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Bats Go Cold, Astros Swept By Yankees

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros are now 35-34 at home with a negative-7 run differential for those keeping count following their loss Sunday to the Yankees. It's kind of inexplicable, right? I mean, the club’s record at Minute Maid Park last season was 55-26 with a plus-115 run differential. What a strange development with so much poor play at home recently.

This weekend's series against New York served as another gut punch for the Astros, especially on the heels of that disappointing sweep against the Mariners a couple of weeks home. Noticing a trend here? Alas, Sunday’s game felt winnable for a while, especially with Cristian Javier having arguably one of his better starts in recent memory. While he was far from perfect (three runs in six innings), Javier didn’t allow a walk and struck out eight. His pitch chart resembled more of what we’ve come to expect from the right-hander with his fastball playing a bit more in the upper regions of the strike zone.

The first eight innings were relatively close in this one. Kendall Graveman relieved Javier and pitched a scoreless seventh. José Urquidy threw a scoreless eighth. Unfortunately, it all imploded with Urquidy allowing three runs himself in the ninth inning. It was a fitting end in a way for a series that descended into this mess.

The real issue, once again, is the lack of offense. Seven singles. The only run was from Kyle Tucker’s sac fly in the first inning. While Urquidy’s implosion in the ninth didn’t help matters, the lack of execution from the lineup was the Astros’ downfall in this one. The bats that were hot leading into this weekend became relatively cold.

It also doesn’t help matters to bench Chas McCormick, one of the team’s best hitters this season, for two out of three games. In the one game he played, the bat was taken from his hands in a critical situation with the game on the line. While it isn’t a guarantee that his inclusion in the lineup would’ve solved the Astros’ offensive woes this weekend, he at least provides a better chance for success more so than other players on this roster. The same thought applies to Yainer Díaz.

Frankly, there was little in this series, other than perhaps Javier’s start and Michael Brantley’s two-run home run earlier in the weekend, to point out as a positive. The Yankees simply outplayed the Astros. For some reason or another, Houston avoids maximizing playing time for their best hitters, no matter the circumstance. In past seasons, it wasn’t a big deal as the division lead was large enough to experiment if you will. But in a season with both the Mariners and Rangers pushing for the division, the organization can’t afford to ignore clear ways to maximize their chances of winning.

This series only goes to prove that this team runs a real chance of not only losing out on the division title but also isn’t guaranteed a postseason berth as a Wild Card. Following Sunday’s loss, the Astros only lead the Blue Jays by 1 12 games for the final Wild Card berth. The Mariners effectively hold a two-game lead on Houston for the AL West as Seattle holds the tie-breaker. The upcoming road trip to Arlington looms rather large, especially since another poor series or two could theoretically put the Astros on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason.