The Astros are 12-5 in their past 17 games and 18-10 since starting the season 11-26. They have a better winning percentage than the World Series champion Red Sox and the team many picked to go to the World Series, the Rays. George Springer is exciting, Jose Altuve is hitting, Jon Singleton is up and Dallas Keuchel is tied for the highest WAR among AL pitchers. The Astros are young, they're interesting and they're going to get better.
They even have a manager capable of thinking outside the box in Bo Porter.
In the bottom of the eighth Monday, the Astros led the Diamondbacks 4-3. Lefty Tony Sipp was in the game for Houston. He faced Gerardo Parra -- a good matchup for Sipp since Parra has hit .189 against left-handers the past two seasons. Parra struck out, bringing up Paul Goldschmidt with Miguel Montero on deck. This is where Porter got creative. He didn't want Sipp facing Goldschmidt, but the left-handed Montero has a big platoon split -- .183 with one home run against lefties over the past two seasons. So you want a right-hander facing Goldschmidt and a lefty against Montero.
Porter did have two other lefties in the pen in Darin Downs and Rudy Owens, but Downs had pitched in three of the previous four games and five of seven. Owens, just recalled from the minors, was the long guy who Porter explained he had to save in case the game went extra innings.
So he brought in Jerome Williams to pitch to Goldschmidt and moved Sipp to right field. That didn't work as Goldschmidt walked, but then Sipp moved back to the mound and struck out Montero. The best thing here is that Porter had clearly prepared for this scenario, since Sipp's outfield glove was ready on the bench (it also helps that Sipp played outfield at Clemson). Kyle Farnsworth then came on and struck out Martin Prado. You burn a position player with the maneuver, but Porter also got all the matchup advantages he wanted.
"I didn't think it actually was going to happen," Sipp said. "He gave me a warning, but I'm like, 'All right, OK, Bo.'"
It's an old trick rarely used anymore -- made more difficult, in part, because managers don't want to waste a position player in these days of smaller benches. Plus, teams carry more relievers now. The most famous occurrence of this came in 1986, when Mets manager Davey Johnson switched righty Roger McDowell and lefty Jesse Orosco back and forth over the final five innings of a 14-inning game against the Reds. Here are the batters each faced in that game:
Orosco: Dave Parker (L), Pete Rose (S), Eddie Milner (L)
McDowell: Wade Rowden (R)
McDowell: Tony Perez (R), Ron Oester (S), Sal Butera (R)
Orosco: Max Venable (L)
Orosco: Buddy Bell (R), Parker (L), Carl Willis (L), Milner (L)
McDowell: Rowden (R), Perez (R), Oester (S)
McDowell: Butera (R), Venable (L), Bell (R)
Pretty creative. Orosco caught a fly ball in the 13th inning while playing right field. McDowell played both right and left, depending on the batter. Mookie Wilson moved back and forth between right and left. Here's the box score from the game -- and what a crazy game. Gary Carter moved to third base in the 10th inning. In the 10th, Rose singled with one out and Eric Davis pinch-ran and stole second and third, but he must have been injured because pitcher Tom Browning then ran for Davis. Orosco struck out Milner and McDowell then got Rowden to ground out. George Foster was still on the Mets (he'd get more hits with the Mets before getting released). Something must have been going on with Darryl Strawberry, because Kevin Mitchell replaced him in right field in the fifth inning after Strawberry struck out looking. The Mets finally won when Howard Johnson hit a three-run homer off Ted Power.
Here's a list from Retrosheet of the 25 known times since 1952 a pitcher made two appearances in the same game -- the last two were Sean Marshall in 2009 and Jeff Nelson in 1993, both by Lou Piniella. (Although that article may be a couple years old; not sure if it had happened since Marshall.)