Last Week’s Scoreboard:
|MON Sep 4th||HOU 6||SEA 2||Keuchel v. Ramirez|
|TUE Sep 5th||HOU 3||SEA 1||Verlander v. Miranda|
|WED Sep 6th||HOU 5||SEA 3||McCullers v. Moore|
|FRI Sep 8th||HOU 8||OAK 9||McHugh v. Cotton|
|SAT Sep 9th – Game 1||HOU 1||OAK 11||Morton v. Gossett|
|SAT Sep 9th – Game 2||HOU 4||OAK 11||Peacock v. Mengden|
|SUN Sep 10th||HOU 2||OAK 10||Keuchel v. Graveman|
The Astros won their fifth straight game on Monday 6-2 with a strong start from Keuchel. Keuchel went nearly eight innings, coming just an out shy, but still had a great night allowing just two runs on seven hits while striking out five in his seven and two-third innings of work. Liriano came in for the final out of the eighth and Giles struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth, making it a good night for Astros pitching. Both of the Mariners’ runs came from Kyle Seager with a RBI single in the first and a solo home run in the sixth. The Astros had homers of their own from Gurriel and McCann in the fifth, but the go-ahead runs came in the top of the seventh on two-RBI hits from Bregman and Reddick, sending them on to the win.
Tuesday’s game had the most buildup of arguably any game this season with Verlander taking the mound for the Astros for the first time. It met the hype, because Verlander tossed six great innings, giving up just one run which was a solo home run by Seager in the bottom of the fourth. Verlander struck out seven batters and walked just one, and earned his first win as an Astro thanks to clutch hitting behind him. Bregman gave the Astros the early 1-0 lead with a sac fly in the third, setting up the tie after the Seager homer. Maybin was the hero of the game, coming through with a two-run home run in the seventh to give the Astros the lead. Musgrove pitched two great innings out of the bullpen setting up Giles for another dominant ninth inning where he struck out all three batters he faced, ending the Astros’ 3-1 win.
Wednesday’s game had some hype of its own with McCullers returning from the DL. McCullers did decent in his first start back, but gave up three runs in his shortened 76 pitch outing, though did strike out four along the way. The three runs were a solo home run from Seager (yes, again) in the fifth then RBI singles from Cano and Haniger in the sixth. The Astros had two runs of their own at the time thanks to a two-RBI double from Gonzalez in the fourth. Springer tied the game 3-3 in the seventh on a RBI single, and Maybin came through as the hero yet again in his few games as an Astro, getting a go-ahead two-run home run that barely cleared the wall in right field, but enough to put the Astros ahead 5-3 which was the final thanks to the bullpen work of Martes and Devenski who combined for the final three innings.
The Astros’ seven game winning streak was broken Friday night in large part due to poor bullpen performance. McHugh started the game and was only able to get through three innings due to a fingernail issue which caused him to leave the game early. He wasn’t doing particularly well, he gave up a solo home run to Chapman in the second, and a two-run homer to Joyce in the third. He did, however, leave with the Astros leading 5-3 thanks to a two-run blast by Altuve in the first, and a RBI double from Reddick and a two-run homer from Gurriel in the third. The Astros extended their lead to 7-3 in the fifth with another two-run home run, this time by Reddick in the top of the fifth. The As took advantage of poor relief pitching in the seventh, starting with Fiers’ first appearance out of the bullpen where he walked a batter and gave up a single before being pulled in favor of Gregerson. Gregerson didn’t fare any better, giving up a single of his own and then giving up a grand slam to Semien to tie the game 7-7. Reddick came through yet again, getting a RBI double in the top of the ninth to put the Astros ahead 8-7, but Giles would be another relief pitcher to struggle in the game, allowing the As to get the walk-off win with a solo home run by Powell to tie the game than a RBI single from Lowrie to win it.
Astros’ pitching continued to struggle in the doubleheader on Saturday, giving up 11 runs to the As in both games. Morton started the first game and had a decent start, he went five innings giving up three runs on six hits and striking out eight. It was ultimately the bullpen that let the game get out of hand starting with Clippard who had an abysmal sixth inning, including a run walked in and a two-RBI single. Guduan had an absolutely horrendous inning in the eighth, giving up a double then walking five, yes five, consecutive batters to give the As three more runs. With the game clearly out of hand at that point, J.D. Davis made another appearance as a position-player pitcher, and was able to get the last two outs of the inning, but not before walking in a run of his own and giving up a RBI single, making it 11-1 As. The Astros’ lone run was a RBI double from Bregman in the fifth in a game where the offense was unable to string anything together against Gossett who had a great game for the As.
The second game of the day didn’t go any better, for the Astros’ bullpen. Peacock started the game and like Morton in the first game, had a relatively good start. Peacock went five and two-third innings giving up two runs on five hits and striking out nine. He left with a 3-2 lead thanks to a two-run homer from Altuve and RBi single from Reddick in the top of the sixth. The two runs Peacock allowed were on a two-run shot by Olson in the bottom of the sixth. Musgrove relieved Peacock but allowed a run of his own to tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth. The Astros regained the lead on a Springer sac fly to make it 4-3 Astros, but the As would take advantage of a bad outing from Devenski in the bottom of the seventh to take a 5-4 lead before Liriano and Feliz would combine to allow six runs in the bottom of the eighth to allow the As to pull away and seal their 11-4 win.
The pitching woes continued on Sunday in the finale of the four-game series, starting with a bad start from Keuchel. Keuchel who has been dependable for around seven innings a game was only able to go five and two-thirds innings during which he allowed four runs on six hits, most of which came in a weirdly bad sixth inning. Keuchel loaded the bases then walked in a run, hit a batter, then walked in another run, something I personally never would have expected from Keuchel even on one of his worst days. Martes finished the sixth inning but then gave up a two-run home run to Healy in the seventh, followed by Gregerson and Sipp who each gave up a two-run homer of their own in the eighth. The Astros two runs came on a RBI single from Bregman in the sixth and a solo homer from Davis in the eighth, sending them to their fourth straight loss 10-2 and sealing the four-game sweep for the As.
After grinding out wins and the sweep in Seattle to continue their winning streak, the Astros dropped the entire series to the last place As, getting swept in the four game series and ending the week 3-4. The four game skid could not have come at a worse time, the Indians have won eighteen straight games and have passed the Astros for the best record in the AL. The Indians will lose at some point and the Astros are going to rebound, but it still stings that earlier this year the Astros lost the best overall record to the Dodgers, and now the best record in the AL to the Indians, two of the teams the Astros will likely have to beat head-to-head to get a championship in October. This week it was the bullpen that cost the Astros. Gregerson appears to be in meltdown mode, Liriano and Clippard who were brought in to be upgrades over guys like Feliz and Sipp have struggled, and Fiers did not look any better coming out of the bullpen. That being said, I still have faith in guys like Musgrove, Harris, Devenski, and Giles. Starting pitching wasn’t horrible this week, and Verlander definitely added a boost that hopefully carries through the rest of the season. The offense is still potent so I have no worries about them going forward, they just need to stay healthy.
MVP of the Week – Kenneth Giles: Kenneth, despite the one bad outing where the As walked off against him on Friday, has won me over as a lights-out closer with the stuff he’s been throwing recently. The stuff he was throwing in those back-to-back nights against the Mariners to strike out all six batters he faced was absolutely filthy. I know I may be naive, and I have flashbacks to Brad Lidge every time I think about it, but I trust Kenneth with the ball in the ninth inning in the playoffs to save a one-run game.
This Week’s Schedule
- TUE-THU: Astros (86-57) @ Angels (73-70)
- FRI-SUN: Mariners (71-72) @ Astros (86-57)
The Astros continue their battle against the AL West this week with three games in LA against the Angels before coming home for a weekend series against the Mariners. It was clear from the series with the As that no one is going to roll over for the Astros, so the Astros need to stay motivated, focused, and grind out wins this week to keep themselves in a position to regain the best record in the AL. At this point, I want to see 4-2 or better weeks from this team to finish the year, and although it may be hard against the tough AL West rivals, should be easily attainable by this team.