As I lamented before the All-Star Break, the Astros' offense seems to switch on and off lately like a garden hose. It was very dry this weekend on the South Side of Chicago (it's the baddest part of town) as Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodon handcuffed Houston hitters on just four hits while the White Sox took the first series since the break by scores of 10-1 and 4-0 after the Spacemen won the opener, 7-1.
Southsiding Sox Squelch Astros
(c) Associated Press
The Astros have lost five of their past seven games and have scored only twice in their five losses. In their two wins, they tallied 15 runs. Tip your cap to the two hurlers who are both having splendid years. Incidentally, these two were available to be drafted back when Jeff Luhnow had the top pick for three straight years. Jes' sayin'.
Only a home run in the eighth by Abraham Toro prevented a shutout Saturday night but there was no reprieve on Sunday when the lefty Rodon sawed through Houston hitters with 10 strikeouts and just one hit (again, Toro). Astros pitcher Framber Valdez appeared much better than his last two starts before the break but it wasn't nearly good enough.
Folks looking for positives will note that the Astros maintained their lead in the American League West since Oakland lost two-of-three to Cleveland, Houston's next opponent. Also every series brings us closer to Alex Bregman returning to the lineup which will hopefully occur on the upcoming homestand.
Before moving on, I should mention that Lance McCullers was solid for seven innings in the Friday night opener. He allowed just two hits and two walks while fanning ten. Unfortunately, the offensive production switched off for the rest of the weekend.
After wavering, it appears the Astros will serve their ace, Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.59 ERA), in Monday's opener against the 47-43 Tribe. J.C. Mejia (1-4) will pitch for Cleveland. On Tuesday night, Luis Garcia (6-5, 3.06) matches up against Triston McKenzie (1-3). Wednesday's finale features McCullers (7-2, 2.80) against Eli Morgan (1-3). All three games will begin at 7:10 p.m. Central time.
Houston swept Cleveland earlier this month in a four-game series but the Indians made them work for it in some close games. The inexperienced and unaccomplished trio of Cleveland pitchers may provide a wake up call to the Jeckyll-and-Hyde offense.
The Astros activated reliever Austin Pruitt off the 60-day Injured List and sent down reliever Ralph Garza for the third time. Pruitt made his long-awaited Astros debut in Saturday's blowout, allowing a solo home run over two innings. Shortstop Carlos Correa was also activated after being sidelined for health protocol reasons. OF/1B Taylor Jones was sent down to AAA Sugar Land to make room for Correa.
After a late start, the Astros drafted 19 amateur players last week. Among those was Will Wagner from Liberty University, the son of former Astro Billy Wagner. Will is an infielder, however, so it's unlikely we'll see 100-mph pitches from him like his old man would hum to the plate. Most of the draftees were college players, perhaps emphasizing the need to restock their farm system with guys who need less grooming. With these new signings comes word the Astros are promoting top prospect Pedro Leon to Sugar Land from AA Corpus Christi.
As most of you know, the Astros' four invitees to the All-Star Game pulled out for various reasons. Incidences this weekend might provide a hint as to why. While the media keeps fanning the flames of hate against the Astros, we saw one Red Sox player hit in the back by a thrown ball from the stands then, in D.C., there was gunfire at the Nationals-Padres game. Nobody appeared to be hurt in the shooting but the sight of players scurrying to shield spectators in the dugouts certainly caused some immediate panic.
Earlier last week in Denver, there was a man arrested carrying a stockpile of weapons and staying in a hotel room overlooking Coors Field. All these events indicate that the Astros play within an element of danger. Given that, staying home from a glorified exhibition game doesn't sound so unreasonable.
- Bob Hulsey