Zack Greinke became the first Astro to reach 10 wins this season as he led Houston to a 3-1 victory over the Rangers Sunday which completed a sweep of their weekend series. The 61-39 ballclub expanded their lead over Oakland to 5-1/2 games. After 100 games, the Astros are on pace for a 99-win season.
Greinke: First to 10 wins
(c) Jon Shapley/Houston Chronicle
The Spacemen rolled to the tunes of 7-3, 4-1 and 3-1 to complete a 5-1 homestand. Next up is a three-city West Coast road trip that could be one of their toughest of the year. The first leg is that all-night flight to Seattle, Washington and the Autonomous Zone known as T-Mobile Park where the Mariners have lately played to four bars. A three-game sweep of Oakland this weekend drew the M's to within 1-1/2 games of the second-place Athletics.
The 54-46 M's were earlier busy trying to climb over the .500 mark but have quietly caught fire. They were 31-35 after a loss on June 12th. They've been 23-11 since. They've done this with players whom few outside the Pacific Northwest can even name.
While the Houston bullpen was busy (10-1/3rd IP) this weekend, they allowed just one run as the starting pitching had trouble reaching past the sixth. Jake Odorizzi lasted only 4-2/3rds and lost a chance for his fourth victory because he couldn't complete the fifth inning. Framber Valdez (aka "The Framchise") tossed six no-hit innings but walked six and was pulled after 99 pitches. Greinke also called it a day after just six frames.
I long for the days when the Astros could trot out Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner to close out the seventh inning on, but this year's pen struggles in the late going so the starting pitchers need to keep in mind that throwing seven innings or more is optimal and to be more aggressive in getting outs. When they employed the six-man rotation last month, the starters were putting together longer outings.
As of Sunday night, the Mariners had not revealed who they will use as starters for the three-game set but Houston is expected to start Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Monday's 9:10 p.m. Central time opener, followed by Lance McCullers (7-2, 3.04) for Tuesday's 9:10 p.m. contest then Odorizzi (3-5, 4.23) will get the nod for the 2:40 p.m. Central finale on Wednesday. Time to get out the No-Doz. The schedule has a day off Thursday to allow travel to San Francisco.
Astros radio color announcer Steve Sparks is sitting out the road trip after he tested positive for COVID. Although the rest of the radio crew tested negative, they have agreed to fly on a different plane than the ballclub just to be extra cautious.
Utility infielder Aledmys Diaz is beginning a rehab assignment after a broken bone sidelined him. He's expected to be activated at some time during the road trip. Third baseman Alex Bregman will also begin a rehab assignment shortly and the Astros hope his bat will pick up a sometimes lackluster offense. I'd call them sluggish but that word might be taken the wrong way.
In the meantime, Houston recalled lefthanded reliever Brooks Raley from the Injured List and, as a corresponding move, sent back catcher Garrett Stubbs to AAA Sugar Land.
The trade deadline of July 31st (next Saturday) is approaching so the Astros will need to strike this week if they are to make the upgrades they hope to have for the pennant stretch and the playoffs. GM James Click is doing interviews but has been quite closed-vested about any deals he's working on. The club is most interested in hope for the bullpen and center field.
- Bob Hulsey