You could see it coming. When Jake Marisnick was plunked in the sixth inning of Tuesday's nights Astros vs. Angels game in Anaheim — a retaliatory strike for the the outfielder's violent collision with Angels cacher Jonathan Lucroy last week — no one on either bench was surprised.
It was where the ball struck — on the shoulder just below his head — that caused the outcry. While Marisnick calmly walked to first base, both teams began jawing. The Astros all climbed to the top of the first step. Lance McCullers, Jr., of all people given his season-long injury, left no doubt about how he felt.
Then Angels first baseman Albert Pujols turned to face them, players began coming onto the field from the Angels side and a fight was brewing.
But Marisnick stepped in. He told his team to go back in the dugout, patted Pujols on the back. The guy at the center of all the mess and controversy of the past week who had just taken a fastball to the shoulder, was the biggest man on the field.
Suspensions to pitcher Noe Ramirez (three games) and manager Brad Ausmus (one game) were handed down. The word bullshit was tossed around a lot after the game by both sides.
For all the hoopla surrounding Marisnick and Lucroy, it shouldn't be lost on anyone that the Astros have been in a bit of a post-All-Star-break funk. They split two games with the Rangers and had lost two to the Angels and were only four-and-a-half games ahead of the A's for first place in the AL West before winning on Wednesday night. It felt like a summer malaise mixed with a really difficult injury situation in the starting rotation.
The pitching problems won't be magically solved overnight (barring a trade this weekend), but long road trips and rallying around teammates have way of bringing teams together. Maybe this week will help the Astros get their groove back.
By Wednesday night, nerves were less frayed, but more importantly, the Astros really needed a win. With injuries to the pitching staff, they finally got one of their aces on the hill in Garrett Cole and they took advantage, scoring six runs in the first three innings and another five in the fifth to steamroll the Angels 11-2.
In the top of the second, Jose Altuve doubled. Marisnick had singled in his first at bat and scored easily from second. When he got to the dugout, Marisnick got a long hug from Josh Reddick.
He finished the night 3-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. It must have felt like a relief after a long, difficult week for both him and his team.