Last weekend the Astros played their first series of the year under American League rules. Two wins in three games against the White Sox gave Astros fans hope that next year’s move to the A.L. might not be a complete disaster. This weekend’s sweep at the hands of the Rangers in Arlington provided a rude wake-up call. It wasn’t the fact that the Astros lost all three games, but more the way it happened.
The Astros started three rookie pitchers and all three pitched well. Houston led early in each game, only to see things unravel in the middle innings. Texas blew all three games open with one huge inning. The Rangers would score more runs in that one inning than the Astros would score all day. It was an ugly weekend and today’s game was becoming hard to watch towards the end, thanks in part to a terrible performance by home plate umpire Dale Scott.
The Astros haven’t needed any help striking out lately but Mr. Scott seemed to think otherwise. Jason Castro was called out in the second inning on a pitch that was nowhere near the strike zone. The usually reserved Carlos Lee argued another terrible call in the fourth inning when he was punched out on a ball that was WAY inside. Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail finally had enough of Scott in the eighth inning and was ejected for arguing yet another questionable strike call.
Sunday’s rookie starter Dallas Keuchel was a pleasant surprise, taking a shutout into the sixth inning before being removed from the game. The lefty held the high-powered Rangers offense in check after being called up to make his big league debut. Fernando Rodriguez came in to relieve Keuchel with a 1-0 lead and a runner on first. F-Rod walked a pair before allowing a bases loaded triple to Ian Kinsler and absorbing his seventh loss of the season. The young pitchers are fun to watch and are full of potential. They just aren’t quite ready to win, especially on a team that is struggling to score runs. The bullpen has also been an enigma this month after having a nice run in May.
The ‘Stros have now lost 15 of their last 20 games and the growing pains are becoming obvious. With a 9-25 record on the road the Astros will be happy to return home Monday for a ten game homestand against the Royals, Indians, and Padres. The two American League teams will be forced to play by National League rules, giving the Astros a slight advantage. This team needs every advantage they can get right now. The injuries are piling up and the team simply isn’t playing well.