Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|MON July 17th||SEA 9||HOU 7||Miranda v. McCullers|
|TUE July 18th||SEA 2||HOU 6||Gaviglio v. Peacock|
|WED July 19th||SEA 4||HOU 1||Paxton v. Morton|
|FRI July 21st||HOU 8||BAL 7||Fiers v. Jimenez|
|SAT July 22nd||HOU 8||BAL 4||McHugh v. Tillman|
|SUN July 23rd||HOU 7||BAL 9||McCullers v. Bundy|
The Astros started the week by losing a heartbreaker in extra innings at home against the Mariners. McCullers had a rough start, giving up five runs on six hits and going just four and two-thirds innings. The Mariners’ first run came in the top of the first when McCullers tried to do a little too much on a ground ball and had a wild throw over to first that allowed Segura to score. The Astros tied the game in the bottom half of the first with a sac fly from Correa, then took the lead in the third with a solo homer from Marisnick. The Mariners were able to string together four runs in the fourth and fifth innings, making it 5-2 and ending McCullers’ night. The Astros had a big sixth inning, taking the lead back 6-5 on a RBI single from Gurriel, a two-run home run from Beltran, and a RBI walk from Springer. The Mariners got solo shots from Cruz off of Devenski in the seventh then Zunino off of Gregerson in the eighth, followed by a Springer sac fly for the Astros in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game 7-7. Despite having runners on second and third with one out in the ninth, the Astros were unable to get the walk-off, sending the game to extra innings. Sipp came in for the tenth inning and allowed back-to-back solo home runs to Seager and Valencia which the Astros were unable to answer in the bottom half of the inning, ending the game 9-7. To make matters worse, Correa aggravated his thumb injury, resulting in surgery which will sideline him for 6-8 weeks.
Tuesday’s game went more the Astros’ way in their 6-2 win. Peacock had a great start, going seven innings and giving up just one run on three hits with nine strikeouts. The Astros jumped out in front early with a sac fly from Gurriel in the first to take the 1-0 lead, then added another run in the second off of a solo homer from Gattis. They added two more runs in the fourth on RBI doubles from Aoki and Springer to make it 4-0. Gattis got his second homer of the game with another solo bomb in the sixth, and Altuve drove in the sixth and final run in the seventh with a RBI single. The Mariners’ offense consisted of RBI singles from Dyson in the fifth and Gamel in the eighth. Gregerson pitched an inning and one-third for the save.
The Astros offense had a rare quiet day on Wednesday in their 4-1 loss. The Astros’ one run came on a sac fly from Springer in the third, which at the time gave the Astros a 1-0 lead. The Mariners took the lead in the fourth on a two-run homer from Gamel, then added their other two runs in the sixth and seventh innings, all off of Morton. Despite the runs, Morton did well to get into the seventh inning, something Astros starters have been struggling with recently. Martes came in and finished the final two and one-third innings in a great relief appearance, giving up no hits and striking out five. Unfortunately, the Astros were unable to find their rhythm on offense as they went on to strand eight on base, allowing the Mariners to seal up the series win.
Coming off the series loss to the Mariners, and with the Orioles having just swept the Rangers in four games, it was good to see the Astros’ offense come alive in the first of nine games on the road in Baltimore on Friday night. The Astros jumped all over Jimenez early, scoring five of their eight runs in the first two innings on RBIs from Beltran, Moran, Altuve, and a two-run home run from Gurriel. Their other three runs came by way of a RBI single from Reddick and solo home run from McCann in the sixth, and a solo homer from Moran in the eighth. Moran was called up to fill a position spot while Correa is out, and had a great game with a triple and his first home run. Fiers had another great start, pitching seven strong innings with just one run on six hits and nine strikeouts. Feliz pitched the eighth and gave up a run, but it was Hoyt in the ninth that nearly blew the game. Hoyt gave up a two-run double to make it 8-4, then put runners on the corners before getting pulled. Devenski came in to clean the mess but gave up a three-run home run to Schoop on the first pitch. Giles eventually came in for the one-out save to finish the 8-7 win.
Saturday’s game had its ups and downs, to say the least. The game started an hour late due to rain, which only served to build the anticipation for McHugh’s return. McHugh looked great through the first four innings, giving up just one hit, but fell off in the fifth when he gave up two two-run home runs to Jones and Schoop which gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead at the time and ended his night. The last inning definitely wasn’t ideal, especially because at the time it looked like it was going to cost the Astros the game, but in my opinion, it was a decent first start back, and it was something McHugh can build off of. I’m more optimistic about how good he was in the first four innings than I am worried about the runs he gave up late. Luckily for McHugh, he wouldn’t factor into the decision thanks to the offense coming alive in the top of the sixth. Gurriel started the scoring for the inning with a two-run home run, but then things took a scary turn. Moran was at the plate and fouled a ball off his bat straight into his face, and it looked ugly, to the point they didn’t show the replay on the live broadcast. They ended up bringing out the cart for him, and he has gone on the DL with a concussion and facial fracture. Gonzalez finished the at-bat for Moran and came through with a three-run home run to put the Astros ahead 6-4. The Astros added two more insurance runs in the ninth on RBIs from Gattis and Beltran, but they weren’t needed thanks to the bullpen work of Martes, Gregerson, and Musgrove who combined for four and one-third shutout, hitless innings. The Astros won 8-4.
Sunday’s game was another disappointing start for McCullers. He struggled all day with command of the ball, and ended his day after just four and two-thirds innings, giving up six runs on nine hits. The Astros’ offense tried their best to stay in the game; Altuve hit a game-tying three-run blast in the third, then the Astros took a 7-6 lead in the sixth after Aoki hit his own three-run home run followed by a sac fly from Reddick, but the Orioles offense was just too much for the Astros’ pitching. Trumbo got a homer off of Devenski in the seventh to tie the game at 7, then the Orioles got the best of Gregerson in the eighth with RBIs from Machado and Schoop to go ahead 9-7, which was the final.
Going Forward: With the Astros theme this year being two wins for every loss, a 3-3 week feels a bit disappointing, especially since two of the losses were against the Mariners. The Astros suffered a big loss with Correa going out for 6-8 weeks, however, the loss is mitigated thanks to having a superb utility player in Marwin ready to fill in. The Astros will continue to benefit from their large division lead, which currently sits at 17 games, putting them in a position to experiment with different combinations to find what will work best in the playoffs, and can still give players rest days along the way. The offense still has a bad day here or there, but it’s so potent that they can come alive at any point and put games out of reach for opponents. On the pitching side, I’m optimistic about McHugh’s return, and Fiers has been fantastic, not to mention Peacock. McCullers has me a little worried, but I think he will break out of this slump, and better to have a slump now than going into the playoffs. Keuchel had a good rehab start this past weekend, and it will be a huge boost to the team when he comes back because I think he makes the pitchers around him better too. That being said, I’m not ready to give up the search for another starter, but the Astros aren’t desperate enough to overpay. I’d also like to see the Astros bring in another reliever so the Astros can stop relying on guys like Hoyt and Sipp that have not shown up when called upon. Bringing in another starter could shift Peacock back to the bullpen which would help that area too.
MVP of the Week – Jose Altuve: All Altuve does is hit. This week he went 13 for 28 to increase his season average to .358 and drove in five runs. He continues to come through in key situations and is the cornerstone of the Astros’ offense. If there’s one guy that needs to stay healthy so the Astros have him ready for the playoffs, it’s Jose.
This Week’s Schedule
- MON-WED: Astros (65-33) @ Phillies (34-62)
- FRI-SUN: Astros (65-33) @ Tigers (45-52)
The Astros continue their road trip this week with six winnable games against the lowly Phillies and the Tigers who are fourth in the AL Central. The Astros have been better on the road than at home this year, averaging over seven runs per game. That’s a crazy number to keep up, but this week they have a good chance. This weekend will also be a good opportunity for McHugh to continue progressing and McCullers to get a good start to break out of his slump. The Astros should win both of these series and go 4-2 or better this week, but there’s always the possibility of a trap game or two because these teams will be motivated to beat one of the best teams in the league.