Simply put, the Astros were outmatched against the Mariners on Saturday. The lineup was inconsistent for the second consecutive game, this time with Logan Gilbert leading the charge for Seattle. While Houston did score three more runs than yesterday, all were generated from solo home runs (Yainer Díaz, Alex Bregman, and Mauricio Dubón). But when traffic was present on the bases, the lineup simply couldn’t convert. It also doesn’t help that Framber Valdez allowed at least five runs in a start for the fourth time since July 15. Eventually, the hopes of a comeback, no matter how unlikely, were ultimately dashed in the later innings as Héctor Neris and Parker Mushinski allowed two runs each. By the time of Dubón’s home run in the bottom of the ninth (10-2), it was over. As far as deflating losses usually go, this one has to rank fairly high this season.
In a season filled with all sorts of unwelcomed developments, Valdez’s recent struggles have taken some of the wind out of Houston’s sails post-All-Star break. It is one thing with the injuries to Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers Jr., but it is another issue entirely if both Valdez and Cristian Javier are struggling. Even with Justin Verlander back in the mix, the Astros don’t have much of a chance without at least Valdez pitching effectively. At this rate, J.P. France is possibly the most valuable pitcher on the Astros’ staff and that was definitely not on my bingo card in 2023.
Alas, the game itself wasn’t all that fun to watch, except for one thing: Jose Altuve collected the 2,000th hit of his career. That is worth celebrating.
The fastest Astro to ever reach 2,000 career hits, Altuve’s was reminiscent of another milestone hit from another iconic second baseman: Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit way back in 2007. Both were credited with singles and then subsequently thrown out at second base. In a way, it was a rather fitting development considering Altuve’s reputation on the basepaths. I mean, you take the good, the bad, and the TOOTBLAN with him.
Altuve now joins a pair of franchise icons in Biggio and Jeff Bagwell as the only three hitters to achieve the milestone while playing their entire careers up to that point with the Astros. Of course, Biggio and Bagwell never played for another club outside of Houston while Altuve is still playing. At this rate, though, it is difficult to envision him playing anywhere else.
While this game didn’t go the Astros' way, it will always be included in franchise lore. Altuve represents the peaks and valleys of the franchise arguably better than anyone else, emerging from the doldrums of multiple 100-plus loss seasons to the incredible heights of six consecutive ALCS appearances, four World Series appearances, and two World Series titles. Houston, don’t take Altuve for granted. Players like him don’t come along often.