The Astros Report

A game-by-game look at the week that was for the Astros: Bullpen, bats underperform

Justin Verlander was one of the bright spots in a disappointing week. Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

This week had a little bit of everything for the Astros. Wins, losses, career-worsts, historical-bests, huge comebacks, and anticipated returns. Here's how it all shook out:

Monday, April 9th: 8-2 Astros (Justin Verlander) vs. 4-3 Twins (Lance Lynn)

The first game of the week was a cold one in Minnesota. Colder than the near-freezing temperatures during the game Monday night was the ice running in Justin Verlander's veins. After allowing a double to Joe Mauer in the bottom of the first, Verlander did not allow another hit until the sixth, where it looked like he might be in trouble. The Twins managed back-to-back hits to start the bottom of the sixth, a double and a single to put runners on the corners with no outs. Verlander locked in, though, and in dominating fashion struck out the next two batters before getting a popout to end the Twins' threat and strand the runners. Verlander would go on to finish seven complete innings, keeping the Twins scoreless on four hits and nine strikeouts. He left with a 1-0 lead thanks to an RBI single from J.D. Davis in the top of the sixth, a rare run scored as both teams struggled on offense to that point. Marwin Gonzalez added another run in the top of the eighth to make it a 2-0 lead for Houston, but it turned out to be unneeded as the bullpen trio of Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, and Ken Giles combined for the last two innings to end the shutout win.
Final Score: Astros 2, Twins 0

Tuesday, April 10th: 9-2 Astros (Dallas Keuchel) vs. 4-4 Twins (Jake Odorizzi)

After being shut out the night before, the Twins turned things around Tuesday night and got the best of a struggling Dallas Keuchel early. Keuchel struggled with his command in yet another game, giving up two runs in the bottom of the first inning, then walking in a run in the bottom of the second. Some could argue that he wasn't getting some calls down in the zone, and maybe so, but Keuchel is usually one to adjust and turn things around, and Tuesday night he couldn't make that happen. He hit the 100 pitch mark in the fourth inning, ending his night short at 4 innings pitched, 3 earned runs, 6 hits, and 4 walks. The four walks made it back-to-back games with that number, a number he only reached once all of last year. Houston was able to get a run back in the top of the second, an RBI single by Jake Marisnick which at the time made it a 2-1 game, but were unable to get anything else done on offense. The Twins added an additional run off of Joe Smith in the bottom of the eighth on their way to the win. 
Final Score: Astros 1, Twins 4

Wednesday, April 11th: 9-3 Astros (Lance McCullers Jr.) vs. 5-4 Twins (Kyle Gibson)

Wednesday afternoon's game induced a roller coaster of emotions, to say the least. After going up 1-0 in the top of the first on an RBI sacrifice fly from Carlos Correa, it looked like the Astros might be in a position to edge out another low-scoring win. That all changed when things blew up in the fourth inning. McCullers experienced quite literally the worst inning of his career as before it was all said and done he gave up three walks, three singles, a triple, and a home run to allow 8 earned runs, the most in a game for his career, and give the Twins an 8-1 lead. Things turned back the Astros way, though, as they spurred flashbacks of the Memorial Day comeback on their way to scoring seven unanswered runs between the fifth and ninth innings to tie the game 8-8. They would come up disappointingly short of finishing the comeback this year though, thanks to a walk-off home run by Max Kepler off of Brad Peacock in the bottom of the ninth to prevent extra innings and send the Astros back to Houston with a series loss and bad taste in their mouth. 
Final Score: Astros 8, Twins 9

Friday, April 13th: 4-10 Rangers (Cole Hamels)  vs. 9-4 Astros (Gerrit Cole)

Friday night marked the anticipated return of Yuli Gurriel, who followed serving his five-game suspension for his insensitive gesture in last year's World Series with a 10-day stint on the DL. Despite hitting a single in his first at-bat back in the lineup, Gurriel's return would be overshadowed by another amazing start from newcomer Gerrit Cole. Cole has a phenomenal night, pitching 7 strong innings during which he struck out a career-high 14 batters, bringing his total over his first three starts to 36, and joining Nolan Ryan as the only pitcher in history to have over eleven strikeouts in the first three starts of a season. On the other side, Cole Hamels also had a decent night but made two mistake pitches to George Springer, both hit for opposite-field solo home runs. The Rangers managed to tie the game off of Cole with two solo home runs of their own in the seventh, the only blemishes to an otherwise perfect pitching performance. The difference maker in the game came in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single by Marwin González to give the Astros a 3-2 lead, one they were able to hold on to thanks to a shutout ninth from Chris Devenski who earned the save. 
Final Score: Rangers 2, Astros 3

Saturday, April 14th: 4-11 Rangers (Mike Minor) vs. 10-4 Astros (Charlie Morton)

In another role-reversal of a highlight from last season, it was the Rangers on Saturday who overcame a five-run deficit against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. It was Charlie Morton on the mound, who looked great and on the way to an easy win after the Astros found themselves up 5-0 after a two-RBI double from Carlos Correa and a three-run homer from Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth. The Rangers trimmed the lead down to three by giving Morton his first two earned runs of the season, solo home runs in the fifth and sixth innings to make it 5-2. Despite the two runs, Morton still finished with a great line, going six innings giving up the two runs on six hits while striking out twelve. It was Brad Peacock who faltered for the second straight game, giving up three runs on two home runs to allow the Rangers to tie the game at 5-5. After a scoreless ninth, the game headed to extra innings where Will Harris was the next member of Houston's bullpen to underperform. After getting a groundout to start the inning, Harris gave up a walk, double, then an intentional walk to Adrian Beltré to load the bases before having a comebacker deflect off his glove which allowed the go-ahead run to score, giving the Rangers their sixth unanswered run which would earn them the win after the Astros failed to score in the bottom of the inning.
Final Score: Rangers 6, Astros 5

Sunday, April 15th: 5-11 Rangers (Bartolo Colon) vs. 10-5 Astros (Justin Verlander)

In the primetime game on Jackie Robinson day to close out the week, it was a showcase of pitching in a low-scoring duel. There was just one hit in the first seven innings, a solo home run by Robinson Chirinos in the top of the third off of Verlander to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Other than that, both pitchers absolutely dominated, with Colon keeping the Astros hitless and without a single baserunner through seven innings. Carlos Correa ended Colon's perfect game by working a walk in the bottom of the eighth, followed by the first hit for Houston, a double by Josh Reddick. Yuli Gurriel then tied the game 1-1 with a sac fly to score Correa, but the Astros were unable to get a go-ahead run home sending the game to the ninth tied. Chris Devenski took over in the top of the ninth, ending Verlander's great night, and worked around a two-out single to send the game to the bottom of the inning, where the Astros stranded two runners to set up extra innings for the second straight game. Hector Rondon took the mound in the top of the tenth, and much like Will Harris in Saturday's game got taken advantage of by the Rangers offense, giving up a leadoff single then ground-rule double, setting up a two-run RBI double for Chirinos to give Texas a 3-1 lead which they took to the bottom of the inning and held to win the game and take the series 2-1. 
Final Score: Rangers 3, Astros 1

Summary: After going 8-2 over the first ten games in the extended week 1, the Astros earned themselves a disappointing 2-4 record this week, losing both series that should have been very winnable to bring their record down to 10-6. Other than the early struggles of Keuchel, and the bad game on Wednesday from McCullers, the starting rotation for Houston has delivered on the hype they were given in pre-season predictions and been the bright spot so far. However, this week it was the other two parts of the game, the offense and bullpen that cost the Astros a couple of games. It is quite alarming when a starter throws double-digit strikeouts and has to sit and watch a game flip the other way due to cold bats or miserable relief appearances. No one is demanding the offense be as potent as last year in every single game, especially with this strong of a rotation limiting their need for a lot of runs, but until this bullpen catches its stride they are going to have to give them some more run support. We are back where we were at this point last year wondering when the offense will turn things around. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later because the Angels are out to a blazing fast start, and have a three-game lead in the AL West over the Astros. 

MVP of the Week - Justin Verlander

Verlander dominated in his two starts this week, with his only earned run coming by way of that solo home run in Sunday night's game. He combined for 20 strikeouts in 15 innings of work, going seven innings on Monday and eight on Sunday. He continues to be the anchor of the Astros rotation that can keep games within reach while the offense finds their rhythm. 

This Week: 

  • Mon-Thu: Astros (10-6) @ Mariners (8-5)
  • Fri-Sat: Astros (10-6) @ White Sox (4-8)

The Astros get a chance for a morale boost as they head to Seattle for a four-game series where they historically perform very well. However, the Mariners have gotten out to a decent start this year, sitting at 8-5. Then, they'll finish the week in Chicago for a three-game set against the White Sox who sit at 4-8, setting up a full week on the road. 

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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