Is it that the Astros have traditionally played down to weak competition?
Is it that home-field jinx coming back with a vengeance after a couple of good games this weekend?
The Astros came into this game leading the AL West by 2.5 games. And with nine out of 17 games against cellar-dwellers the A’s and Royals, it looked like the Astros could cruise into the AL West pennant.
A win tonight seemed especially assured, with the Astros ace, Framber Valdez on the mound and the offense coming into the game red-hot. In the last six games, the Astros had scored sixty runs, and in the last 30 days, the team wRC+ led the league at 144.
Tonight, not only were the Astros one-hit by the rookie Mason Miller for two innings, and no-hit by
ace pitcher Ken Waldichuk. (season ERA 5.63), but they might as well have been hitting the balls with styrofoam bats.
Before the ninth inning, there was only one hit, a bloop single at 75. MPH. Only one ball was classified as “hard hit,” a routine flyout by Martin Maldonado at 95.4.
(The Astros did manage a couple of hits and a hard-hit Yordan lineout in the ninth but to no avail.)
Meanwhile, the pitching staff was plagued by the long ball. Framber Valdez only allowed four hits with 10 Ks in seven innings, but with two homers, he ended up allowing three runs. Rafael Montero surrendered another solo shot in the ninth.
I guess inconsistency is part of baseball. That’s why they play 162 games. Still, let’s hope the Astros don’t spit away their advantage by playing down to weak competition just as the season enters the final stretch run.
The Rangers won their game tonight against another playoff contender, the Blue Jays, so their hearts beat with new hope, only two games out of first. Currently, the Angels and Mariners are tied at 3-3. An Angels win puts the Rangers in second for the AL West and the Mariners in fourth for the third Wild Card position.
The Astros need Justin Verlander to do a better job of holding the A’s tomorrow, and the bats need to wake back up.