Astros return home looking to end losing streak


After an 0-7 road trip the Astros find themselves mired in a season-high eight game losing streak. J.A.Happ will take the mound at 7:05 CDT tonight and try to stop the bleeding. Yovani Gallardo and the Milwaukee Brewers provide the competition in the first of a three-game series to finish off the first half of the season. At 38-44 the Brewers have been somewhat of a disappointment as well.

Gallardo is 6-6 on the season but has had plenty of success against the Astros in his career. Gallardo is 10-2 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 12 career starts versus Houston. This matchup could be a recipe for disaster for an Astros team that has had difficulty scoring runs during their eight game skid.

Just about everything that can go wrong has gone  wrong for the Astros of late and skipper Brad Mills could be feeling the heat. Mills went as far as to remove Jordan Schafer in the middle of Wednesday’s game after the outfielder made a couple of lackluster plays on defense. Schafer was also missing from Thursday’s starting lineup and struck out as a pinch-hitter in a 2-0 loss to the Pirates.

The team was finally able to jettison Carlos Lee from the sinking ship, but the corresponding roster moves have been somewhat puzzling. Matt Dominguez joined the big club but Jeff Luhnow insists that Chris Johnson is still the starter at 3B. Why hasn’t Brett Wallace been called up? Could Johnson be the next Astro to be traded?

The experiment with the six-man starting rotation is over, at least for the time being. Dallas Keuchel suffered his first loss on Wednesday and was sent back to Oklahoma City to rejoin the RedHawks rotation. Enerio Del Rosario was recalled to take Keuchel’s spot on the big league roster as the Astros once again increased the number of relievers on the staff to eight. But quantity has yet to translate into quality. The Astros bullpen has consistently faltered over the last month, posting an ERA around 7.00.

The starting pitching has actually been the least of Houston’s problems during the streak. J.A. Happ has been solid in each of his last three starts after being torched by the Giants in San Francisco. Happ will be hoping for some run support on “Flashback Friday.” The Astros lefty is 6-8 with a 4.81 ERA on the year after a 3-2 loss to the Cubs in his last start.