I joked with a friend before Sunday’s game that the Astros would likely be shutout following their 17-run explosion the evening before. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time for this club to follow up an impressive showing the game before with an absolute dud. It has already happened a couple times this season. Well, I was wrong, but not wrong enough as Houston only managed two runs.
Honestly, there wasn’t much to like about this game. Brandon Bielak did pitch better than his final numbers would indicate — 5 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO — as José Abreu’s error let him down in that four-run first inning for the Rays. Of course, by loading the bases in the first place with zero outs, Bielak ultimately did himself no favors. The most encouraging aspect about Bielak’s day was his pitch arsenal — minus his four-seam — generating a decent amount whiffs (16 total). If the first inning didn’t get away from him, the right-hander’s day perhaps would’ve been viewed in a better light.
At least we saw the return of an old friend, Kendall Graveman, in the eighth inning, acquired earlier this weekend for Korey Lee. Following six consecutive balls to start his second stint with the Astros, the veteran right-hander got out of his frame unscathed. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much on the line as Phil Maton’s recent plunge continued, allowing two runs as Brandon Lowe smacked a two-run shot in the seventh to make it 8-2 Tampa Bay. It has been a rough month for the overworked Maton as he has now allowed 10 earned runs since July 7. With 49 appearances on the season, the right-hander is entering some uncharted territory in terms of usage as it relates to this point of the season. For context, Maton didn’t appear in his 49th game last season until August 15. At least Rafael Montero pitched a scoreless ninth.
Jose Altuve picked up three hits and now has 1,973 for his career. Jeremy Peña also picked up two hits, so he’ll naturally remain the number two hitter until further notice. However, other than Kyle Tucker’s RBI double and Alex Bregman’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Astros did little to make the Rays sweat.
Zack Littell (5.11 ERA), Erasmo Ramirez (6.33 ERA), and Jason Adam (2.57 ERA) combined for nine innings of two-run ball, allowing 10 hits and striking out seven. Houston failed to draw a walk in the game. Overall, it was an inefficient day for a lineup seemingly hitting its stride as of late. It obviously doesn’t help when Martín Maldonado is in the lineup consistently over Yainer Díaz, but I’ve resigned myself to the inevitable. At least Maldonado had this play, so there is that.
The Astros thankfully only remain one game behind the Rangers for the AL West lead. Of course, Texas has been busy this weekend bolstering its pitching staff, acquiring Max Scherzer on Saturday and Jordan Montgomery on Sunday. At this point, Dana Brown appears content with the roster already in place, unless the right deal comes along for an organization with a weakened farm system. Or if Jim Crane decides to reacquire Justin Verlander from the Mets prior to the deadline on Tuesday, no matter the cost.