Framber Valdéz followed up what might have been the worst start of his career last week against the Yankees with an even rougher turn against the Pirates, and the offense looked ineffectual after starting out in a large hole.
The Astros really needed some quality innings to make up for all of the recent bullpen usage and demotions it’s seen lately. Unfortunately, Framber could not give it to them tonight. Things started rough, with Josh Bell hitting a shot the other way following a Kevin Newman leadoff single. Fortunately, that wound up being the only damage for that inning.
It seemed like it might just be the making of a high-scoring shoot out in the bottom of the first. George Springer led off with a home run, his first since coming off the Injured List and the thirtieth leadoff homer of his career. Michael Brantley also singled that inning, but was stranded.
Unfortunately, the Pirates maintained their first-inning offense, while the Astros did not. Pittsburgh added two more in the second off a pair of doubles and a single, while the Astros seemed to be lining out to everyone. Things continued that way in the third, as the Pirates added another pair on a walk and three singles, while the Astros wasted a leadoff walk and single from Robinson Chirinos and Springer with a fielders choice and a slightly bizarre strike-out/throw-out double play.
At that point, Valdéz wouldn’t return for a fourth inning. He finished the night with eight hits and six runs allowed (both career worsts) and only two strikeouts (his fewest in a start) in a less-than-nice 69 pitches across 3.0 innings. On the bright side, he only allowed 1 walk, but that’s a bright dim bright side we’re talking about.
The bullpen almost held things together after that. Chris Devenski had two strong, 1-2-3 innings before seemingly running out of gas in the sixth and allowing a two-run homer to Jung Ho Kang. His final line wound up being 3.0 innings on only 43 pitches, with three Ks, no walks, three hits, and two runs allowed. Hector Rondón worked around two walks to post a scoreless seventh, and Collin McHugh didn’t allow anyone to reach in the eighth.
The less said about Tyler White pitching the ninth, the better, but that was where the final six runs came from. But in his mound debut, Max Stassi got the only batter he faced out!
The batting side of things was similarly disappointing, albeit slightly less disastrous, littered with wasted opportunities. Even the one other run scored felt like a relative let-down; José Altuve and Alex Bregman led off with a single and a double, but a Yordan Álvarez RBI ground out was all that came of it.
The plus side of things is that Springer seems definitely back, going 3 for 4 with a home run. However, George alone represented a third of the hits on the evening. Bregman and Chirinos reached twice with a single and walk each, and Yuli Gurriel doubled, but that was it.
The loss puts the Astros at 50-31 halfway through the season, still an impressive pace. They lead the AL West by 5.5 games over the Rangers, and go for the series win tomorrow at 1:10 PM Central Time. Brad Peacock will be facing off against familiar face Joe Musgrove.