Astros drop series opener against the Cardinals

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 5-3 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After closing out their recent homestand by winning a rubber game against the A's on Wednesday afternoon, the Astros took to the road to start a six-game stretch as visitors. First up was a weekend series against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Here is how the opener went:

Final Score: Cardinals 5, Astros 3.

Record: 66-39, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Andrew Miller (4-4, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (2-2, 2.03 ERA).

1) Correa is back

Friday night's game ended the Astros' 50-game stretch without their starting shortstop, Carlos Correa. He was back on the field and in the lineup for the series opener, and he saw some action right away defensively, fielding a few groundballs and showing off his arm strength for a few throws to first.

He would not generate the first highlight on offense, though, as that honor would go to Michael Brantley. After a one-out walk by Alex Bregman, Brantley took advantage by launching a two-run homer to put Houston on the board and in front 2-0.

2) Another quality start for Urquidy

Jose Urquidy, who had a surprisingly good seven-inning one-run start against the Rangers his last time on the mound, provided an excellent follow-up against the surging Cardinals. He allowed just one run, which came in the fourth inning after he allowed three singles in what would be his worst inning of the night.

Otherwise, he was efficient and avoided too many high-leverage situations. He went on to complete six innings while allowing just the one run, making it back-to-back quality starts. Urquidy's final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 0 HR.

3) Houston's bullpen unable to hold up

Unfortunately, though Urquidy would leave in position for the win, Will Harris would allow a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Harris would complete that inning, then would be pinch-hit for by Yordan Alvarez who drilled a one-out double to put Houston in scoring position.

They went on to load the bases with two outs, bringing up Michael Brantley who notched his third RBI of the night, a walk to bring in the go-ahead run. Correa was up next with the bases still loaded but would strikeout to leave all three runners stranded.

Ryan Pressly was next out of Houston's bullpen, but he would have a forgetful inning. He allowed two baserunners then a three-run homer to lead off the inning and give the Cardinals their first lead of the night at 5-3. He would exit without recording an out with Chris Devenski coming in to replace him.

Devenski worked around a walk and a single to get through the eighth, sending the two-run game to the ninth. In the ninth, Houston would not be able to make a comeback, starting the series with a loss.

Up Next: Game two of this series between the Astros and Cardinals will be tomorrow at 6:15 PM and will be nationally televised on FS1. The pitching matchup will be MLB strikeout leader Gerrit Cole (11-5, 3.03 ERA) for Houston going against Daniel Ponce de Leon (1-0, 2.82 ERA) for St. Louis.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

Houston Astros/Facebook

The Astros had a bad 4-6 road trip and looked forward to getting home to Minute Maid Park where they have been dominant this season. The pitiful Detroit Tigers arrived in Houston with a record since the All Star Break of nine wins and 27 losses. They literally do not have one non-pitcher who would make a healthy Astros' roster. That includes the way over the hill sure fire Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Splitting four games at home with the Tigers would have been a fail. The Astros did not fail, though "only" taking three out of four seems a little disappointing. The S.S. Astros Good Ship Lollipop has sprung a couple of leaks. Neither that can't be plugged with good health, but the Astros have two notable health issues.

Carlos Correa's next endorsement deal should be for peanut brittle, emphasis not on the peanut. Some guys just have a propensity toward getting injured. Unfortunately the Correa resume grows that he is one of those guys. That back problems have resurfaced is troubling, to no one more so than Correa himself. It's clear the guy loves the game and is spectacularly talented, but durability is one component of greatness and to this point Correa simply has not demonstrated durability. If he can't produce a fully healthy bigtime season or two in the next year or two, any visions of a Manny Machado-like 10 year 300 million dollar contract will be up in smoke. Still, Correa turns only 25 years old next month so there's time to prove sturdiness, but more sand has seeped through the hourglass. For the 2019 Astros the dropdown is huge from Correa at shortstop to either Miles Straw or Aledmys Diaz being in the lineup. As for 2020, please tell anyone saying the Astros should trade Correa to be quiet.

The loss of Ryan Pressly for most if not all of the rest of the regular season is a big blow to the bullpen. Of even bigger concern is whether he can get back and get sharp to start the postseason.

This doesn't mean the ship is sinking. The Astros enter the weekend just one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League, and the Astros own the tiebreaker (having won the season series 4-3). They are three back of the Dodgers for best in MLB, the Astros have a three game lead in the tiebreaker with LA (intradivision record). The Yankees play at the Dodgers this weekend so if you're a glass half full person: a Dodger or Yankee loss is guaranteed three days in a row! If you're glass half empty: a Dodger or Yankee win is guaranteed three days in a row!

NFL on the horizon

A little over 2 weeks until the Texans begin their 18th season of play in the National Football League. We've all heard the saying, the 18th time is the charm. So is this the season the Texans are finally a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Probably not. The Texans do not look like a notably improved football team. On paper their schedule is clearly more difficult than last season's. Within the AFC the Chiefs clearly have more overall talent and are better coached. The Patriots still exist. One of these years Tom Brady really will slip. Maybe at age 42 this is the season.

If Jadeveon Clowney opts to sit out, or is traded, anyone thinking he won't be missed, is wrong. Clowney is not a superstar but he's really good. The Texans will be easier to run on without him. And while not an elite pass rusher, Clowney has to be accounted for. Anyone thinking, ah, he's hurt all the time anyway…wrong again. Clowney missed one game last season, and the season before that he played in every game.

If you want a couple of reasons for plausible optimism, here you go. Coming off of last season Deshaun Watson does not rate as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. He could well vault into that echelon this season. The Texans' offensive line remains something between a question mark and a glaring weakness, but really, can it be worse than it was the last couple of seasons? DeAndre Hopkins is about as good as it gets today at wide receiver, the same for J.J. Watt at defensive end though the clock is ticking down on his prime.

The Texans probably begin their season by losing at New Orleans. On the other hand the Buccaneers started their 5-11 2018 season by beating the 13-3 to be Saints in New Orleans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Connor McGregor pitches some "number 12" brand of whisky. As a human being he seems much more a piece of number two. 2. Two peas in a pitching pod: Justin Verlander 15-5, 2.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts. Gerrit Cole 15-5, 2.75 ERA, 238 strikeouts. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans


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