Houston's bullpen struggles again

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

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 5-3 loss
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After a humiliating loss on Tuesday to even the series with Oakland and leave their magic number stagnant, Houston was back in action Wednesday night trying to get back in the win column. Here is a recap of the third of four games in this series with the A's:

Final Score: A's 5, Astros 3.

Record: 95-52, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Anderson (12-9, 4.07 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Josh James (5-1, 5.20 ERA).

1) Urquidy fills in with a great start


With Miley lasting just one out the night before with the bullpen filling the other 26, and Wednesday already slated to be a bullpen day, Houston looked to Jose Urquidy to cover as many innings as possible. He met the call in a significant way, tossing a great game to keep his team in position to win.

Urquidy was sharp and efficient, only allowing one hit and one walk over his five innings of work while recording double-digit strikeouts. Although the one hit was a game-tying solo home run in the fourth inning, it was still a terrific start. His final line: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 1 HR.

2) Oakland pulls ahead in the sixth


Urquidy would leave in line for the win after his offense gave him a 2-1 lead. The first run came by way of a dinger by George Springer, a solo shot in the bottom of the third to put Houston ahead 1-0 at the time. After Oakland tied the game 1-1 in the top half of the fourth, Houston regained the lead in the bottom half with Yordan Alvarez reaching on an infield single then scoring on an RBI-double by Aledmys Diaz, making it a 2-1 Astros advantage.

Josh James took over for Urquidy to start the sixth inning, but like many of Houston's pitchers the day before would struggle with Oakland's batters. He allowed three runs without recording an out before Houston would move on to another pitcher. Joe Smith would get out of the inning, but not without allowing a fourth run to extend Oakland's lead to 5-2.

3) Houston gets one run back, but come up short

Houston got one of those runs back in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out solo home run by Martin Maldonado, trimming the lead to two runs at 5-3. Hector Rondon was the next reliever out for Houston and was able to work around a one-out walk to toss a scoreless frame.

Will Harris pitched the top of the eighth and although he battled against a double and a walk, was able to keep Oakland from extending their lead. With the Astros unable to score in the seventh or eighth, the sent Bryan Abreu to the mount in the ninth to try and keep it a two-run game and give them a chance to walk it off in the bottom half.

Abreu looked great, getting a couple of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning. Houston would come up empty in the bottom half, dropping the game and giving Oakland a 2-1 advantage in the four-game series.

Up Next: The final game in this series will be Thursday night with another 7:10 PM start. The Astros will look to Justin Verlander (18-5, 2.52 ERA) for another gem to split the series with a win, while Oakland will send Homer Bailey (12-8, 4.87 ERA) to the mound.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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Following Houston's 6-4 road trip, the Astros returned home to finish the first "half" of the season before the All Star break hosting Florida and Texas. Houston's road trip was filled with clutch performances in New York, dominance in taking 3 of 4 in Toronto, and a dose of close calls and tough realities with a short-handed team against Minnesota.

Now the Astros hope to take care of business against the lowly Marlins and division rival Rangers. The Texas series, in particular gives Houston the opportunity to reassert their hold on the #2 spot ahead of the Rangers who have won their last 5 games in a row (as of the time this was published). Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and hope to catch a free-falling Seattle team to overtake the division lead.

Dana Brown told the media last week he expects both Justin Verlander and Kyle Tucker to be reactivated following the All-Star break but Tucker's updates continue to be more promising than Verlander's and MUCH more promising than Lance McCullers. Astros manager informed the media this week that McCullers has been shut down from throwing after his arm did not respond well to his recent bullpen sessions and the team is formulating the plan for what's next for the embattled pitcher. McCullers hasn't pitched since the 2022 postseason and underwent season-ending flexor tendon surgery last June. McCullers is under contract with Houston until 2026.

An eventual return for Kyle Tucker would spur a juggling act from Joe Espada to find a proper balance of time for all his outfielders, none of which have separated themselves offensively. Chas McCormick had a great month of June recording an .804 OPS but that run looks more like an anomaly as his scuffles have continued over the past 2.5 weeks, recording just 4 hits over his last 32 plate appearances.

While Jake Meyers has wowed fans and teammates with his glove this season, his offense has hit a skid, hitting just .184 with a .565 OPS over the past month. After rookie Joey Loperfido's torrid debut, he too has struggled with the bat, hitting just .216 with .599 OPS over the same time period.

An unexpected bright spot has been the recent play of first baseman Jon Singleton. Over the last 4 weeks, "Big Jon" is batting .302 with an .802 OPS. It's worth mentioning that Singleton's season numbers are better than Florida's Josh Bell, who drew interest from Astros fans over the past several seasons as a potential answer at first base. Bell has 135 more ABs this season so its not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but there's no doubt Singleton's contributions were sorely needed following the release of Jose Abreu.

To watch part 1 of this week's episode of Stone Cold StrosStone Cold Stros, just click the video above or to listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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