Sometimes the better team wins. Sometimes the better team is not the one on paper on the day.
It was interesting to note that the dome at Minute Maid Park was open yesterday to start a game in August. Houston, Texas can have unbearable heat this time of year and, even with just 80 degrees, it could not have been in the MLB’s best interests, or the fans, to plan to open the hot gates. But when the fans (just under 20, 000) saw Toronto Blue Jays’ starting knuckler R.A. Dickey warming up, they must have had cool comfort in thinking ‘Advantage: Astros’.
Last season, it was very publicly reported that Dickey preferred domed roofs to be closed when he slings the knuckleball. Brendan Kennedy, from the Toronto Star, recorded Dickey saying that the Blue Jays brass should close the Rogers Centre roof every time he pitches because “I would think that winning is the thing they place the most emphasis on.” Recently, Dickey has been more guarded with reporters about the dome question, which is understandable. Who wants to be known as the pitcher with a glaring weakness? It is clear, however, that Houston thought it was still worth the heat from the sun and the league, if any from the latter.
Dickey had other ideas. Domes open or not, Dickey has 128 strikeouts to 52 walks with a 3.91 ERA this season. His counterpart for the Astros, lefty starter Brett Oberholtzer was at a 3-7 record, with a 4.30 ERA, going into last night’s game. He had 53 strikeouts to 20 walks.
Oberholtzer showed how that would be an advantage to the Blue Jays in the first inning. Jose Reyes slapped a double, Melky Cabrera bunted a single, and Nolan Reimold hit a sacrifice fly to cash in an early run.
But instead of waiting till the eighth inning to smack the Jays’ fielders around, the Astros countered in the bottom of the first. Jose Altuve called Reyes’ lead-off double and Chris Carter raised his own double to left, cashing in a run. Jon Singleton brought in Carter on a groundball to right field to finish this first Texas-Hit’em hand.
This is not to say that Dickey pitched badly. In fact, out of 111 pitches, he thew 82 strikes. The knuckleball danced pretty well around the plate, getting 12 outs from groundballs and flyouts. Dickey struck out 3 batters while giving up 9 hits and no walks. In the top of the third inning, his team positioned him for the lead when Jose Bautista continued his hot streak of hits with a screaming bash to the left-center field gap. Astros’ left-fielder, Marc Krauss fielded it off the wall quickly, but completely missed the cut-off man and allowed Anthony Gose to score from first base. Dickey was being hit hard and yet was in line for the win.
What the Blue Jays giveth, the Blue Jays can taketh away.
The bottom of the fifth inning will be one that the Blue Jays coaching staff will want to forget. Two throwing errors in the same play led to Altuve scoring from first. Carter’s destruction of the ball over the left-field fence put the exclamation mark on the inning to add to the Jays’ frustration. Dickey’s night ended in the eighth inning, as Carter had his number again to right field, this time only for a single. Dickey gave up 5 earned runs.
How can that be, you ask? Ask Brett Cecil, if you dare. Cecil inherited Carter as a baserunner while serving up a homer to Astros’ catcher, Jason Castro. After L.J. Hoes singled, Singleton wanted in on the home-run launching pad. As Blue Jays’ faithful cringed, Singleton decided to be a bit different by hitting an inside-the-park homer, confirmed by the instant replay challenge. He was originally called out, as Rogers Sportsnet announcer, Pat Tabler described how “textbook” the relay from Gose to Ryan Goins was, as it seemed hopeful that the second baseman gunned out Singleton at the plate. Short-lived hope and more tension on general manager, John Gibbons‘ face.
Cecil was quickly yanked from the game, with Chad Jenkins to finish the rest of the inning.
The Blue Jays’ bats being pretty quiet for most of the game, with only 6 hits. After Gose struck out, making two nights in a row that the Blue Jays ended a game being called out on strikes, the Astros’ fans cheered loudly for an 8-2 victory.
Toronto plays one more game in Houston and then they have a needed day off on Monday. They should not put pressure on themselves to try to even the series as much as they should regroup. The Jays need to take today’s game as a time to reflect on what went right in New York and Boston recently and what went wrong in Houston. The Astros should have been a team that Toronto could have taken three out of four games from and position themselves higher up the playoff food chain. Did they play to Houston’s level? Is Houston as bad as their numbers reflected? Was this a missed opportunity? All that Jays fans saw were stars when they looked to the heavens in disgust and when they looked to the Astros running around the diamond.