By CHRIS CAMPISE
Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|MON June 12th||TEX 6||HOU 1||Darvish v. Musgrove|
|TUE June 13th||TEX 4||HOU 2||Martinez v. Peacock|
|WED June 14th||TEX 2||HOU 13||Cashner v. Martes|
|FRI June 16th||BOS 2||HOU 1||Pomeranz v. Fiers|
|SAT June 17th||BOS 1||HOU 7||Porcello v. Paulino|
|SUN June 18th||BOS 6||HOU 5||Price v. Musgrove|
The Astros started this week with a loss to the Rangers in the series opener. Musgrove was back on the mound after his stint on the DL, and he managed a relatively decent start with a limited pitch count. The damage he gave up came in the second inning when the Rangers scored two runs on back-to-back triples from Odor and Gallo. Other than that, Musgrove looked fine giving up the two runs on five hits in his four and two-thirds innings. The Astros cut the lead to one in the bottom of the fifth off of an RBI-single from Bregman, but that would end up being their only run of the game. The Rangers put up four more runs on the Astros’ overworked bullpen, getting an RBI-double from Beltre off of Devenski in the sixth, then a three-run homer from Mazara in the eighth off of Diaz who had inherited two runners from Sipp earlier that inning. The Rangers took the game 6-1.
Tuesday’s game was looking good for the Astros early but also turned out to be a disappointing loss. Peacock took the mound on short rest and coming off a really poor start. Surprisingly, he did really well, and actually had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning. The Astros brought a two-run lead into fifth thanks to homers from Springer to lead off the bottom of the first then Correa in the fourth. In the top of the fifth Peacock faltered and loaded the bases then walked in a run before being pulled in favor of Harris who came in for the final out of the inning. The Rangers tied the game 2-2 off an Odor homer off of Devenski in the top of the seventh, then went ahead 4-2 off another Odor homer in the eighth off of Gregerson, which would be the final score.
Wednesday’s game was a showcase of the Astros we had become accustomed to during their recent eleven game win streak paired with a strong display for a couple of newcomers. The Astros jumped out to a 2-0 lead early thanks to RBIs from Correa in the first and Gonzalez in the second. It stayed that way until the fifth inning as a result of a fantastic start from Martes, who had a less-than-exciting debut out of the bullpen a few nights prior. Martes held the Rangers scoreless until the fifth inning where he loaded the bases after a double, walk, and a hit-by-pitch. He ended up allowing a run to cross after a wild pitch, but otherwise showed really great poise in the stressful situation, getting a strikeout for the first out, a foul out, then got out of the jam and inning by getting Mazara on a beautiful strikeout looking. The Astros extended their lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth then blew the doors off in the bottom of the sixth. They ended up with nine runs in that half inning, including Derek Fisher’s first two major league hits, the first of which was a solo homer to get the scoring started that inning. Marisnick followed with a home run of his own, then the Astros poured it on with RBIs from Beltran, McCann, Gonzalez, Springer, and another by Fisher. Gallo tried to get something going for the Rangers in the top of the seventh with a solo home run, but it was too little, too late. The Astros ended the series on a high note with the 13-2 win.
Friday night’s series opener against the Red Sox was a fun game to watch, despite the outcome. Fiers continued his progression in having more successful starts but had one bad inning which resulted in a run for Boston. In the top of the third Fiers walked Betts, then gave up a single to Pedroia allowing Betts to get to third who then scored on a single by Moreland. Other than the bad third inning, Fiers looked tremendous. He pitched seven strong innings and was doing a great Keuchel impression, getting thirteen groundouts along the way. McCann tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer off of Pomeranz to end his night after an equally impressive start opposite of Fiers. Betts got the go-ahead run with a solo home run off of Harris’ first pitch out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth, which ended up being the difference maker as the Astros were unable to put anything together off Boston’s strong bullpen. The final was Red Sox (aka Mookie Betts) 2, Astros 1.
The Astros got back in the win column on Saturday with a 7-1 win over Boston to even the series. Paulino had his best start yet, giving up just one run on three hits during his six innings of work. Boston’s one run was a solo home run from Young in the fifth inning. Most of the Astros’ offense came in the early innings, with Altuve getting an RBI-double along with sac-flys from McCann and Beltran to put up three runs in the first. They added three more runs in the third thanks to a solo train-shot by Altuve and a two-run blast from Beltran. They added their seventh and final run in the sixth when Gurriel scored on an Aoki double play ball. The bullpen had a good showing as well, with Devenski, Gregerson, and Diaz combining for three hitless innings to seal the win.
Let’s go ahead and put an asterisk next to Sunday night’s loss. The home plate umpire’s strike zone was erratic, to say the least, and even though it’s hard to say if it directly affected the outcome of the game, it definitely halted the Astros momentum in a key moment. Musgrove started the game for the Astros, but it was a start in the wrong direction after his promising return off the DL earlier in the week. Boston got the better of him early with a solo home run from Bogaerts in the top of the first. The Astros answered back to tie the game 1-1 with a RBI single from McCann in the bottom of the first, and it stayed tied until the fifth inning. Correa gave the Astros a 2-1 lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth, but Boston didn’t let them hold on to that lead long. Musgrove fell apart in the sixth, giving up Bogaerts’ second home run of the game, this time a two-run shot putting Boston up 3-2. He then gave up a single and walk before Hinch went to Hoyt to try and get the last out of the inning. Hoyt couldn’t clean the mess and gave up two more runs on a Bradley Jr double to make it 5-2. The Astros fought right back with back-to-back solo home runs from Marisnick and Springer to make it 5-4. Hoyt had no command of the ball in the top of the seventh, hitting back to back batters ending his night. Devenski came in but allowed Boston to add another run on a Bogaerts single. The Astros had something brewing in the bottom of the eighth after they loaded the bases with one out thanks to walks to Springer, Altuve, and McCann. Beltran came through with a single to score McCann and almost scored Altuve too but he was tagged out at home. With runners on first and second, Gurriel, who was 2-4 at the point with two doubles, came to the plate with a chance to tie or take the lead. Instead, he got “struck out” looking on this sequence of pitches:
Gurriel was rightly upset and got ejected after kicking his helmet in disgust. In the bottom of the ninth Fisher managed to get a rare hit off of Kimbrel, who I’m not sure is entirely human, but definitely part bird or raptor judging by his stretch. Fisher tried stealing second two times with Aoki at the plate but both were foul balls before Aoki flew out. With Springer up and two outs, Fisher tried his luck again but got thrown out at second to end the game. Boston won the game 6-5 and the series 2-1.
It was a 2-4 week for the Astros which is a bit disappointing, but at the same time, we saw some promising aspects like the continuing improvement from Fiers, the solid first start for Martes, a promising rebound game for Peacock, and the debut of Fisher. Of course, things will improve once Keuchel and McCullers are back, but I at least have a little bit more faith in these backup guys than I did before last week. Offensively, I don’t like that the Astros were up and down this week. McCullers is expected back this weekend in Seattle, and Keuchel is at least going on the road with the team to start ramping up for his comeback. Yes, the Astros still hold an 11-game lead in the AL West, but at some point soon we are going to have to stop falling back on that because once the playoffs start, division leads don’t matter. There’s still plenty of time for the Astros to fix their issues, including signing a starter or two to boost the rotation, but they can’t afford to get into a position where they are just limping into the playoffs. The good news is they’ve been much better on the road, and they get seven games on the road this week against the bottom of the division, which might be the spark they need to get hot again.
MVP of the Week – Mike Fiers: Yep, I’ve been converted into a believer in Mike Fiers, at least for the time being. His start on Friday night was one of if not the best of the year considering he did it against the Red Sox. It looks like he’s taken advice from the guys around him and really stepped up his game, to the point I was legitimately mad at the offense for not giving him run support to pick up the win on Friday night. If he can keep it up, he could be a great asset in a playoff run. Oh, and to top it off, he hasn’t given up a home run in four games.
This Week’s Schedule
- Mon-Thu: Astros (46-24) @ A’s (31-38)
- Fri-Sun: Astros (46-24) @ Mariners (34-37)
The Astros have a quick turnaround after last night’s game and will play on the road this week, where they have managed to do better than at home. They will start against the A’s who although don’t have an impressive record just swept the Yankees in a four-game series. Then, the Astros travel up the west coast to Seattle to face the Mariners who are expecting to get Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma back from the DL, which could prove troublesome for the Astros. After the 3-6 homestand, the Astros need a spark on the road to get things moving back in the right direction for when their rotation is healthy again.