The Houston Astros got swept by their in-state rivals once again and are now ten games back from the first-place Seattle.
It’s a new low point as it looked like the Astros might be starting to turn things around after a successful road series against the White Sox, but losing the first two games by a score of 2-1, and then getting blown out in game three put another damper on hopes for a season turnaround.
All optimism should not be lost, this club still has a lot of talent, the pieces just haven’t come together for an extended amount of time. However, the very small window of a turning point is almost shut. Since starting the season 7-17 in April, the Astros need to play about .600 baseball the rest of the way to have a chance. The month of May has seen Houston go 10-11 with eight games left in the month.
To hit .600 for the month, they would need to win all eight, but its a marathon, not a sprint, so if the Astros can at least win five more games in May, that would give them an above .500 winning percentage for the month. Their remaining schedule for May is Baltimore at home for three games, and then on the road against the Angels for three games, and at Arizona for two games.
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
Baltimore does pose the stiffest test for the rest of this month, as they are tied for first place in the AL East with a record of 26-16, which also gives them the highest winning percentage in the American League. The O’s also own the best home record, but on the road they are 9-8. The Orioles do boast one of the best lineups in the AL and are currently tied for the lead in team home runs with 63 long balls on the year. Their offense has been powered by Mark Trumbo (.293, 13 HR), Manny Machado (.308, 12 HR) and Chris Davis (.237, 10 HR). They are still waiting for fellow slugger Adam Jones to put it together as he is only batting .238 with 5 HR on the year.
Their pitching has been decent with a team ERA of 3.80, and their bullpen has pitched exceptionally well and has actually picked up 12 of their 26 wins, the most wins of any bullpen in the majors. This stat can also be attributed to thew clutch hitting of the Orioles. In Late/Close batting situations, the Orioles are hitting an AL-best .311 with eight home runs and 28 RBI’s. The Astros are dead last in the AL in those situations, batting a mere .160 with three home runs and only 11 RBI’s, which is very telling of a dismal season.
Last year’s season series saw the Astros win 4-3, with Houston taking three of four at Minute Maid Park.
Baltimore’s opening day starter, Tillman, will toe the rubber to open the series against Houston. Tillman has some good seasons in 2013 and 2014 but had injuries last year and caused him to take a step back. So far this season, Tillman is having his best campaign yet and is the leader of the Baltimore rotation.
Tillman has won his last five starts and has gone at least six innings in each of his last six outings. In four career starts versus Houston, Tillman is 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA, and at Minute Maid, he is 2-0. This season is he is striking out batters more frequently and has only allowed two home runs this year in 51.2 innings. Current Astros are batting .229 against Tillman with lefties Colby Rasmus (.261, 2 HR) and Jason Castro (.300, 1 HR) having the most success. Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Marwin Gonzalez are all batting less than .200.
Doug Fister has been a welcome addition to the Houston pitching staff. Disappointing performances from Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh has made Fister the most consistent starting pitcher thus far in the season. Fister has won his last three decisions and has gone at least six innings in his last six starts. The lanky veteran is not blowing away the competition, but he is getting ground balls, avoiding big innings, and keeping his team in games.
He has also limited the long ball as of late. In April, he gave up five home runs, and in the month of May has only given up one home run. Fister is 4-2 lifetime versus Baltimore with a 4.63 ERA. His last start came against them in 2014.
The powerful Orioles lineup has fared well against Fister, led by Chris Davis (.385, 2 HR), Pedro Alvarez (.556, 1 HR) and Manny Machado (.500, 1 HR). Fister will need to continue the use of his sinker, and keep the ball in the yard if he wants to continue his stretch of quality starts. Change to the lineup, Springer is leading off.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***