Not wanting to sound too hopeless, this was my sign off in the Recap after Saturday night’s loss to Seattle:
Tomorrow is Dallas Keuchel’s turn to be the stopper. He goes against Erasmo Ramirez, who is taking the place of “King” Felix Hernandez in the rotation tomorrow. In limited time he is 0-2 with a 10.24 ERA. Time for the bats to break out and put the Mariners back in their place.
The line on Ramirez today: 5 IP, 0 Runs, 3 hits, 3 K’s.
When the game tying RBI hit of the game for the Astros was on a 73 MPH check swing ground ball, well, let’s just say, I don’t think the Astros bats exactly had a break out game today.
Well, they almost got to Ramirez in the fifth inning. With the score 1-0 Mariners, and when two hits in a single inning, OMG, and an error loaded the bases with no outs, it would have been a good time for that break out, right?
Kyle Tucker, just back up from AAA after mashing there, struck out. Then the newly acquired catcher Martin Maldonado ground into a double play. Inning over, poof. Erasmo Ramirez left the game with shutout intact.
Still, thanks to solid pitching the Astros were still in the game. Going into the eighth inning, and after 15 straight innings without a run, the Astros mounted a rally. Down 2-0 by then, Kyle Tucker got hit by a pitch, and moved to second when pinch hitter Yuli Gurriel singled. Alex Bregman hit a bloop single to center to score Tucker, and then Carlos Correa hit in Gurriel on the check swing grounder to right. It was his only hit since returning from DL. Evan Gattis gave the Stros their first lead since the 4th inning of Saturday’s game with a sacrifice fly to center.
Just one more inning and the Mariners would leave town, more or less where they belong, still a formidable six games behind in the standings. And it’s Hector Rondon, no Giles he, to close it out.
Up to bat Seattle’s number one main slugging guy, Nelson Cruz. Hey, no problem. Ground ball for out one. Tough Kyle Seager? Same thing. Two easy outs, one more to go. The Stros got this finally.
Ryon Healy, .239 BA, .719 OPS hits a high pop up to left field. OK, 342 feet isn’t exactly a pop up, but with an exit velocity of 92 MPH, not even classified a hard hit ball, and a hit probability of 4%, it was an easy out in every other park in the major leagues except Fenway in Boston.
No excuses. The Crawford boxes giveth, and the Crawford Boxes taketh away. Game tied. Extra innings.
Hey, no problem. They still got this. The Mariner’s bullpen is exhausted, ours is deep and relatively fresh. The Stros can get to left hander Zach Duke, ERA 4.65, WHIP 1.65. Surely.
Wrong. Three left handed batters up, three left handed batters down.
OK, here comes the deep Astros bullpen. Recently acquired but controversial bullpen ace Roberto Osuna, by reputation one of baseball’s best closers, can surely keep this game alive. He came in pumpin in 95 MPH fastball after 95 MPH fastball, and got the first hitter to pop up.
Then pinch hitter Dee Gordon took one of those heaters straight into center field, then Mitch, oh my God not him again, Haniger struck another heater down the left field line for a game winning double. Osuna then retired the next two batters with nifty sliders.
Haniger was 3-5 today, and was 9-18 for the series, with 5 doubles, a home run and 4 RBI. Maybe I’m writing about a successful Astros home stand if not for this dude. If Seattle makes the playoffs after all these years, they should retire his number.
For the fourth straight game Mariner closer Edwin Diaz was positively lights out, striking out two, and throwing 10 strikes out of 10 pitches. He got his fourth save of the series, and 46th of year, shutting down the Astros in the tenth.
Do you think the Astros starting pitchers are starting to get a little frustrated by the lack of run support? Here’s a look in of Gerrit Cole discussing the situation with Charlie Morton in the dugout.
️ ️ ️ let's get some hits ️ ️ ️ pic.twitter.com/kClopMNr98— Houston Astros (@astros) August 12, 2018
Once again, you can’t blame the starting pitching for this loss. Dallas Keuchel continued his recent dominance, going 7 innings, allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, and 5 K’s. He allowed 7 hits, mostly of the weak, seeing eye variety. His one big mistake, a 7th inning home run to weak hitting Mike Zunino, proved critical.
Here’s a bright spot. Carlos Correa might not have his swing back, but his presence in the field seems to be stabilizing the defense. Look at this play by the captain.
Box score and videos here.
Why the recent collapse of the Astros offense? For the most part I’ll leave that to the commentors.
I’ll say this. Every important Astro is hitting worse this year than last except for Alex Bregman and the team as a whole is way behind last year’s pace. Still, the Astros offense for the year has been at or near the top of the league and is currently 3rd at 110 wRC+, although for the last 2 weeks it is rated 13th at 101.
All teams have slumps. For the last two weeks the mighty Bronx Bombers have been even worse, ranked 18th at 98 wRC+. The Stros are in one now, the Mariners apparently just got out of one, and Oakland’s turn will come most likely.
Some say, “if only Altuve were back.” Wish somebody knew when that might be but keep in mind throughout the month of July, Altuve was part of the problem. His slash line from July 1st was: .270/.325/.378. wRC+ 91.
Of course we want Altuve back, but is that a magic bullet?
This has been a terrible series for the Astros, and we have seen their lead in the AL West dwindle down to almost nothing. It is easy to think that this is the beginning of an Astros meltdown, and that the A’s and/or Mariners might overcome the Astros for first place in the AL West. And if that happened, the Astros might not even make the Wild Card game.
I am absolutely not predicting that outcome, but just for kicks I am inserting a poll to see how the fans feel.
What are the Astros’ playoff chances?
This poll is closed
They will win the AL West without relinquishing their current lead at any point.
They will win the AL West but will have to fight from behind at some point.
They will lose their AL West lead and be the first seed in the Wild Card.
They will lose their AL West lead and be the second seed in the Wild Card
They will not qualify for the playoffs, falling behind the AL West second place team and the Yankees.
I repeat, just because I am offering a doomsday scenario in this poll does not mean I personally believe that will happen. Keep in mind this one fact. The A’s and the Mariners have a lot of games against each other between now and the end of the season.
The Astros are off tomorrow and face the Colorado Rockies at home Tuesday, 7:10 PM CDT.