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Disappointment Reaches New Heights, Astros Lose 10-8 To Royals

MLB: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

By fWAR, since June 1, only three teams have received fewer contributions from the pitching staff than the Astros (4.7 wins) entering Saturday: Royals (3.5), Rockies (2.1), and Nationals (2.0). Not a great group, right?

Bad baseball happens. Slumps happen. But, mercy, the Astros have chosen a wretched time not only to slump but to have it happen against two of the worst teams in baseball. The A’s series back in Houston was hard enough to watch, but you hope a quick three-game trip to Kansas City could help right the ship. Alas, the Royals have noticeably outplayed the Astros in the series’ first two games to guarantee that the latter will finish this supposedly easy part of the schedule with a 2-4 record, at best. In a tight division race with only a game separating first and third place, it was a wasted opportunity. It also proves not to assume that clubs down on their luck won’t be a problem. They can be.

For the second consecutive game, the Astros spent most of their time chasing the Royals. While the lineup would generally keep pace on Saturday, the pitching staff in general was abysmal. J.P. France couldn’t make it past five innings, allowing five runs on five hits and four walks. Dusty Baker’s decision to let France face Bobby Witt Jr. a third time didn’t make much sense then and still doesn’t make much sense now. Rafael Montero walked in a run. Phil Maton and Héctor Neris had multiple unearned runs occur thanks, in part, to some poor fielding. Neris’ fielding sequence on that squeeze bunt was particularly hard to watch. Joel Kuhnel pitched an inning for some reason, even with the game somewhat in reach. I mean, three runs isn’t an insurmountable obstacle, but what do I know?

If there is a silver lining, it was hopefully the Astros’ lineup starting to come to life. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez combined for seven of the club’s 12 hits. Altuve’s three-run home run in the top of the seventh provided the best hope all night for Houston, although the pitching staff and defense gave it right back in the inning’s bottom half.

This was a game that the Astros couldn’t afford to lose. Thankfully, the rest of the AL West isn’t interested in winning baseball games at the moment, with the Rangers dropping their game against the Guardians and the Mariners losing to the Dodgers in extra innings. But, again, it was a wasted opportunity for Houston to put a bit of separation between them and the competition for the division title. Overall, it was an annoying game on Saturday. Let’s hope Framber Valdez can help at least avoid a series sweep for Sunday.