BOSTON -- A.J. Hinch and the Astros seemed determined not to make the same mistakes vs. slugging Red Sox rookie Michael Chavis as everyone else.
For a month now, opposing pitchers have failed to grasp a seemingly simple concept: Chavis murders pitches low in the zone, but struggles with good fastballs above the belt.
Hinch took note of this fact before the game Friday night, noting that Chavis had done extensive damage against secondary pitches and suggesting that Houston's game plan would feature fastballs.
Guess where the Astros, on the vanguard of the statistical revolution, assaulted him all night?
If you guessed high fastballs, you'd be right. A fair follow-up: what took so long?
Chavis entered the game hitting .392 (20-for-51) on balls in the lower middle of the zone, and just .138 (4-for-29) in the upper middle of the zone (tip of the hat to the invaluable @redsoxstats Twitter account for digging out the numbers so I didn't have to).
Against hard-throwing starter Gerrit Cole, setup man Hector Rondon, and closer Roberto Osuna, Chavis saw 17 pitches in the 3-1 loss on Friday night. Fourteen of them were faster than 95 mph, and 12 went for strikes, including eight swinging.
One game after delivering the first walk-off hit of his career, Chavis struck out three times and went 0-for-4.
"That's the great thing about baseball," he said. "You can go from being the hero one night to, 'Wow, what happened?'"
Because Chavis owns a classic low-ball swing that generates easy loft, seeing fastballs up in the zone is nothing new to him. Per Brooks Baseball, he entered the game hitting just .200 on four-seamers, well below his production on sinkers (.364) and sliders (.375).
Chavis expects to be approached that way.
"Other teams have tried to attack me with elevated fastballs," he said. "I wouldn't so much say that was the cause of my not performing tonight. It just happens. It's baseball. I looked at the video, the swing is fine, just swung under it. They got a little bit of spin rate and a little bit of rise on the fastball and I just swung under them. That's just an adjustment I'm going to need to make tomorrow."
A couple of factors separate the Astros. One is the extreme velocity with which they pounded him, ranging from 96-99 mph. The other is their command. Chavis has a good eye and has largely laid off fastballs above the strike zone. The Astros threw high strikes and made him swing -- 11 of the 15 fastballs he saw were in the zone.
"In the minors, a lot of guys have that kind of spin rate and rise, throwing 92-94," he said. "This was a little different."
So what next? Houston's Saturday starter, rookie Corbin Martin, throws 98 mph and will undoubtedly attack Chavis similarly.
"That's what they do," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "That's how they pitch. Today was a good test for him, and I think the way they pitch to him, that's how they pitch a lot of hitters. Not just him, but others. He got a taste of that, and tomorrow he'll come back and make some adjustments and get on top of the fastball and hit it back up the middle."
Chavis looks forward to the challenge. The Astros are trying to establish a book on him. It's his job to stick it in the shredder.
"That's what hitting is," he said. "It's a cat and mouse game. It's kind of funny that in baseball, you want to stay as consistent as possible by making adjustments, constantly changing to stay consistent. It's insane, but hey, we're here."
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