Entering Tuesday’s game, the Astros starting staff ranked roughly in the middle. A 4.56 ERA and 4.46 FIP isn’t terrible, but not great. It’s just meh, at best. Such is life when a club loses Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, and Jose Urquidy for a multitude of reasons in a span of nine months.
That said, there have been moments when the rotation has stepped up. Monday night’s start by Lance McCullers Jr. stands out. Zack Greinke has bounced back well from a rough first start of the season. Rookie Cristian Javier has shown flashes. Another rookie, Brandon Bielak, demonstrated again why the Astros chose to give him a chance in this wonky 2020 season. In five innings of work on Tuesday night, the right-hander held the Giants to two runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
A team can reasonably expect to win with that type of performance from the starting pitcher. In fact, the lineup did make it seem like a win was in the works as the Astros scored six runs in the game’s first six innings. Thanks to Martin Maldando’s solo shot in the second followed by Josh Reddick’s two-run double in the same inning, it looked like the offense had some life early. The Astros would then tack on to their lead some more with another solo home run in the third, courtesy of Alex Bregman. Back-to-back RBI singles from Myles Straw and Jose Altuve in the sixth would give Houston some additional breathing room for the bullpen with a 6-2 advantage.
But like a broken record, the bullpen would promptly implode as a former Astro, Hunter Pence, would cut the lead to just one with a three-run dagger off of Blake Taylor. To be fair to Taylor, though, he did inherit two runners from Enoli Paredes with two outs, but it’s a situation where the Astros couldn’t afford a slip up. The Giants would eventually tie it in the top of the ninth and win it in the tenth when Cy Sneed blew another extra innings opportunity.
Simply put, the Astros bullpen has been nothing less than a disaster lately.
Astros bullpen last 7 games (1-6):— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) August 12, 2020
24 earned runs
It’s also a perfect example why one has to look deeper, especially in a short sample like 2020, to see if the staff is actually reliable. Entering Tuesday’s game, the Astros bullpen had a 3.89 ERA for the season. That’s actually pretty decent. But it felt a bit like fools gold, to be perfectly honest, when one takes a hard look at the whole picture. I’m sorry, but a 13.1 percent walk rate isn’t a great sign. Neither is a 4.46 FIP or 5.18 xFIP.
This loss hurts, no freaking doubt. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, again. But this game-ending strikeout call against Kyle Tucker was just a kick in the teeth.
And why on earth did Garrett Stubbs try to steal third?! Such is life for the Astros in 2020. Heck, for all of us it seems like.