Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first. The “Woo!” is lame, especially at a baseball game.
Many Astros fans have grown accustomed to hollering “Woo!” at Minute Maid Park in tribute to Josh Reddick, their wrestling-loving, Ric “The Nature Boy” Flair idolizing outfielder in his first season in Houston. The sound of random “woos” echoed across Minute Maid all through the four-game series. True, Astros fans had plenty of reason to be excited while taking the first three of four games in dramatic fashion. But the “woo” was still there, even as the Rangers took Game 4 Thursday afternoon 10-4.
The “Woo!” is giving the wave, another fan favorite at Minute Maid Park, a run for worst fan engagement in the big leagues.
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Look, Houston, the Astros are one of the best teams in the majors, and appear ready to live up to their hype with a serious World Series bid. But lose the “Woo!”
Here’s the Reaction after a slump-snapping win:
1. Gallo goes deep — Joey Gallo’s two-run homer in the eighth inning Thursday wasn’t his hardest hit ball this season but it still traveled 423 feet. It was big because it gave the Rangers’ a five-run lead with just six outs to go. Lately, of course, that hasn’t been enough for the bullpen, but it was this time. Elvis Andrus added a homer in the ninth just to make sure. Gallo, like most of his teammates, declined to champion the win as any more significant than others.
“It’s nice to win games, after losing three in a row to them,” Gallo said. “For us, there’s no panic or anything. We just showed up and said, alright, let’s win today and tomorrow we’ll show up and say let’s win today.”
The intensity for the Lone Star Series rivalry was evident, Gallo said, but had little to do with motivation.
“You can tell the stadium is a little different. There’s some energy and the fans are a little more passionate for every out and every time they score, but we try to take every game with the same approach,” he said. “For me, it was just another series and now we move on.”
2. Defensive about defense — Gallo has been in something of a rut defensively the past week. He’s made five errors in the past six games, although several throwing errors could have been saved by the first baseman. The Rangers are tied with the Red Sox for the major league lead with 25 errors, although three teams do have a lower fielding percentage than the Rangers. Despite the errors, the defense has made several huge, game-changing saves. That happened Thursday when Carlos Gomez came up with a diving catch on a sinking liner in the seventh with the bases loaded. Statcast reported that similar batted balls are caught only 14 percent of the time. A run scored on a sacrifice fly on the play but he saved another run from scoring and another potential Astros rally from erupting. Gallo also made a great defensive play in the sixth. With the bases loaded and one out, Gallo snared a hot shot from Jose Altuve, stepped on third and threw to first for the inning-ending double play.
“It’s tough to look at a stat line and supposed errors,” Gallo said. “There are not balls going through our legs every other game. I think overall we have a really good defense.”
3. Pitching and defense — Banister isn’t happy with the amount of errors but he’s also not worried about them continuing at their current rate. “Errors happen in baseball games,” he said. “[Gallo] is a rookie third baseman. We feel he’s a good defensive player. There are going to be some plays on the field that he’s going to have to work through. Rougie [Odor] needs to be better on defense, he knows that.”
Overall, Banister said, his team knows “we have to be better defensively.”
Now, here’s caveat. When the defense is playing behind a pitching staff struggling in general to throw strikes, focus can wane.
“When pitchers are throwing strikes, they create a great rhythm and you stay in a good rhythm on defense guys make plays,” Banister said. “Guys are focused, pre-pitch setups are good. When innings get long is when it becomes challenging for some defenders.”
So the rash of walks like this week in Houston can hurt you two ways.
“We still feel good about the defenders we have on the field,” he said.
4. A word from Hinch — “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done the last couple of years,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told the Houston Chronicle before Thursday’s game. “I know everybody wants to drag the rearview mirror into the season. I don’t. I want to win today because it inches us closer to where we’re trying to get. Not that sort of statement or payback. It’s an opportunity to win a game and we need as many wins as we can get.”