Houston is now third in the division

Astros swept by A's as losing streak grows to five games

Astros Jose Altuve
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros Jose Altuve

With Oakland having already locked up the series victory, the Astros took the field on Sunday looking to end their road trip with a win to break their four-game losing streak and trim a game off the A's growing division lead. Here is a quick rundown of the series finale:

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 2.

Record: 6-9, third in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jesus Luzardo (1-0, 2.60 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Cristian Javier (1-1, 4.02 ERA).

Oakland knocks Javier out early

The A's were able to get to Cristian Javier early on Sunday and knock him out of the game early. After a scoreless first frame, Javier allowed a solo home run in the second, but the real damage came in the third. In the bottom of the third, he issued two walks to set up a two-out three-run home run, followed by a solo shot as Oakland would get back-to-back homers to take a 5-0 lead.

Javier would get the third out, but would not return for the fourth inning. It would take him 63 pitches to get through his three innings, with all of his hits allowed being home runs, which paired with the walks resulted in the lopsided score. His final line: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 HR.

Benches clear in the seventh

Houston tried to start a rally in the top of the next inning, getting a two-out double by Michael Brantley followed by a two-run homer by Yuli Gurriel to cut Oakland's lead to three runs at 5-2. Brandon Bailey would take over for Javier in the bottom of the fourth and worked around a lead-off walk for a scoreless inning.

Bailey stayed on the mound for the bottom of the fifth but ran into trouble by allowing a single and hitting a batter to put two on base, with one eventually coming in to score later in the inning against Andre Scrubb, who was the next reliever out. Scrubb would record a 1-2-3 sixth before Humberto Castellanos took over in the bottom of the seventh in the 6-2 game.

After one out, a pitch would get away from Castellanos and hit Ramon Laureano. After bickering occurred back and forth between Laureano and the Astros bench, Laureano would charge the dugout and prompt a full benches-clearing brawl. Once things settled down, Castellanos would finish the inning but not before the A's pushed the lead back to five runs at 7-2.

Oakland completes the sweep, Houston's losing streak extends to five 

Carlos Sanabria made his second appearance of 2020 by pitching in the bottom of the eighth. He would allow a leadoff double and two-out walk but was able to strand both runners in a scoreless inning. Houston would come up empty in the top of the ninth, giving Oakland the series sweep, extending the Astros' losing streak to five games, and pushing them down to third in the division standings.

Up Next: The Astros will travel back to Houston to start an eight-game homestand on Monday at 8:10 PM against the Giants, who sit at 7-10 on the year. Houston will send out Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1, 9.22 ERA) in the opener of the three-game set, looking to turn the page on the extremely disappointing start in Arizona, while San Francisco is expected to send out Logan Webb (1-0, 2.13 ERA).

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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