Saturday’s debacle of a game left a bad taste in my mouth, as I am sure it did for any fan of the Astros. Unfortunately, it also left Sunday’s game in a precarious position as the club used multiple high-leverage relievers in the eventual loss. With Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu, Héctor Neris, and Phil Maton all with 40 or more appearances by mid-July, Dusty Baker must be mindful of their overall usage. But if Houston wanted to win the rubber match of this road series against the Angels, they likely needed to do it without some of their top arms. With the struggling Cristian Javier on the mound, it wasn’t a guarantee the pitching staff could hold its own, especially on the heels of a taxing loss the day before.
Fortunately for the Astros, Javier was able to survive five innings, allowing three earned runs on four hits and two walks. He also struck out seven. While Javier was hit particularly hard in the first couple of innings, he threw better in his last three innings. Following Mike Moustakas’ solo home run (105.3 MPH) in the second inning, the right-hander didn’t allow another batted ball in play with an exit velocity higher than 95.9 MPH. Again, it wasn’t the most efficient outing, but a step in the right direction.
Alas, the bullpen was leaky again, this time with a new face (Joel Kuhnel) surrendering three runs along with Rafael Montero and Phil Maton each allowing one run. By the time the Astros tied the game in the top of the seventh, the Angels then scored four runs in the bottom half of the frame to seemingly put the game a bit further out of reach. Considering the state of the pitching staff, it would take a tremendous effort from the lineup to help close the gap and hope that the bullpen could hold its own.
Fresh off a game where the Astros had 12 runs, it appeared initially that Sunday’s series finale would be a struggle to score. Following Kyle Tucker’s RBI single in the first inning, Houston’s lineup would fail to generate much offense until the seventh inning. Ultimately, though, four Astros hitters picked up at least two hits, with Tucker and Alex Bregman finishing with four hits apiece. Chas McCormick also drove in three runs on three hits, including two home runs as he continued to solidify his case to remain a lineup mainstay. McCormick, Bregman, and Tucker all hit home runs either in the eighth or ninth inning as the Astros mounted their comeback. It is worth noting since Yordan Alvarez’s oblique injury, Houston is hitting .260/.331/.441/ with a 113 wRC+ in 31 games. For as much as the inconsistency of the lineup has been one of the main storylines of the season, it has fared better in recent weeks.
For the Astros, Sunday’s win on the heels of arguably their worst loss of the season was a much-needed boost. I mean, I was pretty pumped after Tucker made this sliding catch to end it. Arguably the most for me since Game 6 of the World Series last fall.
Traded his baseball cap for a crown. pic.twitter.com/KDXkBRFXEW— Houston Astros (@astros) July 17, 2023
The club remains three games behind the Rangers for the AL West lead and should hopefully have Jose Altuve and Alvarez back within the next couple of weeks. Plus, it appears Dana Brown is intent on improving the club by the trade deadline, specifically by acquiring additional pitching depth. If Houston wants to solidify its position in the AL playoff field, the next couple of weeks are vital starting with a stretch of games against the Rockies and A’s this week.