'That's What I'm Talkin' About!'
IT WASN'T THE FIRST TIME this season that at least 9 Astros notched a hit. No, it was the 17th. Let that best-in-the-MLB stat sink in for a moment. Then consider that the 17th time came in Game 118, against the National League Arizona Diamondbacks, which means that one of those hitters was an American League pitcher who almost never bats, Brad Peacock, who nonetheless stroked a two-RBI double to right field with the ease of a Bregman or Gonzalez. Oh, and another of the 9 was a catcher playing his first game this season (Max Stassi), while still another just arrived this month from the minors (J.D. Davis). Don't even get us started on the regulars—Gurriel's first triple in the majors, Bregman's fourth, Altuve going 2 for 4, Springer's 23rd double.
Those new to baseball, and even those who aren't, might be forgiven their failure to appreciate the Astros roster of hitters, spectacular aberration that it is. But after days like Tuesday's 9-4 pounding of the Diamondbacks, you see why our lineup has drawn not-kidding comparisons to the Murderer's Row of the 1927 Yankees. Heck, one pundit went even further recently, calling the Astros offense in 2017 the best in baseball history.
"That's what I'm talkin' about!" was the chant most often heard in the Astros' dugout during the team's terrific 5-run second inning. Things started innocuously enough, with Josh Reddick striking out, at which point the Dbacks' pitcher Anthony Banda must have thought he had the Astros' number. He did not have their number. The next batter, Davis, cracked a double, the first of three by the 'Stros in the inning, and soon the strike-early-strike-often-ness had begun. The Astros' third-baseman quickly scored when Stassi fired a shot down the third-base line, and Stassi himself moved from second to third when Jake Marisnick stroked a single to right. After Peacock struck out—a mistake he would not repeat on his second trip to the plate (see above)—Springer pounded a two-bagger powerful enough to score Marisnick from first, along with Stassi. Springer scored too after Bregman—whose hitting these days brings new meaning to the term triple threat—rifled yet another dramatic three-bagger. And though the next batter, Altuve, would be left stranded after a single, he got in on the action anyway. Rattled perhaps by Altuve's .361 average, Banda hurled a wild wild pitch, whereupon Bregman sauntered to the plate.
The Astros did lots more damage over the course of the game, and not only offensively. Notably, relievers Francis Martes, Chris Devenski and Luke Gregerson showed what our pitching staff is capable of when at its fearsome best. Together with Peacock, they struck out 17 Dbacks, with Martes whiffing all four batters he faced.
That's right—17 strikeouts in a game in which all the 'Stros got a hit for the 17th time during the 2017 season, a sweet '17 if ever there was one.