Editors Note: Chris is a southeast Texas native that has followed Houston sports for most of his life. His main hobbies are drinking good beer or whiskey, watching and betting sports, and being a family man. You can follow him on twitter @ChrisCampise
By CHRIS CAMPISE
Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|MON May 15th||HOU 7||MIA 2||Musgrove v. Straily|
|TUE May 16th||HOU 12||MIA 2||Keuchel v. Koehler|
|WED May 17th||HOU 3||MIA 0||McCullers v. Urena|
|FRI May 19th||CLE 5||HOU 3||Bauer v. Morton|
|SAT May 20th||CLE 3||HOU 0||Clevinger v. Fiers|
|SUN May 21st||CLE 8||HOU 6||Salazar v. Musgrove|
After the impressive Sunday night win against the Yankees in New York, the Astros had a quick turnaround to play Monday night in Miami to open a three-game series against the Marlins. Musgrove got the start and had a solid game, giving up just one run during his five and two-thirds innings of work. Down 1-0 in the sixth inning, the Astros managed to load the bases with a Reddick double, Correa walk, and Gattis hit by pitch. Gurriel took advantage and notched his first career grand slam to put the Astros up 4-1. Altuve joined in and tacked on three more runs, two off of a two-RBI single in the top of the seventh, then a solo homer in the top of the ninth. The Astros took the series opener 7-2.
The Astros kept the momentum rolling strong in Tuesday’s game. They jumped all over Koehler in the top of the first, putting up three runs on five hits to take a 3-0 lead. They added more runs throughout the game thanks to a three-RBI double from McCann in the second, two-run home runs from Marisnick in the third and fifth, a RBI single from Reddick in the seventh, then a run off an error in the ninth. On the defensive side of the ball, Keuchel threw another overall good game. He had a really bad start to the game, giving up two runs on three hits accompanied with a couple of errors in the first inning, making it 3-2 Astros at the time. He was able to put that bad inning behind him and went on to allow just one more hit before being shut down after five innings with a huge 10-2 lead. Feliz and Sipp finished the game from the bullpen, throwing a combined hitless four innings to secure the 12-2 win.
McCullers took the mound on Wednesday and had another great road start. He went six innings giving up just three hits along the way. The offense wasn’t as hot as the first two games of the series but still managed to get the job done with a RBI double from Altuve in the first then a two-RBI single from Springer in the sixth. Those three runs were enough to lock up the series sweep, thanks to three solid innings from Devenski, Harris, and Giles to complete the shutout and leave Miami with the 3-0 victory in the game and the series.
The Astros were back home at Minute Maid to open an extended homestand on Friday night. Their first set was three games against the defending AL champion Indians. Due to the doubleheader on Sunday where both Morton and Fiers pitched, Friday was a chance to move Morton back to the third spot in the rotation. He started out strong, giving up just two hits through three innings, and headed into the fourth with a 2-0 lead thanks to a RBI single from Beltran in the first and a solo homer from Reddick in the third. The Indians got the better of Morton, though, thanks to a two-run homer from Encarnación in the fourth and solo home runs from Kipnis in the fifth and Chisenhall in the sixth. Correa tried to get the offense going with a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the sixth off of Bauer, but the Indians went to their Bullpen which has been lights out recently and continued that trend by holding the Astros hitless through three and a third innings, sealing their 5-3 win.
Saturday’s game was the least exciting of the week for Astros fans. Fiers got the start, and by his standards actually pitched a relatively good game. The Indians only managed two runs off of him, one in the second off a RBI single from Kipnis, then Fiers gave up his daily home run to Chisenhall in the fourth. The Indians added a third run off Hoyt in the eighth with a RBI double from Santana. Offensively the Astros struggled against Clevinger who is in the rotation filling a spot while Kluber is on the DL. Clevinger dominated the Astros, going seven full innings and giving up just two hits and no runs. Miller and Allen pitched the eighth and ninth respectively giving up just one hit and finishing the 3-0 shutout.
Sunday’s game was another game that went the Indian’s way. Musgrove had a terrible start, giving up five runs in the first three innings, four of which came from Gomes off a RBI double in the second and three-run homer in the third. Musgrove allowed back to back singles in the fourth without recording an out before Hinch pulled him in favor of Ashur Tolliver who was just called up to fill a pitcher’s spot on the roster after Keuchel went on the 10-day DL with a pinched nerve in his neck. More on Keuchel later. Tolliver struggled to get out of the mess in the fourth, allowing the Indians to take the 8-1 lead. With a fresh start in the fifth, however, Tolliver settled down and actually looked pretty impressive. He pitched the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings and gave up no hits in that span. Even though the Astros tried to rally and got homers from Altuve in the fourth and Gonzalez and Bregman in the ninth, they were unable to bail Musgrove out and gave up their first sweep of the season with the 8-6 loss.
After starting the week 3-0 and having played outstanding ball on the road against the surging Yankees and the Marlins, it seemed like there was no stopping the Astros. The Indians had other plans, though, and ended the Astros week at 3-3. It’s still way too early to be thinking about the playoffs, but you can’t feel great knowing that you just let the defending AL champions come into your house and pick you apart the way they did and win five of the six head-to-head games this season. Neal broke down if we should consider this a slump or not in today’s update.
Ultimately, it’s still those 3-5 spots in the rotation that is the Astros biggest weakness. Of the three in those spots, I think Morton is the strongest as of right now. He could be a really solid part of the rotation if he could just stop getting into so much trouble later in his starts. I still don’t trust Fiers, even after a decent start this week. He needs to string together several solid starts before I’ll be excited about him again. Musgrove was progressing well through the season until this last start, so hopefully he recovers in this next game. Until then, Astros fans have to hope that McHugh comes back and is at his best so that he can jump start the back end of this rotation.
The Astros also moved two key guys to the DL this week: Keuchel and McCann. Keuchel is the biggest loss, but as of now it’s being reported as a pinched nerve in his neck and he should only miss one start which would be tonight against the Tigers. He’s expected back in the rotation Saturday against the Orioles. This team cannot afford to have Keuchel miss extended time this season. McCann is on the concussion DL likely after he took a ball to the mask against the Yankees this past weekend. Hopefully he clears fast because he was really heating up and racking up the RBIs.
MVP of the week – Lance McCullers Jr.: There was a lot of offense in the series in Miami, but then not a lot to get excited about against Cleveland, so for this week I’m going to give the MVP to McCullers. He only pitched one game this week, but it’s been his pitching in the last few that I’m the most impressed with. He has solidified himself as the second ace in the rotation, and it’s a huge dropoff right now after him. If this team makes the playoffs, I would find it hard to pick against the Astros going 2-0 in a series with Keuchel and McCullers starting those two games.
This Week’s Schedule
- Mon-Thu: Tigers (21-21) @ Astros (29-15)
- Fri-Sun: Orioles (25-17) @ Astros (29-15)
The Astros get seven games at home this week, and against pretty decent teams. They have to bounce back from the poor offensive series against the Indians and get the bats going. They have to win these two series and keep their momentum going because even with the best record in the league, the Rangers are starting to chip away, and oh, by the way, next weekend the Astros will make their first trip to Arlington for this season.