First thing’s first. This umpire was abominable. If ever there was a hitter’s blue, it was home plate umpire Jim Reynolds. The living embodiment of “down the middle or nothing” made this victory quite bittersweet.
That said, Griffin Canning was unacceptably bad. Despite the impossibly tight zone, he was not close. His line does not belie his performance. 1.1 innings pitched, 2 hits allowed, 3 earned runs, and 2 strikeouts is certainly nothing to smile about, but 6 walks (including 4 consecutive in the first) is enough of a stat to indicate that this game was gut-wrenchingly, brow-furrowingly irritating. In short, he only made a hard game with unfavorably stacked odds more difficult.
After 50 pitches (only 20 of which were strikes), he would be removed in favor of Taylor Cole who went a long way toward setting up the eventual win. Coming in with men on the corners, he induced a crucial double play off the bat of the ever-threatening Yordan Alvarez to shut down the inning and set the tone for the next 7 innings.
Down 3-0, the offense kicked in in the 3rd as Andrelton Simmons continued to be the brutal Astros killer we have come to rely on. A solo shot with two outs would end the shutout and be the first run of many for the Angels bats.
Actually, all of the runs would be driven off of the bats of three players (with a little help from some humiliating errors from a very, very good defensive team). Simmons would drive in one more run on a groundout, Pujols would go to opposite field 3 times to drive in 3 runs, and Kevan Smith would also drive in 3. The 9th run would score on Kevan Smith’s double —this already scored Upton— as Pujols aggressively ran through a stop sign as Altuve, freshly shifted to shortstop because of Michael Brantley’s pathetic pinch hit ground out, missed a throw from Josh Reddick and slid hard into Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos dropped the ball and the damage was done. All three of those players incidentally happen to be really good against left-handers this season, and we can only hope to see more from them against the handedness that is the bane of our existence.
Normally, 9 runs would give a fanbase a sense of security, but this same team managed to blow a similarly large lead to this same opponent just a little over a week prior, so nothing was taken for granted. Fortunately, the team lived up to expectations by allowing 3 more runs to score and making it a save situation. It’s not entirely the bullpen’s fault though, as 2 of those runs really shouldn’t have happened if the umpire knew what a strike was and how to call it.
It doesn’t really matter though. This game without Trout against the hardest team in the division goes down as a W. Who cares that Framber Valdez is barely an MLB pitcher? Who cares that Griffin Canning is about to lose a rotation spot? Who cares that we also benefited from the umpire just as much as we were hurt by him? Celebrate the win and light that baby up. This was the Astros and we will take what we can get.