Talk about a gut punch of a game. The Astros scored 12 runs, but it simply wasn’t enough as the Angels came back from two late-inning deficits to stun their opponent. Framber Valdez had an up-and-down performance — 13 strikeouts in 6 1⁄3 innings, but five earned runs — until he left the game mid-at-bat, which led to some discomfort of my own. Hopefully, it was only a left calf cramp, as noted in the post-game update.
Framber Valdez said he felt something pull in his left calf during his final pitch of the game. He doesn’t know whether it was fatigue, dehydration or something else.— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) July 16, 2023
In a game when the Astros needed some length from Valdez, they nearly got their wish, especially with a recently struggling Cristian Javier on the mound for Sunday. I mean, the offense did score 12 runs total, so the odds were in favor that the Astros would win.
Ultimately, we saw Ryne Stanek, Bryan Abreu, Héctor Neris, Ryan Pressly, and Phil Maton all enter the game, with only Neris emerging unscathed. Yes, Maton wasn’t charged with a run, but the zombie runner strikes again. For an overworked bullpen, this result — using your best arms while losing — wasn’t a positive development. Sooner or later, Dusty Baker will have to rely upon Rafael Montero, Seth Martinez, and Joel Kuhnel for something. Let’s not forget that Pressly, Abreu, Neris, and Maton have all appeared in 40-plus games this season and we’re not even into August.
If there is a positive to take away from this game, it is that the Astros have scored 19 runs in two games. Sure, it is only two games, hardly representative of anything substantial. But it does inspire hope that once Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez return, the lineup will become more reliable. José Abreu’s recent resurgence, on display again Saturday, also helps. The rest of the season may hinge on how the pitching staff responds in the coming weeks, especially as the trade deadline nears.