From no-hitter to no-brainer
Ten runs in last four innings make up for no hits in first six.
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Astros avoided potential disaster Saturday when X-rays on star shortstop Carlos Correa’s right hand came back negative.
Correa was diagnosed with a right hand contusion. He suffered the injury when he was hit by a 94 mph fastball from Oakland Athletics righthander Frankie Montas in the ninth inning of the Astros’ 10-6 win at the Coliseum.
“Good news, obviously,” Correa said. “I thought it was going to be a lot worse.”
It’s uncertain when Correa will next play, but he said “hopefully, it doesn’t have to be more than one day.”
“We will see how it heals,” he said. “Obviously, I will be doing my best to be able to go back out there as soon as I can.”
In serious pain as soon as he was hit, Correa clutched his hand and took a knee in the grassy area behind home plate, where he was tended to by Astros trainer Scott Barringer and manager A.J. Hinch. After helping Correa off the field, Hinch was soon forced to scramble to find a pinch runner and then decide who would play where defensively in the bottom of the ninth.
Hinch had emptied his bench earlier in the game by pinch-hitting Brian McCann for Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez for Yuli Gurriel in the sixth and pinch-running Josh Reddick for Carlos Beltran in the eighth. After Correa was hit, starting pitcher Mike Fiers ran up to the visitors’ clubhouse to grab his cleats, and Hinch used him as his runner.
“I mean, I’m the best runner and fastest runner, so might as well put me in, right?” Fiers said, smiling. “(Dallas) Keuchel ran up and got his cleats. He was the first one with his cleats on. But in the back of (Hinch’s) mind, he wanted me. And I was ready to do it.”
Hinch asked for volunteers to play first base in the bottom of the ninth, and Reddick stepped up. The 30-year-old outfielder said he last manned first base when he was 19 and playing in a summer collegiate league. He used the first baseman’s mitt of Gonzalez, who moved to third base while Alex Bregman moved from third to shortstop. The Astros were forced to sacrifice the designated hitter spot.
Giles throws 8th, Gregerson 9th
Astros closer Ken Giles pitched the eighth inning of Saturday’s 10-6 win, and setup man Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth. Wait, what? Manager A.J. Hinch did his best to dispel any closer controversy after the game, but the Astros’ ninth-inning situation is certainly one worth monitoring. Giles allowed a run in his inning Saturday, his third consecutive outing in which he failed to record a clean frame.
Hinch’s explanation for the order in which he used his relievers Saturday checks out, especially considering he has said since the start of spring training he reserves the right to use Giles in high-leverage situations ahead of the ninth inning.
In Saturday’s case, Hinch tabbed Giles to pitch the bottom of the eighth with the Astros holding an 8-5 lead. However, Giles was warming up in the bullpen before the Astros scored four runs in the top half of the eighth. Hinch said he was preparing to use Giles with the Astros trailing 5-4, and once the pitcher was warmed up, he wanted to use him.
Giles allowed a leadoff triple to Jaff Decker, who scored on a Matt Joyce sacrifice fly. Gregerson began to warm up for the save situation and still pitched once the Astros tacked on two more runs to make it 10-6 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Gregerson had a 1-2-3 inning.
“I’ve said time and time again I don’t really care what the order is,” Hinch said. “Ken’s still going to finish most of the games. But that’s what I mean by ‘most of the games.’ ”
Aoki getting ABs vs. lefthanders
Although it was expected coming into the season Nori Aoki would play almost exclusively against righthanders, Astros manager A.J. Hinch actually views the lefthanded-hitting outfielder as essentially platoon neutral.
Aoki’s start in left field on Saturday against the A’s Sean Manaea was already his third against a lefthander this season. Some of Aoki’s usage against same-sided pitching is a product of how many lefties — seven starters in 12 games — the Astros have faced early in the season.
But coming into Saturday, Aoki was a career .307/.365/.378 hitter against lefthanders (693 at-bats) compared to a .278/.349/.392 hitter against righthanders (1,707 at-bats). He played Saturday over Josh Reddick, whom Hinch has said he will play against certain lefthanders but not others based on the opposing pitcher’s style. The same goes for Aoki. “There are certain styles of lefties that I like for each particular lefty (hitter), but he puts up tough at-bats regardless of handedness,” Hinch said of Aoki.
Odds and ends
With two stolen bases Saturday, Jose Altuve moved into sole possession of sixth place on the Astros’ career list with 204. Having passed Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell (202), Altuve has as his next targets Terry Puhl (217) and Joe Morgan (219). …
The Astros’ 8-4 start is their best through 12 games since 2006, when they had an identical record.