The Astros crushed a lot of baseballs tonight.
Unfortunately, most of them were at a Marlin, and none left the park. It’s not the kind of luck they can afford as they struggle to catch up to the Rangers for the AL West lead or even retain a Wild Card spot.
The Astros started with hard luck right away against Marlins starter Braxton Garret. Although leadoff hitter Jose Altuve got a single with a 107 MPH shot just off the tip of the glove of third baseman Jake Burger, Kyle Tucker then lined out at 100 MPH+ on a solid shot to right field. Then, Alex Bregman lined out at 100 MPH+ to second baseman Luis Arraez who tagged second to double off Altuve, who earlier stole second.
The Astros wasted another opportunity in the second inning when they loaded the bases with one out. But eight and nine hitters, Jake Meyers and Martin Maldonado, struck out and popped out, respectively, leaving the Astros scoreless after two innings of strong hitting.
On the other hand, Miami’s eight and nine hitters, Nick Fortes and Jon Berti, hit back-to-back doubles in the bottom of the second on Astros starter Framber Valdez to put the Marlins on the board first. Berti later stole third and, with two outs, scored on a passed ball by Maldonado.
Maldonado leads the AL in passed balls, just FYI, Dusty.
In the fifth inning, the Astros had runners on second and third with two outs with Tucker at bat. He launched a 105 MPH one-hop scorcher at Arraez for out three.
In the seventh inning, the Astros finally broke through after hitting xBA .350 with no runs for six innings. With two outs, Jeremy Pena singled on reliever Tanner Scott, and after five fouls and nine pitches, Altuve doubled in Pena. But with a runner on second, Alex Bregman struck out to keep the Marlins out front 2-1.
In the eighth inning, the Astros led off with singles by Yordan Alvarez and Chas McCormick. But Jon Singleton popped out, and Pena hit a hard ground ball double play.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Marlins removed all doubt about the final outcome and spoiled Valdez's gem start. Back-to-back homers by Jose Soler and Arraez with two outs put the Fish up 4-1.
Hector Neris relieved Valdez and instantly gave up yet another homer, this one to Josh Bell.
The Astros went down quietly in the ninth, sealing the Marlins’ 5-1 win.
Valdez was ace-quality today until the two gopher balls in the eighth. He finished 7.2 innings, allowing three earned runs, six hits, and one walk, with four Ks.
The Astros' xBA was.344, the Angels’ .311. Until the three consecutive homers, it was in the low .200s. The Astros left ten on base, and were only 2-12 with runners in scoring position, and one of those hits failed to score a run.
Altuve resumed his hot hitting today after his 14-game hitting streak ended yesterday. He was 3-4 with the team’s only RBI.
I’ll close with this tweet by one of the foremost experts on catcher evaluation, our own mhatter.
Framing —-10.9 Framing Runs is 2nd worst in the majors
Throwing — -0.4 Throwing runs is 6th worst in majors
Blocking—9 passed balls is worst in the majors
Hitting—54 wRC+ is the worst in the majors for catchers with a minimum of 300 PAs.