Although still tied for first place in the AL West, last night the Houston Astros wasted another superb starting pitching performance by a starter, this time Justin Verlander, losing 1-0 to Cole Hamels and the Texas Rangers. After what seemed like a possible offensive breakout in the previous series at Oakland, the Astros appear to have resumed a season long pattern of offensive ineptitude at home. They score 2 runs per game less at home than away, and rank last in OPS in the MLB in home games.
They now have 12 games in which they have scored 1 or 0 runs in a game, 8 of those at home. They had only 20 such games the whole season last year. Yet they rank 8th overall in OPS and 7th in runs scored, mostly from road games, but also from the 17 games in which they have scored 7 runs or more, most of those blowout victories.
The Astros this year have done their best hitting when they already had a >4 run lead. (OPS+ 125) But they are below league average in hitting when the score is tied, if they are behind, and with runners in scoring position, 2 outs.
So clutch hitting, especially at home, has been a problem for the Astros this season, resulting in a pattern of feast or famine run production.
The Astros are tied for first with the LA. Angels in the AL West, with a 24-16 record. They are only 10-10 at home.
Tonight the Astros face former Astro Doug Fister (1-3, 4.02 ERA). Fister had one of his best starts of the year against the Astros in the second game of the season at Minute Maid Park, allowing one run in five innings. In his last start he surrendered 6 runs in 6.1 innings against his former teammates, the Boston Red Sox.
Charlie Morton comes into this game 4-0, with a 2.16 ERA. But in two of his last three starts he has struggled with command, and in three starts since April 24th, his ERA is 4.32, FIP 5.86, xFIP 4.60. In his last game Morton’s average fastball velocity was about 95.5, about 1 mph lower than his season average. Last night Justin Verlander pitched in Morton’s normal place in the rotation, giving Charlie an extra two days rest, with the off night Thursday. Perhaps manager A. J. Hinch believes Morton’s arm needs a little more recovery time for Charlie to regain his dominance from earlier in the season.
Regardless, the Astros will have to hit better than they did last night, and probably better than they did against Fister earlier in the season, if they hope to win tonight, and have a chance to take the series from the Rangers.
George Springer will not start tonight due to a contussion on his elbow from a pitch by Cole Hamels last night. He is considered day-to-day.
Radio and TV. Saturday, May 12th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Rangers - 105.3 The Fan, KFLC 1270 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Rangers - FSSW / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV