Houston is in last place

Offensive and bullpen woes continue as Astros fall to Rockies

Houston's struggles continued Tuesday in Denver. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle to start this road trip, the Astros moved on to frigid Coors Field in Colorado to try and turn things around against the 4-12 Rockies. Although they'd have to scratch their original starter, Lance McCullers Jr., and instead go with Luis Garcia on the mound, they did receive a morale boost by getting four players back off the COVID IL: Alex Bregman, Martin Maldonado, Yordan Alvarez, and Robel Garcia.

The fresh bats wouldn't be enough to spark the offense, though, as the Astros would have yet another disappointing night at the plate, and out of the bullpen, in a loss to the Rockies:

Final Score: Rockies 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 7-9, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jon Gray (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1)

Rare low-scoring battle early before Houston strikes first

Something you don't see all that frequently: a low-scoring pitching battle in the thin air of Coors Field. It happened Tuesday night between Luis Garcia of the Astros and Jon Gray of the Rockies, though, with both offenses struggling to put together hits. Houston would get the scoring started in the top of the sixth, with Michael Brantley getting a one-out single then scoring on an RBI-double by Carlos Correa, making it a 1-0 lead.

Garcia fills in well, still gets dinged with runs

Meanwhile, Garcia, whose last appearance was an impressive 4.1 scoreless innings in relief out of the bullpen, was having a great start. After erasing a few baserunners through the first five scoreless, he would make it into the sixth, getting two outs in before allowing a single and hitting a batter, prompting a call to the bullpen. Bryan Abreu would enter and, before getting the third out, allowed a go-ahead two-RBI double, both runs charged to Garcia, making his final line 5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 82 P.

Losing ways continue for the Astros

After the Astros stranded a runner in the top half of the inning, Ryne Stanek took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh. He would allow a one-out solo home run while getting two outs before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to get the third. Raley remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth but would put two on base while getting one out before Houston moved on to Joe Smith.

Smith would watch C.J. Cron blow the game open, blasting a three-run homer to make it 6-1 and put it out of reach for the Astros. Houston would get a late run on an RBI by Aledmys Diaz in the top of the ninth but still falls to 7-9 on the year with the loss, falling deeper into a hole in the division.

Up Next: The second and final game of this short series between the Astros and Rockies will be an afternoon start Wednesday at 2:10 PM Central. Jose Urquidy (0-1, 4.50 ERA) for Houston and Austin Gomber (0-2, 3.52 ERA) for Colorado will each make their fourth start of the season.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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