Air Traffic Controller McCroskey: “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.”
Quote from the classic comedy movie Airplane, just as a damaged 747 was about to crash land.
Looks like the Astros picked the wrong week to have a hitting slump, just as the playoffs began. And if whatever it is that they have been taking the last week doesn’t wear off soon, it’s the Astros who could be the ones who are about to crash land.
The Astros were the most fearsome slugging team in baseball this year, leading the league in OPS at .848, and breaking the all-time record in slugging at .495. But in the week before the playoffs, the Astros’ OPS dipped to .771.
Oh well, they’ll surely wake up for the playoffs, right?
Well, they haven’t, and don’t call the Astros Surely.
Against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS the Astros OPS was a mere .700. Half the lineup had gone quiet. Michael Brantley OPS: .618. Carlos Correa OPS: .368. George Springer OPS: .325. Josh Reddick OPS: .282.
The Astros managed nonetheless to squeak to victory in a five-game series, but almost entirely because four of the five games were pitched by guys named Verlander or Cole. Those two can only pitch, at most, four out of seven in the ALCS, and only if the series goes seven games.
This series was not opened by a guy named Verlander or Cole, but don’t blame starting pitcher Zack Greinke for the loss last night. The Yankees, who scored the most runs in the major leagues this year, came into this series even more red hot, hitting OPS .929 in the DS with the Twins. Greinke held the Yanks to one run through five innings, allowing an RBI double to Gleyber Torres. But he finally succumbed to superior firepower in the sixth, when Torres and Giancarlo Stanton hit solo homers.
(note: The Yankees led the league in scoring without injured Giancarlo Stanton, the 2017 NL MVP who hit 59 homers that year and 38 last year.)
In more bad news, the Astros’ ace reliever, Ryan Pressly, sent into the seventh inning to keep the game close, had another abysmal playoff relief appearance, allowing four hits and two runs while retiring only two Yanks. The killer blow was a two run single to...wait for it...Glayber Torres.
One silver lining in this game was the dominant 1.1 innings pitched by Josh James, who retired the four Yankees he faced, striking out three.
Fresh rookie Bryan Abreu got his baptism in fire in the ninth inning, and had a very even pitching line, going 0.2 innings, allowing two hits, two walks, and two runs. The first pitch in his playoff career was a homer to Gio Urshela. The second run was on a grounder to Torres.
Torres ended the game with five RBI, making him the youngest player in history to get that many in one game in playoff history.
The winning pitcher in this game was Masahiro Tanaka who, in all fairness to him and the Astros hitters, was super sharp last night. He allowed only one hit and one walk in six innings, with four Ks. He did allow six hard hit balls, one by Yordan Alvarez hit at 110 MPH. Unfortunately, Aaron Judge made a miraculous catch and then doubled off Alex Bregman, who had run almost to second base expecting the ball to get through the outfield.
Thus ended the Astros’ best chance at scoring. At least you can’t say the Astros were guilty of leaving massive numbers of runners in scoring position. They had only one get past first base all night, and they had only three hits.
Today is a new day. It’s too soon to say the series is over. But the Astros have to break out of this ill-timed hitting slump, and now. Maybe today is the day they stop sniffing the glue.