THE ASTROS REPORT
A game-by-game look at the week that was for the Astros: Disappointing week starts with tough series against Yankees
The Astros had two playoff-caliber series this week, including an ALCS rematch with the Yankees hot off of a nine-game winning streak. How'd they do? Let's find out:
Monday, April 30: 18-9 Yankees (Sonny Gray) vs. 19-10 Astros (Charlie Morton)
After a quick top of the inning from Charlie Morton, the Astros took advantage of a leadoff hit from George Springer to score the first run of the game after a balk moved him to second, an Altuve groundout moved him to third, then an RBI groundout from Carlos Correa scored him to make it a 1-0 game early. Things remained relatively quiet after that until an RBI double from Yuli Gurriel extended Houston's lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, though they stranded the bases loaded to end that same inning to leave potential runs off the board. Turns out they didn't need many runs, though, as Charlie Morton rebounded from his previous bad start to dominate the Yankees lineup over seven and two-thirds two-hit innings of commanding pitching, including some highlight reel motion to his curveball. One of those hits came in the eighth inning and ended up resulting in a run. however, after a walk by Brad Peacock and a single by Chris Devenski allowed the Yankees to trim the lead to 2-1. Devenski stopped the damage there, though, setting up Ken Giles for the high-leverage save in the ninth for the series-opener win to end the Yankees nine-game winning streak.
Final Score: Yankees 1, Astros 2
Tuesday, May 1: 18-10 Yankees (Jordan Montgomery) vs. 20-10 Astros (Justin Verlander)
Tuesday's game was a low-scoring matchup with Justin Verlander dealing, and the Yankees having to scramble some pitchers together. Jordan Montgomery started for the Yankees but was pulled after the first inning due to an elbow issue, bringing in Domingo German who held the Astros scoreless in his four innings of work. He was followed by four Yankees pitchers who came out of the bullpen to keep the Astros scoreless for their second shutout of the year. Verlander did all he could do, going eight amazing innings while striking out fourteen batters before watching Ken Giles blow the game in the top of the ninth on back-to-back hits to start the inning before a three-run homer to Gary Sanchez to give the Yankees the first three runs of the game. Giles would allow one more baserunner before A.J. Hinch had seen enough, bringing in Will Harris, who allowed Giles' fourth run to score on a wild pitch to make it 4-0, which would hold until the end as the offense was held scoreless to waste a terrific start by Verlander.
Final Score: Yankees 4, Astros 0
Wednesday, May 2: 19-10 Yankees (Luis Severino) vs. 20-11 Astros (Dallas Keuchel)
Wednesday night's game was all Yankees. There isn't a whole lot to break down with this game; Keuchel was for the most part decent; he pitched seven innings, induced 10 groundouts and 5 strikeouts, but there was no denying Giancarlo Stanton. After a two-out single by Didi Gregorius in the top of the first, Stanton put one over the wall to make it a quick 2-0 Yankee advantage. In his next AB in the fourth, he took Keuchel deep again, making it 3-0. He made it a 4-RBI night with a double in the eighth, extending the lead to 4-0. That 4-0 lead held to the end as a result of a great performance by Luis Severino who succeeded in a complete game shutout as the Astros were held scoreless in back-to-back games for the first time since July of 2013.
Final Score: Yankees 4, Astros 0
Thursday, May 3: 20-10 Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) vs. 20-12 Astros (Lance McCullers Jr.)
In the afternoon game to end the series on Thursday, things continued to look bleak for the Astros on offense to start the game. They managed just three hits during the first six innings, while New York took advantage of a bad inning from Lance McCullers in the second to take a 2-0 lead then extended that to 3-0 in the third. McCullers fought back, though, getting past the fourth through seventh innings without any more hits or runs. Houston's offense finally showed some strength in the bottom of the seventh, taking a 4-3 lead after RBIs from Marwin Gonzalez, Brian McCann, George Springer, and Alex Bregman scoring from third on a passed ball. Carlos Correa extended the lead to 5-3 with a monster solo home run in the eighth, but the bullpen would spoil the day. Will Harris came on for the eighth, loading the bases with no outs on a couple of singles and walk, resulting in a call for Brad Peacock to try and get out of the mess. Peacock wouldn't fare much better, giving up a two-run single to his first batter to tie the game, then an RBI groundout to Aaron Judge to give the Yankees a 6-5 lead. Despite getting two runners on base with two-outs against New York closer Aroldis Chapman, the Astros would be unable to capitalize, failing to split the series and instead allowed the Yankees take the series 3-1.
Final Score: Yankees 6, Astros 5
Friday, May 4: 20-13 Astros (Geritt Cole) vs. 21-10 Diamondbacks (Kris Medlen)
After the heartbreak and frustration of the last three losses, Friday night's game was a breath of fresh air for Astros fans. Houston absolutely dominated the game, with the highlight being a masterpiece by Gerrit Cole. Cole dominated on the mound, striking out 16 batters and completing the game with just one hit allowed. The 16 strikeouts were a career high for Cole and put him in a tie for the second-most strikeouts in an Astros start ever, and the first 15+ strikeout game since Randy Johnson had 16 himself in August of 1998. Cole had plenty of run support, too, as Houston's bats had a hot game and strung together eight runs led by Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa who both had three-RBI games. Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick also had RBIs in the lopsided shutout.
Final Score: Astros 8, Diamondbacks 0
Saturday, May 5: 21-13 Astros (Charlie Morton) vs. 21-11 Diamondbacks (Zack Greinke)
The Diamondbacks avoided another shutout early in Saturday's game, taking advantage of Charlie Morton who struggled early with his command. Morton walked the bases loaded to start the game, but limited the damage to just one run on a sacrifice fly. However, Arizona would extend its lead to 2-0 with a solo home run by David Peralta in the second. George Springer cut the lead in half with a solo bomb in the top of the fifth, but Morton then allowed a leadoff double to Zack Greinke in the bottom of the inning who would come around to score on an RBI single from David Peralta to bring the score to 3-1. That score held until the top of the eighth when the Astros strung together a couple of walks to set up RBI doubles for Brian McCann and Derek Fisher to tie the game 3-3. The game went to the bottom of the ninth tied where Chris Devenski struggled to get the final out, eventually loading the bases and bringing out A.J. Hinch to call for Brad Peacock. Peacock would allow the walk-off on the first pitch, an RBI infield single by A.J. Pollock to give the D-Backs the win.
Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 4
Sunday, May 6: 21-14 Astros (Justin Verlander) vs. 22-11 Diamondbacks (Matt Koch)
It was a weird way to end the week for the Astros, putting an unfortunate close to a disappointing stretch of games. Houston took an early lead on a solo home run by Alex Bregman, making it 1-0 in the top of the second, but would be unable to produce any more runs and stranded nine on base for the day. Justin Verlander didn't have his best day, but it was far from bad, holding the Diamondbacks scoreless with just two hits through five innings with seven strikeouts going into the sixth. In the bottom of the sixth, Verlander issued a leadoff walk to Daniel Descalo to start the inning. With one out, A.J. Pollock hit a long triple to center field, scoring Descalo easily and inducing a throw to third to try and get Pollock out. The ball deflected away, leaving Alex Bregman over third base as Pollock slid in, saw the ball got away, stood up to run home, and collided with Bregman before being thrown out at home. The collision with Bregman resulted in a highly debatable obstruction call from the third base umpire, giving the Diamondbacks a 2-1 lead. Arizona would get an insurance run on another RBI from Pollock in the bottom of the eighth, but it proved unneeded as Houston would be unable to make a comeback, giving Justin Verlander his first loss of the year.
Final Score: Astros 1, Diamondbacks 3
Summary: The Astros posted a very disappointing 2-5 record this week. They had every chance to get a winning record against two of the league's best teams but instead continued to have offensive struggles along with absolutely discouraging bullpen work. Yes, I still agree it's early and the chances of the bats remaining bad forever are slim, but there's no excuse for this team getting shutout in back-to-back games. Where there's still plenty of optimism for the offense, the bullpen is another story. The question has to be asked: who can be trusted to come in a high-leverage situation and deliver? I thought Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock could, but even they are falling victim to this reliever curse that's plaguing Houston's bullpen. Will Harris looks far removed from his All-Star form in 2016, Ken Giles is somewhere punching himself in the face, and you might as well flip a coin to know if we're going to get a good or bad outing from the other guys out there. The opinion that bringing in Gerrit Cole was going to help the bullpen has, so far to start the early season, been debunked. Instead, it basically takes a starter pitching the whole game to get a win recently.
MVP of the Week - Gerrit Cole:
One pitcher who did just that was Gerrit Cole on Friday night. It was the kind of performance that you had to just sit back and enjoy while it was happening because it was a magical night. Cole has started this season with incredible determination and has delivered above and beyond what we thought he would when we learned he was coming over to this team. He currently sits second in the AL earned run rankings with a 1.42 ERA, behind the one and only Justin Verlander at 1.17. He also leads the AL in strikeouts at 77 which is second in the league behind Max Scherzer at 80 who has started one more game than Cole. If Cole can maintain this level of performance, he'll be right there in the Cy Young talk at the end of the season.
- Mon-Wed: (21-15) Astros @ (18-16) A's
- Fri-Sun: (13-23) Rangers @ (21-15) Astros
The Astros stay on the road to start the week with a three-game series against the A's whom they took two out of three games against in Houston just a week and a half ago. The A's are riding a three-game winning streak though, and have been much better at home than on the road. Then, the Astros head back home for three games against the struggling Rangers. Considering how well Houston plays these teams, and with the current state of the Rangers, anything less than a 4-2 week will be a disappointment.