Today we have bad news and terrible news.
We’ll start with the bad news. The game.
The Astros #2 starter and possible future Hall of Famer, 36-year-old Zack Greinke, not only allowed three runs in 3.1 innings, but looked bad doing it. The command/control specialist allowed two walks in those three innings, and threw only 34 strikes out of 58 pitches. He left numerous pitches in batters’ sweet spots, resulting in seven hard hit balls (by Statcast calculations). His WHIP was an un-HOF 1.80. Dusty Baker saw enough with only one out in the fourth inning when he pulled the plug on his #2 starter.
Greinke’s fastball velocity has been on the decline in recent years, averaging exactly 90.0 mph the last two. Today he averaged 87.7 on his fastball, and never hit 90 on the gun. Bad command and slow pitches do not an ace make. Let us hope that this was just like an early Spring training game for Zack, but it does not seem likely that the meticulous Greinke would come into this late starting season unprepared.
Weaknesses in the bullpen reared their ugly head today as well. They had been perfect in six innings before today’s game, but Joe Biagini, who came in for Greinke, allowed an inherited runner to score in the fourth on a double, and allowed two more doubles to Mallex Smith and Shed Long to put an earned run on his ledger as well in .2 innings pitched.
Although the Astros started the bottom of the fourth down 4-1, the bats came alive against starter Yusei Kikuchi for four runs, giving the Astros a 5-4 lead. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman worked walks. Michael Brantley singled between them and then Altuve scored on a Yuli Gurriel single. Josh Reddick added another run with an RBI walk, but the big-blow of the inning was a two-run Martin Maldonado single over the third base bag.
For the next three innings rookies Bryan Abreu and new Astro, lefty Blake Taylor, held the lead, Taylor looking masterfull in 1.1 innings, but Abreu working around two hit batsmen.
Still clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth, Manager Baker then brought veteran Chris Devenski in to hold the lead against the heart of the Mariners lineup. We’ve all seen good Devo, most recently in the season opener, but in the last two years we’ve seen a lot more of bad Devo.
Today it was bad Devo.
Tim Lopes opened the inning on a single to center, and with one out Austin Nola walked. Shed Long scored Lopes with another single and after two outs stole second. The so-far phenomenal rookie, Kyle Lewis, delivered the play of the game, a two run single to give the Mariners the lead they would not relinquish.
In three games Lewis has a 1.371 OPS, with two homers and four RBI.
The Astros made a valiant comeback attempt in the bottom of the ninth starting with pinch-hitter’s Kyle Tucker’s lead-off double. Although Jose Altuve and George Springer struck out behind Tucker, Brantley came through again with a run scoring double. But Alex Bregman went down swinging on a tough slider from closer Taylor Williams to end the afternoon for the Astros, losers 7-6.
It was not the only missed opportunity for the Astros. In the fourth inning Jose Altuve stranded three runners with two outs with a pop up. All-in-all the Astros were 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven runners.
Of course, it’s only three games, but the Astros will need more production from superstars George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman, hitting OPS .200, .629, and .593 respectively, with four RBI between them.
And now for the terrible news.
Box score HERE