Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|MON July 31st||TB 7||HOU 14||Cobb v. Morton|
|TUE August 1st||TB 6||HOU 4||Archer v. Fiers|
|WED August 2nd||TB 3||HOU 0||Pruitt v. Keuchel|
|THU August 3rd||TB 5||HOU 3||Snell v. McHugh|
|FRI August 4th||TOR 7||HOU 16||Valdez v. Peacock|
|SAT August 5th||TOR 4||HOU 3||Estrada v. Morton|
|SUN August 6th||TOR 6||HOU 7||Stroman v. Fiers|
The Astros’ seven-game week started with a dominating win over the Rays in their first game home since July 19th. The Astros took the lead in the second inning on a RBI double by Bregman then a two-RBI single by Altuve, making it 3-0. The Rays did trim the lead to one run in the third on a two-run home run by Dickerson, but that would be as close as they would come to leading in the game. Despite that two-run home run, Morton had another good start, giving up just those two runs on two hits while striking out five. He left with an 11-2 lead after the Astros strung together a barrage of offense between the third and fifth innings including a solo home run from Fisher and two home runs from Marisnick, one of which scored three. Both teams added some garbage-time runs in the eighth and ninth innings, including more RBIs from Marisnick and Fisher, bringing the final to 14-7. One could assume that after the disappointment expressed by many over the lack of pitching acquired at the trade deadline that the offense was trying to ease the concerns about the teams potential. One name that some were willing to trade away, Fisher, had himself a night going 3 for 5 with 2 RBIs.
Fiers had a second consecutive poor start on Tuesday and was responsible for all six of the Rays’ runs that the Astros were unable to come back from. The Rays started with back-to-back home runs from Longoria and Morrison in the top of the first to make it 3-0, then added two more runs in the third. The Astros did claw their way back into it; Beltran and Bregman hit solo home runs off of Archer in the fifth and both had RBIs in the seventh, but those four runs would be all the Astros would come up with in the 6-4 loss. Although Fiers struggled, Gregerson and Giles both came in rested and looked really good in the eighth and ninth inning. Altuve had a rare 0 for 4 night, starting August off a lot slower than his incredible July.
Keuchel was on the mound at home Wednesday for the first time since May 27th. Although improved from his previous start where he only lasted three innings, Keuchel gave up three runs which are the most he’s given up at home since August of last year. Two of the runs came on a two-run homer by Morrison in the top of the first, and the other on an RBI-single by Miller in the third. Keuchel went five innings and received his first loss of the year after a cold night for the Astros’ offense. The Astros were only able to get five hits on the night against Pruitt, who came into the game with a 6.63 ERA but was able to hold the Astros scoreless for six and one-third innings before giving way to the bullpen who finished the 3-0 shutout for the Rays.
The Astros dropped the series finale against the Rays on Thursday 5-3 for their third straight loss, something that hasn’t happened since June 11-13th. McHugh had another decent start; he went six innings during which he gave up two runs, one on a Dickerson RBI in the second and the other a solo homer to Souza Jr. in the sixth. He left with a 3-2 lead after RBIs from Gurriel and Bregman and a solo home run from Altuve. Liriano, acquired by the Astros at the trade deadline for Nori Aoki and Teoscar Hernandez, came in to start the seventh and was only able to get one out before putting two on base. Devenski followed to try and get out of the jam, but a fielding error by Bregman allowed one run to score followed by a two-RBI double from Souza Jr. which gave the Rays the 5-3 lead which would be the final.
The Astros were able to turn the page on the bad series against the Rays and had another offensive explosion on Friday night in the series opener against the Blue Jays. Altuve had the night off, meaning because of the other two being on the DL, they were without Altuve, Springer, and Correa, which would give a pitcher facing the Astros some hope of a good night. The offense didn’t miss a step though, putting up sixteen runs, nine of which came in the huge fourth inning. Everyone in the lineup had a hit, and six had RBIs, including home runs from Gurriel, Bregman, Gonzalez, and two by Tyler White. Toronto was able to get some runs off of Peacock in the fifth and sixth innings to tarnish his stat line for the night, but the bullpen combination of Musgrove, Guduan, and Hoyt finished the final three innings and closed out the big 16-7 win.
Toronto evened the series on Saturday night by winning a heartbreaker in extra innings. The offenses went back and forth early in the game with both starting pitchers allowing three runs during their seven innings of work. The Blue Jays struck first with a RBI double from Donaldson in the top of the first, answered by a two-run homer from Reddick in the bottom of the same inning. Bautista had a RBI groundout to tie the game at 2 in the second, then White gave the Astros the lead back with a solo home run in the bottom of the third. It stayed 3-2 until the seventh when Bautista got another groundout RBI to tie the game at 3. The game ended up going to the tenth tied at 3, but the Blue Jays were able to get the decisive run off of their former teammate Liriano on a RBI single by Goins, sending them to the 4-3 win after the Astros were unable to answer in the bottom of the tenth.
The Astros were able to end the week on a high note with the 7-6 win on Sunday, winning the series against the Blue Jays. The Astros played from behind most of the game as a result of a couple of long balls given up by Fiers. The Blue Jays took a 2-0 lead in the third on a two-run home run by Bautista, and it stayed 2-0 until the Astros put together three runs in the fifth on a RBI single from Altuve, a sac fly from Gonzalez, and scored on an error, giving them the 3-2 lead at the time. The Blue Jays took the lead back in the seventh on a two-run homer from former-Astro Aoki and a two-RBI double from Smoak, bringing the score to 6-3 which is where it stayed until the bottom of the ninth. Osuna came on for the Blue Jays in the ninth to close out the game but got himself into trouble. Altuve started off with a single, followed by a Reddick strikeout. Gurriel and Gonzalez were able to get back-to-back singles to load the bases, bringing up Beltran who grounded into a fielder’s choice but scored a run in the process to make it 6-4. Bregman came up with runners on first and third and hit a beautiful triple to the gap in left-center all the way to the wall which was able to score Gurriel and Beltran, tying the game at 6-6. Juan Centeno, who was called up to catch in place of Gattis who is on the DL with a concussion, came through as the hero with a perfectly hit ball over Smoak into shallow right field allowing Bregman to come home from third to complete the walk-off.
Despite the exciting finish to the week which resulted in a series win against the Blue Jays, the three losses to the Rays made for a disappointing 3-4 week. The losing week didn’t set them back too much, though, as they still have a commanding 15-game lead in the AL West. Offensively, they still have good depth, but there’s still no question the Astros would benefit greatly from having Springer and Correa back in the lineup. The good news is that Springer could return any day now, so that will likely add some momentum to the offense by having their leadoff guy back. With Aoki being traded, Derek Fisher has become a mainstay in the outfield, and he is looking pretty good early and could turn into a solid player in time for the playoffs.
To the disappointment of many, the Astros did not significantly improve their pitching at the trade deadline, making only one move which ultimately resulted in an improved left-handed specialist in the bullpen over Tony Sipp. Even in that role, Liriano has not impressed in his first few appearances in an Astros uniform. In addition to not adding a starting pitcher at the deadline, McCullers has gone back on the DL with the same back discomfort that sidelined him earlier this year. Hopefully, this stint on the DL will allow him to rid the issue for good and he can go back to the way he was pitching in May instead of how he did during his rough month of July. I believe Keuchel will return to form over the next few starts and be ready for the playoffs, and I’ve liked what I’ve seen from McHugh since his return. Also, Morton has been pitching some of his best games of the season. The Astros could’ve locked down a solid starting pitcher which would have definitely helped their chances this year, but I’m not ready to say that because they didn’t that they don’t have guys on the roster that can have a great postseason. It’s not the best by any means, but a healthy and focused Keuchel, McHugh, Mccullers paired with the best of Morton, Fiers, or Peacock could make for a pretty solid four-man playoff rotation that when combined with this potent offense, could win it all.
MVP of the Week – Alex Bregman: Bregman has been absolutely crushing it at the plate recently, as evidenced by the huge triple yesterday which set up the walk-off win. Overall, last week Bregman went 10 for 26, posting a .385 average for the week and had two home runs and nine RBIs. He’s heating up at the right time, and don’t be surprised if Bregman comes through as a key piece to the offense in the playoffs similar to the amazing playoff run Beltran had in ’04.
This Week’s Schedule
- TUE-THU: Astros (71-40) @ White Sox (41-68)
- FRI-SUN: Astros (71-40) @ Rangers (53-58)
The Astros get a day off today before starting an eight game road trip, starting with three games in Chicago against the ’05 nemesis White Sox. They’ll have Keuchel, McHugh, and Peacock as the starters in those three games, so a series win should be expected. Then, the Astros head back to Arlington for a series against the Rangers. Though they are 18 games back from the Astros in the division, the Rangers start this week 4.5 games back in the Wild Card standings, so that paired with the ongoing rivalry means they will play the Astros hard. Look for the Astros to get back to their usual 4-2 or better weeks this week.