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Another Opportunity Squandered, Astros Fall To Royals 4-2

MLB: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Consistently inconsistent? Or inconsistently consistent?

Either way, that’s your 2023 Houston Astros in a nutshell.

Following a rather disappointing series against the A’s at Minute Maid Park, the Astros were hoping to start their quick three-game road trip to Kansas City on a high note. The race for the AL West is incredibly close with only a couple weeks remaining on the season. This series against the Royals represents a prime opportunity to pad their slight division lead.

But much like the series against the A’s, the Astros failed to produce when it mattered most in this game. The lineup fell silent for most of the game, especially with runners in scoring position. Alex Bregman’s two double plays were particularly disappointing. Jose Altuve and Kyle Tucker didn’t have a hit. Cristian Javier and the bullpen did enough to keep it close but sprung just enough leaks for the Royals to occasionally capitalize. The game itself was a gradual decline into the abyss.

Not a lot of positives to draw from this one. Javier’s workload was limited to 81 pitches, which made sense. I mean, the right-hander hasn’t been effective in a while and there was a rested bullpen. Much like Hunter Brown, it does behoove the Astros to limit Javier’s workload in the hope his performance rebounds, even if slightly. To his credit, Javier did generate 13 whiffs, with three coming from his changeup that he threw only five times.

If there was a positive, I suppose it was Rafael Montero, who lowered his ERA to 4.88. Since June 29, the right-hander has limited opposing hitters to a .178/.273/.318 slash line before Friday’s appearance. His early season struggles were notable, but Montero’s recent performance at least makes him serviceable. Much like those struggles were likely exaggerated to some degree, though, his recent run of success looks a little less impressive based on his peripherals. But results are results and Montero’s contributions for the past ten weeks can’t be overlooked. A club can never have enough pitching.

Thankfully, the Astros didn’t lose their slight hold on the AL West with the Rangers and Mariners also losing their respective games. A wasted opportunity to create a bit more separation, but a silver lining, I guess. Let’s see if J.P. France and Framber Valdez can help Houston possibly take this series, but I have a feeling they’ll need the lineup to step up a bit more to make it happen.