What do the Houston Astros have in common with snow? Both fell Wednesday afternoon at Coors Field and both got swept. A 6-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies in Denver, which began with a franchise-low gametime temperature of 34 degrees, combined with a 6-2 defeat on Tuesday to sink Houston to the bottom of the American League West, a division they once commanded after a 6-1 start. With a 7-10 mark as they wing homeward to face the Angels, the Astros have won just one of their past ten games while once-floundering Oakland has reeled off eleven straight wins.
Correa: Snow laughing matter
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The American League standings in general appear to be standing on their heads as 2020 playoff clubs, the Astros, Yankees and Twins, all occupy the basement after the first three weeks.
The Astros got a fairly decent start from Luis Garcia (0-1) in the Tuesday opener over the first five innings. He carried a 1-0 lead into the sixth until it all fell apart. Former Angel C.J. Cron homered and drove in five as the Houston bullpen was torched for four runs in the final three innings.
Jose Urquidy (0-2) allowed four runs during the first two innings Wednesday which overshadowed a three-RBI afternoon from Yuli Gurriel.
Brandon Bielak allowed two more runs in relief to account for all the scoring.
The Astros seem to be stuck in a spiral where the starting pitching can't last into the late innings, the depleted bullpen is running on fumes and the batters appear to be swinging at snowflakes. The Astros have averaged 2.78 runs per game through those nine losses.
Perhaps it sends the wrong message that the Astros announced a contract extension for starting catcher Martin Maldonado. His batting average this season has dropped to .081 after Wednesday but he'll get paid $5 million per year in 2022 and has an option for 2023.
Not that "The Machete" is alone in the offensive ineptness category. Kyle Tucker's batting average has fallen to .169. Myles Straw is hitting .200 and his Wednesday replacement, Chas McCormick, is batting .167.
The stretch where off days show up on the schedule when series have finished is over. 2020 Rookie of the Year finalist Cristian Javier (1-0) will return to the rotation for the Thursday opener against Anaheim. Zack Greinke (2-1) will take the mound on Friday. Both weeknight games are scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Central. Jake Odorizzi (0-2) will pitch Saturday's 3:10 p.m. Central contest while Lance McCullers (1-1) pitches the 1:10 p.m. Sunday finale. McCullers' last start was skipped due to minor pain. Houston split their first two contests with Anaheim out in California.
Once the Angels leave, the Mariners come in for four games to complete the homestand. Seattle took two of three from the Spacemen up in Washington last weekend. The Astros normally feast on division opponents but they are just 7-5 so far this season.
If there's any positive to be gleaned from the April Winterland series, it's that Alex Bregman's bat is warming up, Javier is coming back and the only white powders at Minute Maid will be chalk lines and resin.
- Bob Hulsey