Pitchers duels are fascinating once in a while. And the magnificence of the Astros starting pitching so far this season is historic. But watching that magnificence wasted by almost non-existent hitting in front of the home crowd has become a very disturbing pattern as we approach the quarter mark of this season. After all, it doesn’t matter if the best pitcher in the league is pitching if you lose the game anyway!
Justin Verlander, coming into the game with a league leading 1.17 ERA, allowed 3 hits and 2 walks in six complete innings. As happened in his previous game in Arizona, Verlander was the losing pitcher after allowing only one earned run. In his last three games he has pitched 20 innings, surrendering 2 earned runs and 9 hits. He is 0-2 in those three games. On May 1st against the Yankees in Minute Maid, he had an 8 inning shutout, and the Astros lost. In nine games this year he has 4 games in which he has surrendered 0 runs in a game in 6 or more innings and 4 games in which he has surrendered 2 or fewer. In these nine games he has won only 4 games, and lost 2.
It is not unreasonable to believe that Justin Verlander’s record after tonight could be 9-0.
Coming into this game the Astros had good hitting statistics, although not close to the Big Red Machine like mashing of last year, ranking eighth in MLB in OPS, and 7th in runs. But home OPS is dead LAST, whereas the road OPS is straightway FIRST. On the road the Astros have scored 3.65 runs per game while on the road they have scored 5.85.
In the previous series against the A’s in Oakland, the Astros scored 24 runs, and had 42 hits in 3 games.
The team ERA is 2.63, a half run better than the next best team. The batting average against for the Stros is .199, same as the 1965 Dodgers, possibly the best pitching staff in history.
Verlander’s mistake in this game came in the 7th, as he allowed a Nomar Mazara double , followed by two walks. Chris Devenski was brought into the game to face the bases loaded and no outs, and after getting ahead 0-2, gave up a lazy sac fly to Jurickson Profar, the only run of the game. He struck out Roughned Odor and Robinson Chirinos to limit the damage, but their one run was all the Rangers would need. Colin McHugh, Tony Sipp, and Hector Rondon would complete the pitching duties for the Astros, pitching the eighth and ninth innings without surrendering additional runs.
Yes, it was the Rangers who did this tonight, and to rub salt in the wound, the winning pitcher was Cole Hamels, who gave up the Astros’ only hit, a seeing eye grounder by Evan Gattis. Almost as impressive as 44 year old Bartolo Colon’s near perfect game against the Astros, another Astros loss in which Justin Verlander was pitching near perfectly at Minute Maid Park.
Or maybe blanking the Astros in Minute Maid Park isn’t really that impressive after all.
The Stros try to string some hits together tomorrow against former Astro Doug Fister (1-3, 4.02 ERA) His opponent will be Charlie Morton (4-0, 2.16 ERA) Game time 6.10 CDT.
One note. George Springer was hit in the elbow by a Cole Hamels pitch and had to leave the game. Initial reports were that he suffered only a contusion. His status for tomorrow is unknown.
Box score here