Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|MON July 24th||HOU 13||PHI 4||Peacock v. Velaquez|
|TUE July 25th||HOU 5||PHI 0||Morton v. Pivetta|
|WED July 26th||HOU 0||PHI 9||Fiers v. Nola|
|FRI July 28th||HOU 6||DET 5||Keuchel v. Zimmermann|
|SAT July 29th||HOU 3||DET 5||McHugh v. Boyd|
|SUN July 30th||HOU 1||DET 13||McCullers v. Verlander|
The Astros started the week off strong with a 13-4 lopsided win over the Phillies. Peacock started for the Astros but only pitched three innings due to a rain delay that stopped the game for nearly two hours in the top of the fourth. The Astros went into the delay with a 3-1 lead thanks to back-to-back solo homers from McCann and Bregman in the second and a RBI single from Gonzalez in the third. The Phillies were able to get a run off of Peacock in the second on a RBI double from Joseph. Much like the game in Minnesota back in May, the Astros came out of the rain delay swinging, putting up seven runs between the fourth and fifth innings on RBIs from Gurriel, Beltran, White, and two from Altuve. The Astros added two more runs in the seventh on RBIs from Gurriel and Reddick, and Reddick tacked on the thirteenth and final run in the ninth. Musgrove came in to pitch after the rain delay and went three shutout innings with just two hits, earning the win. The Phillies did get three runs on a Williams triple of off Sipp in the seventh, but it was too little, too late. However, there was some bad news in the win because Springer left the game with quad discomfort after trying to chase down a fly ball in center field, and has ended up on the DL for the time being.
The Astros shut out the Phillies on Tuesday, in large part due to a terrific start from Morton. Morton went seven strong innings with only three hits, no runs, one walk, and nine strikeouts on 105 pitches. It was the kind of start Morton is capable of providing regularly when healthy, and the Astros are hoping for more starts like that from him down the stretch. The bullpen combination of Sipp, Martes, and Giles closed out the shutout. Offensively, other than the sac fly from Aoki in the third to score one, the Astros’ runs came in the sixth inning on RBI singles from Reddick, Gonzalez, and Fisher. It was the type of game you’d expect when a 67-33 team goes up against a 34-64 team.
That being said, the Astros were the team that looked like a 34-64 team on Wednesday and found themselves on the wrong end of a 9-0 rout. Fiers started for the Astros and had a bad start compared to his recent success, going just four innings. Fiers struggled to put batters away, racking up a 102 pitch count in his four innings of work. He gave up three runs, two on a Rupp home run and another on a RBI single from Williams, all in the fourth inning. In his defense, he did strike out seven in his four innings, he just got in too many full counts and had the bad pitches that gave up runs. The Phillies’ six other runs came off of Feliz in the fifth and sixth innings including two two-run home runs. The Astros had their chances throughout the game, but they ended up stranding nine on base as a result of good pitching from the Phillies starter, Nola, and a good showing from their bullpen.
Coming off the series win against the Phillies, the Astros headed to Detroit for the weekend series which started off with a 6-5 comeback win. Despite the highly anticipated return, Keuchel did not have a great showing in his first game back from the DL, going just three innings on 79 pitches and giving up a three-run homer to Castellanos in the second. It wasn’t a promising return, but hopefully it was just a bad night and not a sign of anything more serious. The Astros scored two runs of their own during the first three innings, both off of sac flys from Reddick. Peacock made a long relief appearance and went four innings after Keuchel was pulled, and gave up two runs, a Cabrera homer in the fifth and a Martinez RBI single in the seventh. The Astros had a solo shot from Gonzalez in the sixth but the highlight of the game was the three-run go-ahead home run from Reddick in the eighth to give the Astros the 6-5 lead. Devenski and Giles pitched the eighth and ninth innings respectively, both without any hits or runs to close out the comeback.
McHugh made his second start of the season on Saturday and looked much better than in his first. McHugh went six innings in which he gave up just one run on four hits and struck out seven. He left the game with a 3-1 lead thanks to a two-run blast by Gattis in the first and a RBI triple from Fisher in the fourth. Unfortunately, the Tigers got the better of the Astros’ bullpen starting with Martes in the bottom of the seventh who gave up a run on a wild pitch and a RBI double to Iglesias to tie the game at 3 before getting pulled in favor of Devenski. Iglesias would come across as the go-ahead run on a RBI single from Kinsler off of Devenski, then the Tigers added their fifth run off of Gregerson in the eighth on their way to the 5-3 win.
Sunday was another bad start in July for McCullers. My hope is that it was just a streak of bad days and that turning the page to August will help him reset mentally and get back on track. McCullers struggled with his command and was only able to get through five innings during which he allowed five runs on eight hits, walked four, and hit two batters. The Tigers added runs throughout the games off of McCullers and the Astros’ bullpen including five runs off of Sipp who has had really poor results in a few of his most recent appearances. Down 11-0 and in order to spare the bullpen extra work, Tyler White came on to pitch in the eighth and gave up two runs to make it 13-0. On the offensive side, the Astros were held in check by Verlander who despite racking up a high pitch count early, was able to get out of jams and get through six shutout innings on 110 pitches. Bregman did help the Astros avoid the shutout by hitting a solo home run in the ninth, making the final 13-1.
Going Forward: That’s back-to-back 3-3 weeks for the Astros, which this week feels even more disappointing considering the blowout losses to the Phillies and Tigers. The injuries, though still manageable, are starting to create more of a problem. No question the Astros would’ve benefited from having Springer and Correa in the lineup this week to add some offensive power and defensive playmaking. Although it’s a longer wait for Correa, Springer should return soon and can help keep the offense on track. On the pitching side, we need to see better starts from Keuchel and McCullers sooner rather than later so they can build momentum to take into the playoffs. McHugh needs to keep progressing, Fiers needs to put this last start behind him, and Morton needs to stay healthy and have more starts like his last. The bullpen was ready to have Harris back, but he’s gone back on the DL, meaning they’ll have to keep relying on guys like Sipp who are hit or miss on any given night. There are a few hours to the trade deadline, so maybe the Astros can pull something off, but the big reliever up for grabs, Justin Wilson, was dealt to the Cubs last night, so the Astros are likely stuck with what they have in the bullpen, so they’ll just have to work on getting everyone rested and healthy. Overall, the team is still in pretty good shape and they aren’t going to lose the division, they just can’t afford to lose any more key guys down the stretch because that could impact their chances to move forward in the playoffs.
MVP of the Week – Jeff Bagwell: He hasn’t played in nearly twelve years, but Jeff Bagwell is definitely still the MVP of the week. Bagwell became the second “Killer B” inducted into the Hall of Fame yesterday, and he deserves all of the recognition and media attention he’s gotten over the weekend. I’ll always remember going to the Astrodome as a kid and seeing Bagwell sit back in his wide stance and drive balls out. If you want to read more on Bagwell, I wrote about why Jeff deserves to be in the Hall back in January, and Neal also did a good look back in today’s update.
This Week’s Schedule
- MON-THU: Rays (54-52) @ Astros (68-36)
- FRI-SUN: Blue Jays (49-56) @ Astros (68-36)
The Astros return from the nine-game road trip for seven games at home this week against teams from the AL East. First, they’ll have a four-game series against the Rays who are still in the mix with the Red Sox and Yankees for the lead in their division. Then, they’ll face the Blue Jays this weekend who are farther back but with some luck could get in the mix in the division or the wild card. The Astros will hopefully be able to feed off the energy at home to put last week’s troubles behind them.