Houston's performance on the road in 2019 has not matched recent years
Have the Astros lost their edge on the road?
Despite an amazing comeback attempt that came up just short on Sunday, the loss dropped them below .500 on the road in 2019. Although overall the Astros are still in decent shape overall at 13-8 after 21 games, their recent struggles to win games on the road, especially this past weekend in Arlington, are something to take note of. Houston is 7-8 away from Minute Maid Park so far this season, a record that, if kept at that pace, could spell disaster for the Astros' season.
One of the trademarks of the excellent 2017 and 2018 campaigns was their success on the road. In 2017 they went 53-28 (.654 winning percentage) and in 2018 they did even better, going 57-24 (.704 winning percentage). The current pace of .467 would have them finishing a terrible 38-43 on the road, which would simply be too much to overcome even with a great record at home.
It Starts with Pitching
Other than Justin Verlander who is 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA on the road, the rest of the rotation has shown unease as visiting pitchers, with Gerrit Cole (1-3, 5.64 ERA), Collin McHugh (1-2, 6.91 ERA) and Wade Miley (0-2, 4.50 ERA) all posting some concerning numbers playing away. We saw two of the biggest offenders of this in Cole and McHugh's dreadful starts in Arlington this past weekend where they combined for 17 earned runs over just seven and two-thirds innings. Luckily, the bullpen has been relatively strong both at home or on the road, something they'll need to continue for the rest of the year.
Hot and Cold Offense
Despite a few high run totals in some big games on the road, the Astros currently sit at a +6 run differential as the away team in fifteen games, a considerable gap from the +14 they have after just six home games. In addition, after being at the top of the charts on offensive runs per game in away games in 2017 and 2018 by averaging over 5 runs per game, it's been a slower, though not terrible, offensive start on the road for the Astros in 2019, averaging 4.13 runs, a number which itself was just largely boosted with the ten runs on Sunday afternoon in the loss to the Rangers. The offense will need to find a more steady and consistent rhythm to make sure they aren't wasting good starts from their pitchers and are able to back up a starter who may have a slightly poor day.
Have to Win Division Matchups
It's one thing to lose three of four against the Rays to start the season, but the Astros will have to take control of their division series this season to ensure that a team within their division doesn't make their playoff position harder or even nonexistent. Houston looked great when they went to Seattle and swept the Mariners, but splitting with the A's in Oakland and going 2-4 against the Rangers in Arlington could spell trouble if they don't flip the script on those teams in the remaining matchups this season.
Small, Road-Heavy Sample Size
All the above being said, it's still just been 15 of 81 road games they will play this season, and on top of that, the team can be given some benefit of the doubt of being road-weary considering only six of their first twenty-one games have been at home. This could all easily be a temporary dark spot on their record that they erase with a couple of great road trips before we even get to the halfway point in the season. I'm willing to bet they shrug off these recent road woes and get it back on track.