With injuries to half of the Astros’ expected starting rotation and the recent collapse of #2 Cristian Javier, the outside-looking-in Astros cannot afford regression from ace Framber Valdez. But tonight, Valdez’s trend of throwing fewer of his trademark groundouts continued.
Besides the four runs, eight hits, three walks, and three wild pitches he surrendered, he allowed nine fly balls or line drives against nine groundballs, three of which were singles. Framber is just not Framber unless he’s keeping the ball on the ground. And the Astros have a smaller and smaller window to the playoffs without peak Framber.
Of course, when you lose 4-2 you can’t just blame the pitching. But the Astros scored first off Cardinals starter Jordan Montgomery with an unearned run in the first inning, starting with a leadoff groundball by Mauricio Dubon bobbled by the second baseman. Alex Bregman singled Dubon to third, who scored on a Kyle Tucker fielder’s choice.
The Astros added another run in the third inning with a Martin Maldonado home run. But St. Louis answered with a Paul DeJong solo homer of their own.
In the fourth inning, the Cards tied the score, but it could have been worse. Wilson Contreras doubled but was erased from the basepaths when the next batter hit a groundball single to shortstop, and Contreras was thrown out by 1B Jose Abreu trying to advance to third base. However, a subsequent walk and a single loaded the bases for a DeJong sac fly to deep right field.
The Cards took the lead in the fifth with a Paul Goldschmidt walk followed by a run-scoring Nolan Arenado double. Arenado later scored on a Valdez wild pitch, his third of the game.
The Astros mounted a bases-loaded two-out threat in the seventh inning but came up empty-handed when pinch hitter Bligh Madris flied out on a 3-2 count.
Astros relievers Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek held the Cardinals after Valdez’s departure in the sixth. But following the threat in the seventh, the Astros went down quietly to give the Cardinals the 4-2 win.
You’d think it was the Astros, not the Cardinals, who had just returned from London. The Astros had almost no offense tonight, getting just seven hits and only three runners in scoring position.
The Astros hope for a bounce-back start from Cristian Javier after one of the worst starts of his career last outing against the Mets—game time 6:45 CT.