Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
After a three-day break from the regular season, the Astros were back in action on Thursday night in Arlington against the Rangers looking to start the second half of the season with a win. Here is a recap of the first game of the four-game series:
Final Score: Rangers 5, Astros 0.
Record: 57-34, first in the AL West.
Winning pitcher: Lance Lynn (12-4, 3.69 ERA).
Losing pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-5, 5.28 ERA).
1) Valdez unable to last a single inning
After the Astros were unable to get on the board in the top of the first, Framber Valdez took the mound to try and provide Houston with a decent start while they await the return of Brad Peacock and continue work towards a possible trade for another reliable starter.
Valdez, who had been optioned back to AAA before the All-Star break, would not shine in his return to the major-league club. Instead, he struggled and would get through just two outs while allowing the Rangers to score four runs on four hits and three walks, putting the Astros in a 4-0 hole.
Chris Devenski would come in and put the long-awaited end to the first inning and would work around a one-out single in the bottom of the second to complete that inning as well.
2) Bregman exits in the third
In the bottom of the third inning, Cy Sneed would make his second appearance of the year to relieve Chris Devenski. He worked in and out of some trouble, allowing a run to make it a 5-0 game, and would load the bases as the Rangers threatened for more, but would leave all three runners stranded with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
During that inning, however, the Astros would experience a scary scene. Alex Bregman lined up to field a chopping ground ball up the middle, but before it reached him, the ball would take a big bounce right into his chin. He was visibly shaken up, resulting in his exit from the game.
3) Lance Lynn dominates
While Framber Valdez struggled in the first inning, it was Lance Lynn on the mound for Texas who was able to dominate Houston's bats. Lynn tossed one of the best starts of his season, shutting out the Astros over seven innings while matching his season-high in strikeouts with eleven.
Sneed was able to wrap his night up with a solid line in relief, getting the Astros through the seventh while maintaining the 5-0 score. Sneed also struck out seven over his five innings, allowing just the one run back in the third in an otherwise great appearance where he ate up some valuable innings for Houston.
Josh James was next out of the bullpen and threw a seven-pitch bottom of the eighth inning. They wouldn't need anyone for the bottom of the ninth, as the Rangers were able to complete the shutout win in the top of the inning, starting Houston's second half of the season with a loss.
Up Next: Game two of this series will be tomorrow at 7:05 PM. The expected pitching matchup is Gerrit Cole (9-5, 3.09 ERA) for the Astros who will try to extend his recent hot streak as he goes up against Jesse Chavez (3-4, 3.30 ERA) for the Rangers.
The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.
The Houston Astros are hard at work preparing for the upcoming season and one of the hottest topics of conversation revolves around the club's new closer, Josh Hader.
Hader was signed to a 5-year, $95 million contract this offseason, cementing the Astros 'pen as one of the best in baseball. Houston is no stranger to having a dominant closer, with Ryan Pressly taking the ball in the ninth inning for the last several years.
But now with Pressly moving to a role as setup man, and Bryan Abreu ready to shut teams down in the seventh inning, the Astros can shorten games with their elite arms.
So what are the first impressions of Hader?
According to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, Alex Bregman said, “he looked great.”'
Below, you can watch Bregman taking some swings against him.
Hader vs. Alex Bregman pic.twitter.com/IlWJ1LaILC
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 19, 2024
As you can see from the video, Hader didn't allow any hard contact to the Astros superstar third baseman.
Jeremy Pena and Jon Singleton also had the opportunity to face Hader. According to McTaggart, Pena said, “I'm glad he's on our team.”
So are we, Jeremy, so are we!
And speaking of Pena, we got our first glimpse of what his new swing looks like. He made good contract against Ryan Pressly on Monday.
That’s a … really different look from Jeremy Peña, who has quieted his batting stance down a ton. Makes good contact here in a live BP against Ryan Pressly. pic.twitter.com/pDCO3OlQtJ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 19, 2024
A bounce-back season from Pena would pay huge dividends for the Astros lineup. His drastic loss of power from 2022 to 2023 had many fans and media scratching their heads. He hit 12 less home runs in 2023 while playing in 14 more games that season.
Jeremy Peña, no context needed: “I’m not completely getting rid of the wag, I’m just controlling it a little bit better.” -https://t.co/1ynd1DTKdL
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 19, 2024
For a more in-depth look at how Pena is overhauling his swing, check out Chandler Rome's column above. From what is being reported by Rome, the adjustments are still a work in progress. Especially the footwork. But overall, Astros manager Joe Espada is encouraged by what he's seeing from Pena so far this spring.