring until the Astros put two runs on the board in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a home run from 1B Yuli Gurriel. Astros SP Francis Martes lasted five-plus innings before giving way to the bullpen, which blew a lead for the second straight game. RP Will Harris took over with runners on first and third and nobody out in the top of the sixth inning. Yankees OF Jacoby Ellsbury was the first batter Harris faced, and he walked to load the bases. C Gary Sanchez then singled, putting the Yankees on the board with an RBI. SS Didi Gregorius then batted with the bases still loaded, and he hit his first career grand slam — the second straight game the Yankees hit a grand slam off of an Astros reliever. That five-run inning put the Yankees up 5-2. The Astros got a run back in the bottom of the sixth with a Correa home run, but Yankees OF Clint Frazier hit a solo homer in the seventh inning to put the visitors up by a score of 6-3. Then the bottom of the eighth inning happened. Yankees RP Dellin Betances began the inning by striking out Springer, then walking 2B Jose Altuve, who would steal both second and third. He would score on a Correa groundout. C Evan Gattis followed that up with a solo home run that made it a one-run game. Betances then walked DH Carlos Beltran, who was pinch-run for by Reddick. Reddick advanced to second on a botched pickoff attempt and then stole third base. OF Marwin Gonzalez walked, putting runners on the corners with two outs. Yankee manager Joe Girardi brought in closer Aroldis Chapman, looking for a four-out save. But the first batter he faced, Gurriel, doubled. Both runners scored on that hit, giving the Astros a 7-6 lead. Chapman then struck out 3B Alex Bregman to end the inning, but not before four runners crossed the plate to give the home team the lead. Astros closer Ken Giles came into the game in the ninth to close it out. He got pinch-hitter Judge and Frazier to both pop out to Gurriel at first base for the first two outs of the inning. Then Gardner came up to the plate …

Gardner singled but, for some reason, took a very wide turn around first base thinking about going to second. He finally thought better of it and dove back toward first, but the relay from Reddick to Correa to Gurriel was in time to get Gardner on the game-ending 7-6-3 putout. Astros win the game 7-6 on a bad base-running play by Gardner.

 

Game 5 (7/2/17)

The final game of my trip to Minute Maid Park — and the Astros’ last home game before the all-star break — lacked the excitement of the night before. Yankees SP Luis Severino didn’t have his best stuff, giving up three runs in the second inning on a two-run home run off the bat of Gonzalez and a Reddick RBI double. The Astros then scored a couple more times in the fourth inning with a two-run double by Correa to make it 5-0. They would add another run in the sixth and two more in the seventh for a 8-0 lead. Yankees 1B Chris Carter tallied an RBI single in the top of the month for a meaningless run that only served to avoid the shutout. The Astros won the game by a final of 8-1. Astros SP Mike Fiers had a similar game to Peacock a couple days earlier in which he pitched well but inefficiently. He was only able to go four innings, walking four batters and striking out seven. RP Chris Devenski relieved him, recording four strikeouts in two innings of work that allowed him to pick up the win.

 

Overall impressions

Based on the five games I went to there, I like Minute Maid Park. Even though it opened 17 years ago, it still feels like a new stadium, with good views of the field from all over the stands. Even after getting rid of Tal’s Hill, the stadium has some unique features that make it easily identifiable, including the train and the home run-tracking gas pump on the home run porch in the outfield, which itself is a nice place to stand and watch at least part of the game — and a good spot to try to catch balls during batting practice or if a home run is hit there during a game.

So my journey to Minute Maid Park ended with the Astros going 4-1 in five games. Here are some more pictures I took at the stadium and around Houston.

 

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