It’s easy to lay it all on the closer. After all, he is supposed to close, as in close the deal. In baseball that means preserve the win. Roberto Osuna did not do that today.
But Roberto Osuna did not blow the previous three games, all Astros losses, in which the offense combined for five runs, twenty hits, and only one home run. Today, the offensive futility continued, with the hitters requiring the pitchers to allow only one run in order to win the game. The entire offensive output for the Astros came on a Michael Brantley home run, his 11th, and first since May 8th, scoring Alex Bregman, who singled in front of Brantley.
Gerrit Cole did his part, allowing only one run, a homer to Yasiel Puig. He allowed six hits in six innings with eight strikeouts. He threw two pitches at 101 MPH, getting Puig to strike out on one of them, the fastest pitch to record a K thrown all season in MLB.
He left the game with a one run lead and stood to win the game. He was followed by Will Harris and Ryan Pressly, who did their parts, preserving the lead until the ninth inning.
But if today’s staff was allotted only one run in order to win, then Roberto Osuna did not do his part. The first batter he faced, working with a lead of 2-1, was Jose Peraza, who doubled to left-center field. But after that, it seemed Osuna recovered, striking out the next two batters, flashing unusually fast 98 MPH heaters. Just one more out and the Astros would salvage a win and avoid the series sweep. But Nick Senzel hit a sharp single to left field. Michael Brantley’s throw home could have beaten the runner, but it was off-line and scooted by catcher Garett Stubbs, allowing Peraza to score, and Senzel to reach second.
Jesse Winker’s subsequent third hit of the game gave the Reds the walk-off win and the three game series sweep. It extended the Astros’ losing streak to four, their longest of the season.
Since May 24th, in his last nine appearances before today, Roberto Osuna has been shaky at best. He has an even 6.00 ERA over this nine inning period, allowing a home run every three innings. He has two blown saves during this time, none of these statistics including today’s performance, in which he earned his first loss and third blown save of the year.
But keep in mind, the Astros’ bullpen before today was ranked third in ERA at 3.54, and second in xFIP, at 3.99. They have had eight blown saves, which is 6th best in the AL. These statistics do show diminished effectiveness compared to earlier in the year, but with the injury to Collin McHugh, and injuries in the lineup causing the team to run with fewer relievers, many of these runs given up recently can be attributed to temporary Minor League call-ups sometimes pitching in blow outs.
But if it doesn’t change soon, the recent demise of Osuna, who in the nine game period is allowing a .289 batting average and a 1.44 WHIP, could be cause for some concern.
Especially with the team in a deep offensive slump. In the last week the Astros as a team had a .762 OPS, 9th in the American league. The Astros lost all three games in this series by one run, and until Carlos Correa and George Springer return and get back in mid-season form, low scoring games may become the norm. If so, they will need better performance from their closer than they have been getting lately if they expect to avoid losing many more such games as today.
Oh yeah. Welcome back Jose Altuve. He was 0-4 today.
No rest for the weary. Tomorrow the Astros take on the Yankees in the re-built House that Ruth Built. Lefty Framber Valdez takes on that killer right-handed Yankees lineup tomorrow. The Yankees send up To Be Determined to face the Altuve-led Astros.
Game time 6:05 CDT.
Box score and videos HERE.