Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|TUE August 8th||HOU 5||CHW 8||Keuchel v. Holland|
|WED August 9th||HOU 1||CHW 7||McHugh v. Gonzalez|
|THU August 10th||HOU 2||CHW 3||Peacock v. Rodon|
|FRI August 11th||HOU 4||TEX 6||Morton v. Hamels|
|SAT August 12th||HOU 3||TEX 8||Fiers v. Ross|
|SUN August 13th||HOU 2||TEX 1||Keuchel v. Kashner|
The Astros started their disappointing week with an 8-5 loss in Chicago in a rematch of the ’05 World Series. Kuechel had yet another bad start since coming off the DL, arguably one of the worst games of his career. It started in the bottom of the first with the White Sox getting three runs on two RBI singles and a run scored on a fielder’s choice. The Astros fought back in the second and tied the game at 3 after Bregman hit a bases-clearing triple, continuing his hot streak. The White Sox rallied back and put up five runs of their own between the third and fourth innings, all off of a struggling Keuchel who was only able to get through four innings. Altuve and Gurriel hit solo home runs in the seventh to make it 8-5 but were unable to mount any further offense to dig themselves out of the big hole.
Things were equally as bad for McHugh on Wednesday, who fell a step back in his progression since returning to the team. He looked good in the early innings, giving up just two hits through the first four, but fell apart in the fifth and sixth. The White Sox scored four runs off of him in the fifth on a two-run homer by Anderson and a two-RBI single by Sanchez. They piled more runs on in the sixth on a RBI double by Anderson, which ended McHugh’s night. Liriano entered with McHugh’s runners on second and third and allowed them to score on a two-RBI single from Garcia, bringing McHugh’s run total on the night up to seven. Fisher helped the Astros avoid the shutout with a solo shot in the eighth, but that would be the sole run for the Astros. Gregerson and Giles looked good in the eighth and ninth innings, but it was another couple of wasted innings for them with the game out of hand in the 7-1 loss. Despite the loss, the Astros did at least have Springer back in the lineup after his stint on the DL.
The Astros looked like they were going to get out of Chicago avoiding the sweep but ultimately dropped their third straight game in a 3-2 loss. Peacock had a good start, giving up just one run on seven hits while striking out five in six and one-third innings. The one run he gave up came in the bottom of the sixth when Sanchez hit into a fielder’s choice which scored Garcia from third. The Astros were still up by one at that point thanks to a Marisnick solo homer in the third and a RBI double from Gonzalez in the top of the sixth. The Astros took the 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth after Gregerson got into trouble in the eighth but managed to get out of it with some timely strikeouts. Giles, however, would not be so lucky and gave up the game-tying run on a solo home run by Moncada. The game went to extra innings, where Martes pitched a flawless tenth but gave up back to back singles in the eleventh allowing Chicago to get the walk-off win.
Things did not get better for the Astros during their first of three games in Arlington on Friday night. Morton joined the list of starters that looked uncharacteristically bad, going five and two-third innings during which the Rangers scored five runs. It started in the third when Morton gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Andrus and Mazara and later in the same inning a two-RBI single to Gomez. The Rangers extended their lead to 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth on a RBI double by Beltre, then 6-0 on another RBI single by Mazara, this time off of Guduan. The Astros fought back in the top of the eighth with a two-run Springer Dinger and back-to-back RBI doubles by Gurriel and Beltran but were unable to get any closer in the 6-4 loss.
Fiers continued the string of bad starting pitching with a bad game of his own on Saturday. The Rangers got out to a quick 3-0 lead on a three-run home run by Nicholas in the second. The Astros scored two of their own in the fourth on RBIs from Bregman and Davis to make it 3-2, but the Rangers would answer back in the bottom of the inning with a solo homer by Napoli. Fiers was pulled in the fifth inning after putting two on base, and both would score after another poor relief outing by Liriano. That brought Fiers’ final line to six runs on five hits, two of which were home runs, while only getting through four innings. The Astros managed to walk in a run with the bases loaded in the sixth to make it 6-3, but were unable to do any more damage and left the bases loaded. The Rangers added two more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth on a two-RBI single from Beltre to make it 8-3, which would be the final and the Astros’ fifth straight loss.
The Astros finally had a game go their way on Sunday as a result of a long-awaited strong performance from Keuchel. The game was a pitcher’s battle, with both starters going deep into the game. The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a solo home run by Altuve, which held up until the sixth inning when Beltre tied the game with a solo home run of his own off Keuchel. Other than that one blemish, Keuchel had a great game going six and two-third innings giving up only that one run on six hits while striking out seven. The Astros regained the lead in the top of the seventh on a RBI single from Beltran to score Gurriel, giving them the 2-1 lead. Devenski came in after Keuchel and got the final out of the seventh, but gave up back-to-back walks to start the eighth, which prompted Hinch to go to Giles in hopes he could get six outs. Giles avoided damage with some luck in the eighth, getting a quick out on a sacrifice bunt by Gomez followed by a line-out double play to end the inning. He came back out in the ninth and pitched around an Odor single to get a strikeout to end the game and give the Astros their one and only win on the week.
The Astros went 1-5 this week to continue their August slump which is getting increasingly worrisome. It’s hard enough when you have one starting pitcher going through a rough stretch, but when you have three of your best guys pitch some of their worst games of the year all in the same week, it’s very troubling and demoralizing. Fiers is giving up home runs again, and McHugh looked bad after making progressively good starts. That being said, the thing that’s keeping me out of panic mode is yesterday’s game. Not only was it a momentum shift because it ended the losing streak, but Keuchel looked like he may be back to his usual form. If that’s the case, and he can start stringing dominant starts together to start the road to the playoffs, I have little doubt it will motivate more parts of the pitching staff to have good starts of their own. The Astros got Springer back this week as well, and after he gets back in his groove will help the offense back to their dominant ways. This week’s games will be a good indicator of where the team’s head is at collectively, and hopefully it’s focused on getting back to their winning formula that helped them get out to their large division lead that they still hold.
The Astros also made a roster move on Sunday night by signing Tyler Clippard from the White Sox. Clippard is a solid reliever that has been pitching very well recently. I like the move because it helps the already thin bullpen and adds another strong arm while the Astros wait for Harris to come back into the fold. It’s not the starting pitching move most want, but it’s a move in the right direction.
MVP of the Week – Brad Peacock: It was hard to give the MVP to anyone this week considering the terrible week the team as a whole had, but I can’t ignore how good Peacock has been this year. Even though they lost the game on Thursday, Peacock did his part to try and give the Astros some momentum by doing what he has done all year: being a solid, dependable starter that can go deeper into games to help keep the burden off the bullpen. He is 5-0 in July and August and is 8-1 as a starter this year.
This Week’s Schedule
- MON-TUE: Astros (72-45) @ Diamondbacks (65-52)
- WED-THU: Diamondbacks (65-52) @ Astros (72-45)
- FRI-SUN: As (52-66) @ Astros (72-45)
The Astros head to Arizona today for a four-game split home-and-home series against the Diamondbacks who are one of the three teams in the NL West that are having great years. Then, the Astros host a weekend series against the As who are last place in the AL West and 20.5 games back of the Astros. Considering the previous two losing weeks, a winning week this week would go a long way, especially if it is a result of the starting pitching turning things around and the offense getting on a hot streak.