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Astros embarrassed in second straight loss to Pirates, 10-0

Lose first home series all year. Yordan Alvarez left game with “knee soreness.”

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros
Yuli Gurriel was one of the few bright spots, getting two solid base hits
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

We love the Astros here at Crawfish Boxes. We are a devoted fanbase. But we are also intelligent and honest.

So let’s be honest. For the last eleven games the Astros have been astonishingly bad. Not just bad by contending teams standards. Just. Plain. Bad.

They have lost nine of those eleven games, six of them to second division teams, the Blue Jays, Reds and Pirates. They have allowed 72 runs in those eleven games, and scored 35. They have allowed the Texas Rangers to creep into striking distance for the lead in the AL West, just 4.5 games behind. The Astros will play the Rangers seven times within two weeks after the upcoming All-Star game.

For the month of June the Astros are 12-12, and they have lost 12 of their last 20 games.

So who’s to blame, the hitters or the pitchers?


Let’s start with the hitting. Since the first game of the seven game losing streak, June 16th, the Astros are 28th in MLB in run production, and yet the wRC+ is 116 during this time, which means they are producing at the plate 16% better than league average. How can this be? Here’s how. They are flat out the worst, 30th, in MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position at .167. They are still getting on base, but they are hitting in those runners with an embarrassing degree of ineptitude.

And the Pirates series run differential of 25-7 tells us we can no longer blame it on injuries, as Jose Altuve and George Springer played in every game and were relatively productive. And how bad would it have been during this 11 game period if the now injured Yordan Alvarez weren’t in the lineup?

What about the pitching? Since June 16th, not including today’s anemic performance, the team ERA has been 6.38, 29th in MLB. During this time the 72 runs the Astros have allowed is third worst in MLB, and the 27 home runs allowed is, pending the results of tonight’s games, the worst in the MLB as I write.

Is the problem a slump in the bullpen or should we blame the starters?

Yes, again.

The starter ERA during this time is 5.64. That does not include today’s game. With the exception of Gerrit Cole all the Astros starters have allowed at least a run every other inning. In the last three games, including the six he allowed today, Brad Peacock has pitched 14 innings and allowed 12 earned runs. Wade Miley has a 6.75 ERA during this stretch. Framber Valdez.......never mind. We’ve been wondering who the fifth starter is. If regression continues to takes its toll, we may soon be wondering who the third and fourth starters are too.

The bullpen ERA is 7.58. But at least Reymin Guduan and Max Stassi have 0 ERA’s. OK, Guduan is back in the minors and how bad must it be if catcher Max Stassi is brought in to relieve first baseman Tyler White on the mound? During this streak the only really effective reliever has been Will Harris, except for the two good innings given by just-back-from-IL Collin McHugh. Chris Devenski’s ERA during this time-5.20, Roberto Osuna’s-5.40, Ryan Pressly’s-6.00, Josh James’-9.

Ok, todays game.

Brad Peacock started but could only go 3 innings before allowing six runs on three home runs, the first to Kevin Newman, his fourth of the season on the first pitch of the game. This was followed by an RBI double by Colin Moran, and then a two run homer to Corey Dickerson.

Peacock’s fifth and sixth runs were hit in by the murderous bat of Josh Bell, who knocked a third inning dinger to the opposite field way past the fuel pump in right center.

For the day, Peacock allowed seven hits in three innings with only two strikeouts. There seemed to be little snap to his pitches, and he was routinely missing his spots.

The fresh rookie, Cy Sneed, just in from Round Rock in his MLB debut, was sent in to eat the rest of the games’ innings. Considering he comes to the majors with few expectations of great success, he did rather well, much better than the veteran Peacock. He allowed four more runs in six innings, giving up homers to Starling Marte in the fifth inning, and Jacob Stallings in the sixth. The Pirates piled on with two more runs in the eighth on a Stallings RBI single, and a Kevin Newman RBI double.

This was the second game in a row in which the Astros basically conceded defeat. Sneed pitched six innings in order to rest the other members of the bullpen, just as Tyler White was brought in last night to do the same. By the eighth inning A. J. Hinch emptied his bench in order to give the starters rest rather than risk injury in a lost cause.

The Pirates team that scored 24 runs in two games came into this series ranked seventeenth in MLB in wRC+ at 94.

Meanwhile, the Astros offense could not summon any runs despite nine hits, all singles, all off Joe Musgrove. He came into this game with a 4.77 ERA. He was relieved in the seventh by Michael Feliz (ERA 6.63 before the game), Clay Holmes in the eighth, (4.98 ERA before the game), and Geoff Hartlieb in the ninth, (ERA 8.53 before the game). These three ace relievers held the Astros hitless.

The Pirates staff, which held the Astros to seven runs in three games, and a shutout today, came into the series with a team ERA of 5.05, 27th in MLB, and worst in the NL.

There needs to be a wake up call in Astrosland. The supposed pitching depth in the organization turns out not to exist, at least not this year. Jeff Luhnow readily admits to the need to find more pitching at the trade deadline. Although starting pitchers #1 and #2 are superb most nights, though prone to giving up too many homers, after that it is not certain that the Astros have another legitimate starter considering the regression of Peacock, and, to a lesser extent, Wade Miley. Perhaps Collin McHugh can find his old mojo as a starter, or Josh James can fulfill his potential.

In the bullpen, the pristine dominance of Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna was sure to end at some point, and currently the only arm that has been effective is Will Harris’. Players all have ups and downs, especially relief pitchers, so hopefully the aces of the staff return to form soon, that McHugh remains healthy and effective, and that Joe Smith can bring some of that righty on righty magic back when he returns from IL. But even in the best case scenario the back end of the pen still seems questionable with no obvious replacements.

The bats have also cycled downward at the same time the pitching staff has hit a wall. They are still getting hits at a decent rate, but not scoring runs. Although this has been terrible in the last eleven games, it has been a season-long trend as well. The Astros BA with runners in scoring position is .248, 24th in MLB. Hopefully this number regresses towards the team’s overall BA, .267, second in MLB.

I would like to say that the series with Seattle will bring some welcome relief, but we all thought that would be the case in the two series with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh as well.

However, tomorrow is a new day, so let’s hope that someday we will see that today was merely the low point of a great season.

Starting for the Astros tomorrow against Seattle is Wade Miley. Seattle sends the winless rookie, To Be Announced, to face the Astros. Game time 7:10 CDT.

Box score and videos here