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Ineffectiveness Reigns Supreme, Rangers Best Astros 5-2

Just a lousy Saturday for the Astros.

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that Framber Valdez will miss at least one start with a sprained right ankle, the Astros are looking at a potential bullpen game on Sunday. In turn, the pressure was on Hunter Brown to provide some length in Saturday’s tilt against the Rangers. After all, Brown entering this start had yet to allow an earned run against Texas in 13 innings. Small sample, yes, but encouraging.

Alas, Saturday’s start was a grind for Brown, lasting only four innings while allowing three runs on ten hits with six strikeouts.

The Rangers forced Brown to work for all of his twelve outs as he threw 91 pitches and had multiple deep counts. Although his four-seam fastball picked up nine whiffs, the right-hander’s secondary pitches — curveball and slider — only had a single whiff each. But all three pitches weren’t particularly effective and Brown’s shortened appearance forced the Astros to lean on the bullpen again, with Seth Martinez, Ryne Stanek, and Rafael Montero combining for the four remaining frames.

However, with the Rangers hitting 4-for-22 with runners in scoring position, the damage against the Astros’ pitching staff was relatively limited. The game was close enough for the lineup to mount a possible comeback, yet the bats were ineffective again. Following Mauricio Dubòn’s walk in the second inning, which moved Yainer Díaz to second base, the Astros didn’t advance a runner past first base until Alex Bregman’s two-out double in the ninth inning. Kyle Tucker promptly drove him in with a two-run home run, the only runs of the game for Houston.

Frankly, there wasn’t much to like about this game from the point of view of the Astros. The pitching staff wasn’t terrible, but also not great. Mediocre feels appropriate. The lineup was a hot mess, with only Tucker having more than one hit. Only one barrel for the entire game. Give credit to Nathan Eovaldi for a well-pitched game, as he traversed the lineup for seven innings with little to no issue.

Friday’s victory was a lot of fun. Saturday’s loss was decidedly not fun. The more immediate concern is Sunday, with Shawn Dubin scheduled to start instead of Valdez. As such, the bullpen will likely have to absorb multiple innings again. Not an optimal situation as Martinez is likely unavailable following his two-inning appearance Saturday, but at least none of the high-leverage arms were used. The issue is if Dubin is unable to pitch more than an inning or two then this leaves the Astros in an unenviable position, at least in the short-term, as they don’t have another off day until the All-Star break.