Regression was inevitable.
In the first six games of the now departed eight game winning streak the Astros pitching staff allowed only six total runs. In the last two games of the streak, both wins against the Royals, the Astros allowed 13 runs. Tonight, Cristian Javier, who had allowed only one run and one hit in his last 13 innings with 27 strikeouts, allowed five runs and three homers in his first three innings.
In the first two games of the series the Astros bats overcame early deficits. Tonight it was not to be.
The Royals, who scored first in each game in the series, opened this game with three runs in the first on the strength of homers by Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier.
Emmanuel Rivera gave the Royals a 4-0 lead in the second with a solo homer although in the bottom of the second the Astros too back a run on a Jake Meyers RBI double.
And just as they had done in the previous two games, the Royals scored in each of the first three innings with a Hunter Dozier RBI double scoring Andrew Benintendi in the third.
Javier finally managed to hold the Royals in the fourth while the Astros managed to crawl their way back in. Yordan Alvarez led off the inning with a bloop double down the left field line followed by an Alex Bregman walk. Kyle Tucker singled home Alvarez. Although Aledmys Diaz grounded out, a long rundown at home involving Bregman allowed Tucker to take third, who scored on a Jake Meyers fielder’s choice.
The Astros nibbled away again in the sixth on a two-out Aledmys Diaz solo homer which chased royals starter Brad Keller, who allowed four runs in 5.2 innings. Keller’s relief, Jose Cua loaded the bases on a hit and two walks, but escaped without allowing a run by getting Mauricio Dubon to ground out.
Back-to-back nights with a trip to the Crawford Boxes for Aledmys Díaz! pic.twitter.com/MrGYXihO9S— Houston Astros (@astros) July 7, 2022
Following the departure of Javier after the fifth inning the Astros continued to hold the Royals in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings behind the combined efforts of Bryan Abreu and Ryne Stanek. Stanek loaded the bases in the eighth but completed his 22nd scoreless inning by striking out Michael Taylor.
However, the weariness of the Astros bullpen and the lack of left-handed weapons cost the Astros in the ninth. Hector Neris came in to hold the Royals but instead he allowed doubles to Nicky Lopez and Andrew Benintendi and a single to MJ Melendez to pad the Royals lead to 7-4.
The Astros went down quietly in the ninth; Jeremy Pena, who struck out three times, was the last out with a runner on base and Alvarez on deck.
All things must pass. The Astros’ winning streak was ended at eight games.
Justin Verlander takes the mound tomorrow at 1:10 CT to start a new streak and take the series from the Royals.