Monday, June 20, 2016

Astros deliver shutout of Reds to take series

 Luis Valbuena and Evan Gattis each hit solo homers and Mike Fiers tossed 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball as the Astros took Sunday's game and the series from the Reds with a 6-0 win at Minute Maid Park.
Valbuena led off the fifth inning with his ninth home run of the season and second RBI of the game. He added a run-scoring single to put Houston up 2-0 in the second inning, notching his first multi-RBI game since May 26. Gattis homered for the second consecutive game, and he also put Houston on the board with a two-out RBI double in the second.
"I think we just had a slow start [this season], and now we're playing Astros baseball again," said Gattis, who had been in a 1-for-37 slump before Saturday's homer. "We're a pretty dynamic team with a lot of ways to win. We have a lot of guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, we have good pitching, and we have a lot of guys who can run, steal bases and just get on base."
Fiers allowed four hits while striking out five and walking one in his scoreless effort. His counterpart, Cincinnati's Brandon Finnegan, didn't fare as well, getting hit around for four runs on five hits and three walks in his five innings.
"I made some good pitches, but they spit on them," Finnegan said. "Nothing you can do sometimes. My slider was moving a lot, but they weren't biting like they have been the last couple days. It just wasn't our day."
The Astros are now 9-3 in their last 12 home games and 8-4 in Interleague games this season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Clutch hitting returns: The Astros began the Cincinnati series with just one hit in their first 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position. But George Springer gave Houston its second such hit with his 11th-inning game winner Saturday, and the Astros carried that momentum into Sunday's finale with a pair of early two-out RBIs. Gattis drove in Danny Worth with his opposite-field two-bagger in the second, while Valbuena followed by sneaking an RBI single just past the shift and glove of Cincinnati's Zack Cozart at shortstop.
Hamilton does it again: One day after a jaw-dropping sliding catch into the wall, Billy Hamilton flashed the leather again. This time, the Reds center fielder turned an 8-4-3 double play to end the fifth inning. Jose Altuve sliced a liner to the warning track in deep right-center field, but the speedy outfielder tracked it down with a diving grab. Hamilton quickly popped up and doubled Marwin Gonzalez off first. A run still scored with Springer tagging up from third, but Hamilton's effort was no less impressive for it.
"I came up, and my job was to get it in as fast as I can," Hamilton said. "Saw the guy coming back around second, knew I couldn't get it all the way in and put it in the air, and Brandon picked me up on that play with his strong arm to first."
Fiers, Devenski preserve shutout: Holding a 4-0 lead, Houston's 31-year-old right-hander departed in the sixth inning after a line drive from Jay Bruce ricocheted off his upper leg for an infield single, placing two runners on base with two outs. But Chris Devenski was already warm in Houston's bullpen, and with Fiers at 90 pitches and in a tight spot, the move did not appear to be exclusively related to injury. Rather than seek immediate medical treatment, Fiers watched from the dugout as Devenski induced a flyout to left from Adam Duvall to end the inning and preserve the shutout.
"I'm just glad it didn't hit me in the knee," Fiers said of the liner, adding he did not expect to miss a start. "I'll be sore for a day or two, but I'll be fine."
Reds run out of chances: A couple of small baserunning gaffes cost the Reds outs that quelled any comeback hopes. The Astros caught Eugenio Suarez stealing at third, standing up, on a failed hit-and-run in the fifth inning with two on and one out in a 2-0 game. Joey Votto also stuttered and chopped his feet as he approached the bag on Gonzalez's misplay at first base in the sixth. A safe call would have given Cincy two men on and none out for the heart of the order while trailing by four runs. By manager Bryan Price's own admission, they probably didn't cost Cincinnati the game but they were nonetheless frustrating.
"They made a tough pitch with a curveball on a hit-and-run play and that was my call to hit and run. They just had the right call," Price said. "... On Joey's play, he just jabbed his feet to hit the front of the bag, and it made the timing awkward. He was busting it down the line."
QUOTABLE
"If we continue to play clean baseball, we're going to be fine. I like our team. I think we have good talent, and I think we have a little bit of an attitude these days that we expect to win, which is good. This team playing this style of baseball with this type of chip on their shoulder, we can win a lot of games with this group." -- Houston manager A.J. Hinch on the Astros, who have a 27-19 record since May 1 and are 17-8 in their last 25 games
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Astros are now 24-8 against National League teams over the last two seasons. That .750 winning percentage in Interleague Play is the best in Major League Baseball during that span.
WHAT'S NEXT
Reds: The Reds get an off-day before heading up the road to Arlington for a three-game set against the Rangers, beginning Tuesday night at 8:10 p.m. ET. Cincinnati will start rightyAnthony DeSclafani, who is making just his third start of the season. Atlanta shelled DeSclafani his last time out, as he lasted just 2 2/3 innings while allowing four runs in a no-decision on June 15.
Astros: Offseason acquisition Doug Fister makes his second start of the season vs. the division rival Angels at 7:10 p.m. CT on Monday. The 32-year-old right-hander allowed three runs (one earned) in the six innings he pitched in Anaheim last month, earning a no-decision in a game Houston eventually won, 8-6, in 13 innings. The Astros have won nine consecutive games started by Fister, who is now 7-3 on the year with a 3.26 ERA.

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