Oberholtzer after his complete game
Brett Oberholtzer was in command all day on Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Whether it was taking charge and calling for a seventh-inning pop up that he caught in front of the mound, or going through the Seattle Mariners lineup, the Astros left-hander was on his game.
Oberholtzer threw the Astros’ first complete game and shutout of the season in Houston’s 2-0 win that snapped a five-game losing streak and averted a four-game series sweep.
“From early on you could tell he had a really good idea of what he was doing out there,” said Astros catcher Jason Castro. “He took direction well. He came out with a pretty good understanding of his stuff.
“He was just in command tonight. He was poised all game, knew exactly what he wanted to do. He didn’t let up at all.”
Oberholtzer allowed only four hits, all singles, with five strikeouts and one walk.
Castro also played a big role in the win. Castro doubled in Jose Altuve, who led off the eighth of a scoreless game with a double, his third hit. Castro alertly tagged up to third base on Matt Dominguez’s fly out to right field.
Castro then scored the second run from third base on a suicide bunt by Brandon Barnes off Seattle reliever Charlie Furbush (2-5). Furbush, who came in relief at the start of the eighth inning, couldn’t duplicate the pitching performance of Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who pitched seven scoreless innings.
From the get-go it was apparent Oberholtzer (4-1) had something going, attacking the strike zone.
Asked about Oberholtzer’s performance, Astros manager Bo Porter replied, “Outstanding with a capital O. He was on the attack from pitch number one.
“He decided he was going to be aggressive and he attacked the strike zone and allowed the defense to play. He made them to have to swing the bat.”
And the Astros did play great defense, not committing an error and getting outstanding catches from right fielder L.J. Hoes and center fielder Trevor Crowe, who had two hits in his first game back with the Astros since June 20.
Crowe made a nice running catch in deep center in the second but Hoes made the catch of the game. With one out in the ninth and Kyle Seager on first base, Kendrys Morales hit a ball slicing to right in foul territory. Hoes stayed with the play and following a long run, made a sliding catch just before brushing up against the padded right-field wall.
“I thanked Hoes many times,” said Oberholtzer, who threw 113 pitches, 83 for strikes. “Tremendous effort behind me tonight.”
Oberholtzer was making his sixth start of the season for the Astros. The Astros did not allow an extra-base hit to the Mariners over the final two games of the series.
“I was able to locate my fastball, first and foremost and just threw my off-speed off of that,” said Oberholtzer. “That was the majority of my game plan. Third, fourth inning I was spotting my fastball pretty well. I knew if I could continue that it would be good.
“I got back to throwing my strengths, fastball, changeup. A great team win. I was zoned in.”
The last Astros pitcher to throw a shutout was Jordan Lyles on Sept. 30 last year at Milwaukee.
The way Oberholtzer was pitching, there was little doubt that he wouldn’t go out for the ninth inning.
“He had pitched so well up to that point. It was pretty much his game unless two runners got on base,” said Porter.
Castro knew early on that Oberholtzer was dealing.
“At one point I looked at the scoreboard and the strike to ball ratio was outrageous, in a good way,” said Castro, who has 35 doubles. “Right away I could see he was trusting his stuff and it was jumping out of his hand nicely.”
Oberholtzer’s gem overshadowed Iwakuma, who allowed only six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in his seven scoreless innings, which lowered his ERA to 1.38 in four starts against the Astros this season.
“He’s given us trouble all-year long,” said Castro. “He’s got a great mix of pitches, he keeps guys off balanced. That’s what he does well. He messes with your timing a bit.
“That split that he throws is an equalizer for him. That’s a tough pitch to lay off. That’s his bread and butter.”