Houston blows a four-run lead in the loss

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 9-8 loss

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 9-8 loss
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Houston needed a win on Friday night to even the four-game series and maintain their division lead. Here is a recap of the game between the Astros and Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 9, Astros 8.

Record: 57-35, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Shawn Kelley (5-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Roberto Osuna (3-2, 2.15 ERA).

1) Up and down night for Cole ends on a high note

Gerrit Cole did not have one of his most dominant starts on Friday, as evidenced by the solo home run he allowed in the first at-bat by the Rangers in the bottom of the first. He would allow two more solo home runs over the next three innings, along with a game-tying RBI-single in the bottom of the fifth.

In contrast from the home runs he allowed, Cole still had his strikeout power on display, working up to his second-highest total in a game this season at thirteen. Cole's final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 3 HR.

2) Alvarez hits home runs in back-to-back innings

Houston's offense was on display Friday night, starting with Yuli Gurriel erasing a 1-0 deficit with a two-run home run in the top of the second inning to put the Astros up 2-1. After the Rangers tied the game in the bottom of the second, Houston put some runners on base which allowed them to take advantage of an error to go back in front 3-2.

Joey Gallo and Jose Altuve both traded homers in the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth, respectively, then the Rangers tied the game 4-4 with an RBI-single off Cole in the bottom of the fifth. Yordan Alvarez gave the lead right back to Houston in the top of the next inning, getting a solo home run in the top of the sixth to make it a 5-4 Astros lead.

Later in that same inning, Tyler White was able to deliver a much-needed hit with runners in scoring position, plating two runs with a single to extend the lead to 7-4. Alvarez returned to the plate in the top of the seventh, and the at-bat was the same outcome, a solo home run to make it 8-4.

3) Bullpen blows the four-run lead 

With Cole's night finished after six innings, the Astros went to their bullpen starting with Will Harris in the bottom of the seventh. He would allow a solo home run to lead off the inning to former Astro Tim Federowicz, then a single and a one-out walk, bringing out A.J. Hinch to move on to Ryan Pressly.

Pressly was able to get the second out quickly but would watch one of Harris' runs come in on a bad throw by Robinson Chirinos trying to catch a runner stealing second, making it an 8-6 game. He would get a strikeout to end the inning. Houston tasked Hector Rondon with the bottom of the eighth, but he would allow a two-run homer with one out to tie the game 8-8.

The Astros came up empty in the top of the ninth, so they turned to Roberto Osuna to send the game to extra innings in the bottom of the ninth. He would allow a one-out single, followed by a walk, before allowing the walk-off run as the Astros would watch their once four-run lead completely erased in the loss.

Up Next: This series will continue with another night game at 7:05 PM tomorrow. The Astros will send Wade Miley (7-4, 3.28 ERA) to the mound to try and repeat the success he's had in his last two starts (two six-inning, one-run games) and the Rangers will counter with Mike Minor (8-4, 2.54 ERA).

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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