Astros weekly report

Astros have a disappointing 2-4 week as division lead shrinks

Marwin Gonzalez was a lone bright spot in a rough week. Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The Astros had to combat multiple injuries and setbacks this week to try and keep their momentum going and hold down an AL West lead. Here's how things unfolded:

Monday, August 6th: 71-42 Astros (Charlie Morton) vs. 57-56 Giants (Dereck Rodriguez)

To kick off the week on Monday night in San Francisco, the two teams received solid performances from their starting pitchers, both going the first five innings scoreless. The Giants would break the tie with a two-out solo homer off of Charlie Morton to go up 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Despite the run, Morton would finish with a great line, going seven strong with just the one run allowed on three hits, suffering from an injury-laden lineup unable to give him run support to get him a win. Roberto Osuna made his controversial debut in the bottom of the eighth, a quick scoreless inning to keep the score at 1-0.  The Astros would work two walks in the top of the ninth, setting up Marwin Gonzalez for a huge three-run homer to put the Astros up 3-1 and make the difference in the game. Hector Rondon came on in the bottom of the ninth for the save, which he completed to start the week off with a surprising come-from-behind win for Houston. 
Final Score: Astros 3, Giants 1

Tuesday, August 7th: 72-42 Astros (Dallas Keuchel) vs. 57-57 Giants (Madison Bumgarner) 

In the afternoon game on Tuesday, the Giants once again struck first, getting a run on two hits off of Dallas Keuchel in the bottom of the second, going up 1-0 early. Outside of that early run, Keuchel matched up with Madison Bumgarner well, going six strong innings allowing just the one run on three hits while striking out five, while Bumgarner kept the Astros off the board for seven innings. Once Bumgarner was out, the Astros finally mounted some offense in the eighth, getting a leadoff double from Marwin Gonzalez who would come around to score on a two-run home run by Tyler White to go up 2-1. They'd hold on to that lead thanks to another good outing from the bullpen including Tony Sipp and Joe Smith combining for the seventh, Collin McHugh and Ryan Pressly combining for the eighth, then Hector Rondon notching another save in the ninth to complete the mini-sweep in San Fransisco. 
Final Score: Astros 2, Giants 1

Thursday, August 9th: 65-50 Mariners (James Paxton) vs. 73-42 Astros (Justin Verlander)

Back at home Thursday night, things could not have gone much worse for Justin Verlander to start the game. Seattle jumped all over him, scoring three runs in the first and three runs in the second including three home runs to go up 6-0 after just two innings. To make matters worse, Verlander would get ejected from the game allegedly arguing a balk call against him during that span. That set up a long night for the bullpen, which other than Will Harris who allowed two more runs in the sixth, did well to keep the Mariners at bay the rest of the night. Houston's offense didn't go down without a fight, getting two runs from a single by Marwin Gonzalez in the third, two from a Tony Kemp single in the sixth, then two runs from Tyler White, one on an RBI double in the seventh and a solo home run in the ninth. Though they chipped away, the big lead from Seattle would be too much to overcome, allowing the Mariners to take the opening game of the series.
Final Score: Mariners 8, Astros 6

Friday, August 10th: 66-50 Mariners (Mike Leake) vs. 73-43 Astros (Gerrit Cole)

Friday night's game started out as a pitching battle, with both starting pitchers going through the first four innings scoreless. Gerrit Cole was cruising, getting inning after inning of quick outs, putting him in a great pitch count throughout the game. He would finally get some run support in the fifth, an RBI single from Tony Kemp to start the scoring, followed immediately by an RBI double by Alex Bregman to make it 2-0. Seattle would answer right back, though, with two runs of their own off of Cole in the top of the sixth, tying the game 2-2. Cole looked to bounce back and still be in control, getting through an easy seventh and heading back to the mound for the eighth still with a low pitch count. He would allow back-to-back one-out hits, though, prompting a call to the bullpen for Ryan Pressly. Pressly would hit his first batter, loading the bases to set up a two-RBI double to give Seattle a 4-2 lead and give Cole two more earned runs. The Mariners would tack on one more before the inning was done, going up 5-2 which would be the final after Houston would go hitless in the last two innings.
Final Score: Mariners 5, Astros 2

Saturday, August 11th: 67-50 Mariners (Wade LeBlanc) vs. 73-44 Astros (Charlie Morton)

Down 2-0 in the four-game weekend series with Seattle, the Astros would look to keep a split in play on Saturday night. Tyler White helped the cause, keeping his recent hot streak going with a two-RBI single to put Houston up 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning. After an easy first three innings for Morton and a quick double play to get two outs in the fourth, the Mariners would string together four consecutive two-out hits to score three runs and take a 3-2 lead. Morton would bounce back and finish six innings, but the damage was done, and too much for Houston's poor offense at home to overcome, as they would be held scoreless over the final seven innings of the game, allowing the Mariners to lock up the series win and keep chipping away at the AL West lead.
Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2

Sunday, August 12th: 68-50 Mariners (Erasmo Ramirez) vs. 73-45 Astros (Dallas Keuchel) 

Looking to avoid the four-game sweep, the Astros looked to get some offense going and get another good start from Dallas Keuchel to end the week on a high note. Instead, they found themselves in a 1-0 hole in the second inning after a leadoff walk and passed ball resulted in a run scoring on an RBI single. Houston had their chances, including loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth but would come out empty handed after a strikeout by Kyle Tucker and double play grounded in to by Martin Maldonado. Despite the one unearned run in the second, Keuchel was looking sharp, getting a ton of groundballs and keeping his pitch count under control through six innings. Keuchel was back out in the seventh with his pitch count nearing 100 pitches, and though he'd get through the inning and finish with 112 pitches, the Mariners tagged him with a solo homer to extend their lead to 2-0. Keuchel would finish with seven innings, two runs on six hits, five strikeouts, and in typical Keuchel fashion twelve groundball outs. The Astros offense threatened again in the bottom of the eighth, getting the first two batters on with no outs, and after an out finally got on the board with an RBI single by Alex Bregman, cutting the lead in half at 2-1. Carlos Correa was next and poked a ball into right field on a check swing that scored the tying run, and also made it his first hit in his three games back from the DL. Evan Gattis was up after Correa and came through with a sac fly to give the Astros their first lead of the game, 3-2. They took the lead to the top of the ninth, giving the ball to Hector Rondon for another save opportunity, but down to their last out the Mariners tied the game on a solo home run. Unable to walk it off in the bottom of the inning, the game went to extras, where the Mariners would get the go-ahead run off of Roberto Osuna in the tenth on their way to the win.
Final Score: Mariners 4, Astros 3

Summary

After starting the week strong with two clutch wins for the two-game sweep of the Giants, the Astros returned home only to get swept in four games by the Mariners. All told, a 2-4 week with Oakland and Seattle nipping at Houston's heels is putting the Astros in a much different situation than they were last year when they locked up the division in mid-September. There is still a lot of baseball games to be played, and the lineup this week was far from the best Houston will put out this year, but you still expect the Astros to at least get a couple of wins against the Mariners at home. One good thing that came out of the games at home this weekend was Carlos Correa's return to the lineup. Other than his lucky check-swing RBI for his one hit, he has not yet contributed much at the plate, but it has definitely been an improvement on the defensive side to have him back at shortstop. He'll get his timing back and be contributing to the offense soon enough, but it just goes to show you that missing time and getting players out of their rhythm takes time to overcome. Because of that, it's becoming more and more important to get Altuve back on the field as soon as he's able because, aside from the obvious immediate concern of the dwindling AL West lead, they're going to need all their guys firing on all cylinders for September and hopefully deep into October. 

Co-MVPs of the Week: Marwin Gonzalez & Tyler White

The offense this week was definitely disappointing as a whole for the week, but two guys that did their part were Marwin Gonzalez and Tyler White. Gonzalez went 9-for-24 for a .375 average with five RBIs including the clutch three-run homer that won the game on Monday. White was also in the mix going 6-for-21 on the week and driving in six runs including two home runs. The duo combined to drive in eleven of Houston's eighteen runs this week. 

This Week:

  • Tue-Wed: (63-55) Rockies @ (73-46) Astros
  • Fri- Sun: (73-46) Astros @ (70-48) A's

The Astros will have a day off Monday before two more games at home, a two-game series against the Rockies who are in the mix of the highly-contested NL West, sitting just 1.5 games back of the Dodgers who they just took 3 out of 4 from over the weekend. The Astros and Rockies split the first two games of this four-game season series in Colorado just a few weeks ago. Houston gets another day off on Thursday to travel to Oakland where they will face the A's for a weekend series that could potentially be for the AL West lead. The A's have been on a tear recently, winning 8 of their last 10. The Astros will have to pull a winning week out, and ideally, a series win in Oakland, in order to turn the tide on recent struggles and build some momentum. 

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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