For the first time since the beginning of May, the Astros have lost a series. We all knew the ride had to end eventually, but that it came against the Cincinnati Reds is at least somewhat surprising. But in the end, a weird down-game from Justin Verlander and a somewhat quiet and unlucky night from the offense did them in.
Justin Verlander was going for history on Wednesday, or drawing close at least. The Reds were one of two teams that he has never recorded a win against in his career (the other being the Marlins). However, they jumped on him early, with Jesse Winker hitting a lead-off homer. Joey Votto lucked into a bloop hit that bounced into the stands in foul territory, and two batters later, Derek Dietrich hit a homer into the right field stands.
The Astros wouldn’t come back from that early 3-0 lead, although they tried. In fact, they actually outhit the Reds over the course of the game, 9-6; it’s just that half of the Reds’ hits tonight were home runs. Verlander surrendered another solo shot with two outs in the seventh inning, this one to Kyle Farmer. Justin’s final line on the night was 7.0 innings pitched, four runs on six hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts. At the very least, those eight Ks moved him past Mickey Lolich for nineteenth all-time. Verlander now sits sixteen behind Jim Bunning (2855), and then the next big milestone for him will be 3000.
On the offense side of things, there were plenty of missed opportunities. Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel were stranded on second and third in the first; a one-out Yuli single in the fourth turned into a double play; Tyler White and Tony Kemp led off the fifth with a double and single but were stranded by the bottom of the order; Yordan Álvarez was tagged out after he slid off of third base when trying to advance on a fly out; a one-out White double in the seventh turned into nothing. The only run in that stretch was Álvarez doubling in Brantley before his baserunning misadventure.
The top of the eighth was probably the Astros’ best comeback opportunity. Myles Straw, in to hit for Verlander, took a walk from Amir Garrett (who replaced starter Anthony DeSclafani the previous inning), then Alex Bregman made it a 4-3 game with a dinger to left field, number 20 on the year for him.
Michael Brantley followed that with a single, but Garrett and Rasiel Islesias managed to clamp down on things from there. Michael Lorenzen followed things with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Bregman (1-4, 2-R HR), Brantley (3-4, 2B), White (2-4, 2 2B), Gurriel (2-4), and Álvarez (1-4, RBI 2B) all having decent nights couldn’t really offset the other four spots in the line-up going 0-13 with only a pair of walks.
With today’s loss, the Astros are now 48-26, 8 games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West. Gerrit Cole will try and salvage a split in the series tomorrow against Tyler Mahle in an early getaway game, starting at 11:35 CST.