Houston continues to fall in the standings

Losing streak extended to five games as Astros drop opener to A's

Astros George Springer
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Astros George Springer

Finally able to get out of Los Angeles for a change of scenery after the four-game sweep by the Angels, the Astros were in Oakland Monday night for a five-game set against the division-leading A's. Here is a quick rundown of the series opener:

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 0.

Record: 21-20, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Chris Bassitt (3-2, 3.12 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.38 ERA).

Javier goes five innings 

Cristian Javier had a mostly decent outing on Monday, keeping it a close game while he was on the mound. He would last five frames, reaching 94 pitches along the way to reach a season-high. Although the A's would force him into extended at-bats, he only allowed two runs.

Those came in the bottom of the second when a lead-off single set up an RBI-double by former-Astro Tony Kemp to give Oakland the 1-0 lead. After Houston erased Kemp as he tried to steal third, Sean Murphy followed that with a solo home run to double the lead to 2-0. Javier would keep the score there, going three more scoreless innings. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Bullpen struggles continue as A's take the opener

After Javier, Cionel Perez would take over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth. He would face three batters, getting two outs and allowing a single, before the Astros moved on to Andre Scrubb. Scrubb finished the sixth, then retired for the seventh. He completed that inning, but not before allowing a leadoff walk that would eventually score after moving to third on a one-out single and sacrifice fly, making it a 3-0 Oakland lead.

Cy Sneed was next out of the bullpen for the Astros, and he too would be bitten by a leadoff walk, as that runner would score on a one-out RBI-single to extend the lead to 4-0 before Oakland blew it open with a two-RBI single later in the inning to make it 6-0. That would be the final score as the A's would shutout the Astros to take the first game of the five-game set.

Up Next: This series continues on Tuesday with a doubleheader starting at 5:10 PM Central. The first game should feature Zack Greinke (3-0, 2.91 ERA) on the mound for the Astros opposite Frankie Montas (2-3, 6.06 ERA) for the A's. The second game, which will start about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first, will have Mike Minor (0-5, 5.94 ERA) starting for Oakland while Houston is expected to have a bullpen-led game with the starter TBD.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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