Is it a home field hitting jinx? Or is it Newtonian physics? What goes up, must come down.
Well of course the Astros couldn’t win forever, not in the real world of action, reaction. Newtonian relativity stands unchallenged.
But what about that home hitting jinx. We noticed that problem early in the season and many of us assumed it was just a small sample size. But the weird home/ away splits for the Astros, violating all known laws of the baseball universe, persist as we approach the mid-way part of the season.
Even before tonight the Astros were first in MLB in OPS away at .829. At home they are 22nd at .706.
Tonight’s anemic performance will only make that home number creep further south.
During the 12 game win streak, 10 of which were on the road, the Astros had 9 or more hits in every game.
Tonight, despite getting seven walks, the Astros could only score one run on five hits. They were one for six with runners in scoring position. They left 8 men on base and had two double plays, a recurring problem even during the win streak.
The only Astros run came on on an Alex Bregman single that scored George Springer from first base. How do you score form first base on a single? Because Bregman really hit a double deep to right center field, but then he slid past second base and was called out upon review trying to get back to the bag. Carlos Correa struck out behind Bregman for the third out, one of 2 for him in the night.
Marwin Gonzalez also had 2 strike outs, and was ejected from the game for arguing about a third strike call, his second ejection of the year.
Credit to the Rays’ 25 year old left hander Blake Snell who, despite the walks, was keeping the Astros hitters off balance with a variety of pitches including a sharp slider. He only allowed 3 hits and had 6 strikeouts.
Justin Verlander overpowered the Rays for the most part tonight, relying mostly on his fastball, but mixing in enough breaking balls to fool the Rays into 10 strikeouts in 6.2 innings. His only mistake was a fastball to C.J. Cron in the second, which he landed deep in the Crawford Boxes.
Verlander would leave the game in the 6th after 122 pitches with a tied score and a runner on second. Hector Rondon got the third out.
Credited with a hold, Rondon would then take the loss on a little hard luck in the eighth. Matt Duffy opened the inning with an opposite field ground double down the right field line on a perfect slider. After advancing to third on a fielder’s choice, Duffy would score on a Baltimore chop, high one hop grounder just over the outstretched glove of third baseman Yuli Guriel.
Brad Peacock would complete the pitching duties with a scoreless 1.1 innings.
The Astros would mount a mini challenge in the bottom of the ninth when Evan Gattis led off with a single to left, and with two outs Tyler White got an infield single. Jake Marisnick, who made good contact all night and had one of the Astros’ hits, ended the game on an infield pop up.
Even the Astros lose sometimes. New streak starts tomorrow.
Game time 7:10 CDT.
Starting pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi for Tamba Bay goes against the Astros’ 7th game wonder worker Charlie Morton.
Box score and videos here.