Houston's offense comes up empty

Astros stymied at the plate again as Mariners get shutout win to take series

Astros' Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi cruised through the first five innings against the Mariners before his day ended in the sixth on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Jake Odorizzi cruised through the first five innings against the Mariners before his day ended in the sixth on Wednesday.

With a shutout loss in the middle game on Tuesday night, with the decisive blow coming from their former teammate on a grand slam, the Astros tried to rebound with a stronger performance on Wednesday to take the rubber game and get the series victory. It would end up being nearly the same result, though, as they'd get held scoreless, and Seattle would get the winning run off the bat of Abraham Toro.

Final Score: Mariners 1, Astros 0

Astros' Record: 78-55, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Justus Sheffield (6-8)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (6-7)

Toro breaks a scoreless tie again

As in the game the night prior, both teams remained scoreless through much of Wednesday's finale. Seattle's starter, Logan Gilbert, kept the Astros' offense at bay by limiting them to four hits over five innings of work. Jake Odorizzi looked as though he would last longer, allowing just three baserunners through the first five innings on just one hit, a walk, and a hit by pitch.

He returned in the bottom of the sixth, but after allowing a leadoff single followed by a walk, he would hand the ball to Dusty Baker, who called in Phil Maton. Maton would get one out before loading the bases on a walk, bringing up Abraham Toro, who hit a sac fly to get the Mariners on the board, the first run of the day to make it 1-0. Maton would get out of the inning without allowing any more damage, finalizing Odorizzi's line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 87 P.

Astros shut out again as Mariners take the series

Yimi Garcia was next out of Houston's bullpen, coming in for the bottom of the seventh, and faced three batters, recording two outs while allowing a single. Blake Taylor entered to get the final out of the inning to move the game on to the top of the eighth. Houston had a chance, getting the tying run to second base, but would get turned away again as Seattle held on to their 1-0 lead.

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever, and he worked around a walk to post a scoreless inning, bringing up Houston's last chance to tie or go in front in the top of the ninth. They again put the tying run in scoring position, getting back-to-back one-out singles, but would strand it there as the Mariners would shut them out again to take the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will travel to San Diego before a day off on Thursday. On Friday, they'll pick up the last leg of this road trip, a three-game set with the Padres starting at 9:10 PM Central. Jose Urquidy (6-3, 3.38 ERA) will make his return from the IL for Houston, while San Diego's starter has not yet been announced.

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It's not time to panic, yet. Composite Getty Image.

This is not a column for fanboys or sugarcoating. To this point in the season the Astros stink like rotten eggs. They stink like Angel Hernandez’s umpiring. They stink like Bill O'Brien's general manager skills. The Astros are a bad team right now. That’s notably different from being a bad team. Their 4-10 record is well-earned and it is definitely possible that the Astros’ run of high quality and annual playoff appearances crashes and burns this season. But it’s laughable to declare so after just 14 games of the 162 scheduled have been played.

Last June the Astros had a lousy window in which they went 3-10. In August they had a 4-8 funk. In September it was a 3-9 stretch of collapse. The 2022 World Series Champions had a 3-8 hiccup in April, and a 2-6 blotch overlapping July and August that included getting swept in a three-game series by the then and now awful Oakland A’s.

Now the Astros are back home (Oh No!) for six games, three vs. the Rangers then three with the Braves. The Rangers lead the American League West but are just 7-6, so despite their cellar-dwelling status, the Astros are just three and a half games out of first. A winning homestand is obviously the goal. No, really. 3-3 would be ok, even though that would just about clinch a losing record heading into May.

Mandatory aside: spectacular weather is the Friday night forecast. Stop being stubborn and lame, Astros. Open the roof! I don’t mean just for the postgame fireworks.

On the mend?

The Astros’ track record of downplaying pitching injuries that turned out to be major certainly causes angst as we await Framber Valdez’s return from a sore elbow. If Valdez ultimately winds up out for months, the Astros’ starting rotation is in deep trouble. Even more so if upon the approaching delayed start to his season, 41-year-old Justin Verlander pitches to his age in terms of results and/or durability. However, if Valdez is ok within a month and JV is solid, those two, and Cristian Javier can stabilize the rotation quite nicely.

The Astros started three guys in the last four games who belong in the minor leagues. It was a sad sign of the times that the Astros were reduced to calling up Blair Henley to make the start Monday in Arlington. Except for Rangers fans and Astros haters, it grew uncomfortable watching Henley give up four hits, walk three, record just one out, and wind up charged with seven earned runs. But it’s not Henley’s fault that he was thrust into a role for which he was utterly unqualified.

Last season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Henley’s earned run average was 5.06. Because of the crummy state of the Astros’ farm system, Henley failed up to Triple-A Sugar Land to start this season. After one not good start for the Space Cowboys, “Hey, go get out big leaguers Blair!” Henley turns 27 next month, he is not a prospect of any note. If he never again pitches in the majors Henley forever carries a 135.00 ERA.

But you know what? It was still a great day for the guy. Even if undeserved, Henley made “The Show.” For one day on the Astros’ 26-man roster, Henley made over four thousand dollars. To make him eligible for call up, the Astros first had to put Henley on their 40-man roster and sign him to a split contract. That means that until/unless the Astros release him, Henley’s AAA salary jumps from approximately $36,000 for the season to over 60K.

Lastly, while Henley’s ERA could remain 135.00 in perpetuity, at least he’s no Fred Bruckbauer. In 1961 Bruckbauer made his big league debut and bade his big league farewell in the same game. He faced four batters, giving up three earned runs on three hits and one walk. Career ERA: Infinity! Bruckbauer is the most recent of the more than a dozen pitchers to retire with the infinity ERA.

Spencer Arrighetti’s debut start went much better. For two innings, before it unraveled in a seven run Royals third. Arrighetti has good stuff, but not great stuff. Control has been an issue for him in the minor leagues. Without better command Arrighetti cannot be a plus starter in the majors.

Then there’s Hunter Brown. We could go decades without seeing another pitcher give up nine runs and 11 hits in two-thirds of an inning as Brown did Thursday. It had never happened in MLB history! To this point, Brown is an overhyped hope. ERA last July: 5.92, August: 6.23, September 1 on: 8.74. Three starts into 2024: 16.43.

Jose Abreu watch

It's still early enough in the season that even just a couple of big games can markedly improve a stat line but Jose Abreu continues to look washed up at the plate. Three hits in 37 at bats (.081 batting average), with the most recent hit a questionable official scoring decision. Manager Joe Espada has already dropped Abreu from fifth in the lineup to sixth, then seventh, then eighth. Two more slots down to go, Joe! Continuing to act like Jon Singleton could be a competent bat in the lineup is just silly though.

Catch the weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week now generally goes up after Sunday’s game (second part released Tuesday, sometimes a third part Wednesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTubewith the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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