Houston snaps losing streak

Astros split doubleheader with A's to end six-game skid

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Currently suffering a five-game losing streak, the Astros needed a strong showing on Tuesday with a doubleheader against the division-leading A's to try and right their ship. One positive to start the day was that they had Alex Bregman back in the lineup. Here is how the two games unfolded:

Game 1

Final Score (7 innings): A's 4, Astros 2.

Record: 21-21, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Frankie Montas (3-3, 5.73 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.27 ERA).

Greinke give up four runs in his first loss of 2020

Zack Greinke looked sharp in the first two innings of the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader, retiring the first six batters he faced. His night would turn in the top of the third when Khris Davis would launch a solo home run to start the inning before an RBI-single later in the same frame made it a 2-0 Oakland lead.

Greinke had a clean fourth and worked around a leadoff double in the fifth, but would allow two more runs in the top of the sixth, giving him four earned runs, the most he's allowed in a start this season. That would earn him his first loss of 2020. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 92 P.

Brantley's home run not enough

While the Astros would get hits in six of the seven innings of the game, they would be far enough between to keep them from putting anything together. Their lone offensive highlight was a game-tying two-run home run by Michael Brantley in the bottom of the fifth, scoring George Springer, who reached on a single earlier in the inning.

The A's would get those two runs back in the very next inning, and Houston would be unable to do any more damage, handing Oakland another win and another game in the division. The loss extended the losing streak to 6 games and moved them to .500 on the year and 5.5 games back in the division.

Game 2

Final Score (7 innings): Astros 5, A's 4.

Record: 22-21, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (2-2, 3.45 ERA).

Losing pitcher: J.B. Wendelken (1-1, 1.45 ERA).

Teams trade four-run innings

Houston turned to Chase De Jong to start their bullpen day in game two of the doubleheader. After two impressive innings, the A's would figure him out in the third, scoring four runs on four hits, including a sacrifice fly and three-run home run by Matt Olson, grabbing an early 4-0 lead.

Luckily for Houston, the A's would hand them a gift in the top of the fourth. After back-to-back singles to start the inning, Kyle Tucker worked a walk to load the bases. Carlos Correa would earn an RBI the hard way after being hit by a pitch to bring in the first run, then Oakland would walk in two more before a game-tying infield single by George Springer to make it a 4-4 game.

Houston wins game two to end their six-game skid

Brad Peacock entered the game in the bottom of the fourth and would face three batters, getting two outs while allowing a ground-rule double before Brooks Raley would come in to finish the inning with the third out. Raley would return for a 1-2-3 fifth before retiring one more batter to start the bottom of the sixth. Enoli Paredes was next out of Houston's bullpen, and despite loading the bases, he would get out of the jam to keep it knotted up 4-4.

Houston would grab their first lead of the night in the top of the seventh. They loaded the bases with no outs after an error, walk, and single, setting up an RBI-sac fly by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4. Oakland would limit the damage there, though, sending the one-run game to the bottom of the seventh. That meant a save opportunity for Ryan Pressly. He would convert it, retiring Oakland 1-2-3, ending Houston's six-game skid and splitting the doubleheader to move back up one game in the division standings.

Up Next: This five-game series rolls on Wednesday with game four at 8:10 PM Central. Luis Garcia (0-0, 2.08 ERA), who impressed in his major-league debut last week, will get the nod as Houston's starter while Oakland will send Jesus Luzardo (2-2, 4.23 ERA) to the mound.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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