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Astros: Five key takeaways from disaster series in Oakland

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 09: Players from the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics get into a shoving match after Ramon Laureano #22 of the Athletics was hit by a pitch and charged into the Astros dugout in the bottom of the seventh inning at RingCentral Coliseum on August 09, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 09: Players from the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics get into a shoving match after Ramon Laureano #22 of the Athletics was hit by a pitch and charged into the Astros dugout in the bottom of the seventh inning at RingCentral Coliseum on August 09, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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The Houston Astros had a rough trip to Oakland over the weekend.

We’re one quarter of the way through the 2020 season and it already feels like things are slipping away for the Astros. After a three-game sweep at the hands of the first-place Oakland A’s, Houston is now 6-9 and has fallen a half-game behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West.

The offense, which was supposed to be the strength of this team, went completely dormant over the weekend, scoring only five runs in the three games combined. Strong starts by Zack Greinke and Framber Valdez were wasted as the team seems to lack focus and is unable to get out of its own way.

Oh, and did we mention the brawl? The disastrous series was capped off by a benches-clearing melee in which Oakland outfielder Ramon Laureano charged the Astros dugout after exchanging words with hitting coach Alex Cintron. Both are likely to receive significant suspensions, which may be handed down tomorrow.

Unfortunately this underscores what I’ve feared for a while — this is largely a lost season. The myriad injuries to the pitching staff are tough enough to overcome for any team, but now the offense and defense look lost. Expectations have definitely taken a hit for this club.

Thankfully they return home for an eight-game homestand, so perhaps that’ll give them some new life. Regardless, all we can reasonably expect from this season is that we’ll get a good look at a bunch of young players so the front office can plan for a playoff run next season. With that, here are our five key takeaways from this series.

Cintron On The Outs?

I wrote up my thoughts on the brawl that overshadowed Sunday’s series finale, and Cintron most likely has a hefty suspension coming. From all appearances, he said something that really set Laureano off, even though Laureano had already been doing his share of jawing at the Astros.

Still, as a coach, Cintron has to be better than that. He has a history of acting like this, too, so it’s not as if it’s out of character for him. On top of that, the team’s offense completely disappeared in Oakland, and key players like Jose Altuve, George Springer and Alex Bregman have struggled all season. Maybe it would be best for manager Dusty Baker to simply dismiss him and move on.

Altuve Needs Rest

There was hope that Altuve would go on a hot streak after he posted three hits in the series finale in Arizona. But unfortunately he went 2-for-14 in the series and had a particularly rough day in the field on Saturday. He was only charged with one error but just looked like a shell of himself overall.

Manager Dusty Baker has said Altuve doesn’t want a day off, but I think it’s time to give it to him. If nothing else, he needs a mental break. Give him a day (or even two) to not only rest his body but also his mind and maybe some of that weight will lift off him. It’s worth a shot, at least.

Framber Looks Good

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After making a heck of a relief appearance against the Diamondbacks, Valdez returned to the rotation on Saturday and was masterful. He went seven innings against Oakland, allowing two runs (only one earned) and struck out nine. Hopefully the 26-year-old is coming into his own now.

Javier Is Mortal

On the flip side, rookie Cristian Javier had his first bad outing on Sunday. He went only three innings, giving up five runs on three hits and two walks. He allowed three home runs as things really got away from him when he allowed back-to-back blasts to Matt Olson and Matt Chapman in the third.

It’s no reason to panic, of course. He’s a rookie and he’s going to have his bumps in the road. As well as most of the rookies have pitched this season, this is going to be an inevitable occurrence. Fans will just have to sit tight and see who sinks and who swims.

Straw Needs Help

Myles Straw started all three games of this series in place of the injured Springer, and to put it mildly, he had a rough go of it at the plate. Straw went 1-for-11 in the series, dropping his batting average down to .130 and his OPS down to a humiliating .261.

We all know Straw’s strengths are his speed and defense, but if the Astros are going to consider giving him a chance at a starting job next year, he’s going to have to hit to a certain degree. Otherwise he just becomes a poor man’s Billy Hamilton. One has to wonder if his struggles are made worse by the team’s struggles or if he would benefit from some additional coaching.

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