STAR POWER

How the Astros can get back on track after dropping 3 straight

No need to panic. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

After a 5-1 record to start the season, the Astros looked to continue their winning ways at home in front of their fans for the first time since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals.

"It was a beautiful night," José Altuve said. "Kind of like a dream come true."

After receiving some harsh (yet sometimes funny) criticism from opposing fans to start the season, the Astros were welcomed back with open arms. Manager Dusty Baker said the crowd had an effect on the game as well.

"It made a big difference," manager Dusty Baker said. "I could see the positive energy on our team."

The Astros won their home opener 6-2 behind a good start from Cristian Javier (1-0) who threw 5 scoreless innings and gave up three hits with seven strikeouts.

Houston also received some production from their bats as Carlos Correa, Yordan Alvarez and Atluve all homered to help the Astros increase their record to 6-1 to start the season.

The Astros outscored their opponents 52-19 their first seven games of the season and Michael Brantley led the team with a .538 batting average. The Astros top 6 hitters were all batting over .300 during this 6-1 stretch.

This would unfortunately be the peak of their young season. After their home opener, the Astros would go on to lose their next three games. (Two losses to the A's and one loss to the Tigers).

How the Astros can get back on track

The Astros were outscored 19-7 during this losing streak and left a total of 22 runners on base.

Pitchers Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke combined to give up 11 runs in back-to-back starts. This in addition to their inability to drive in runs consistently is what ultimately lead to their current 3-game losing streak.

The Astros currently sit at 6-4 and are in second place behind the Los Angeles Angels (7-4) in the American League West.

A three-game losing streak only 10 games into the 2021 season is hardly a cause for concern as the Astros still have one of the most potent offenses in the league and have the pitching to compete with any team in the big leagues.

ONE THING TO NOTE: This was AJ Hinch's first game since getting let go from the Astros in early 2020. The former Astros' manager received a video tribute prior to Monday's game against the Tigers, and got a standing ovation when his name was announced as the Tigers' manager.

"This place is very special to me," Hinch said. "It's the only time I've ever been uncomfortable in this setting, in this building. I really do appreciate it. It touched me. I wanted to get out and tip my cap and then get back in before I showed too much emotion."

UP NEXT: Jake Odorizzi will make his season debut when the series continues Tuesday night after signing with the Astros on March 8th. He will be facing left-hander Matthew Boyd as the Astros look to even the series against the Tigers.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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