Astros: Five key takeaways from series sweep of Rockies

HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 17: Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros celebrates with George Springer #4 and Kyle Tucker #30 after defeating the Colorado Rockies 2-1 at Minute Maid Park on August 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 17: Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros celebrates with George Springer #4 and Kyle Tucker #30 after defeating the Colorado Rockies 2-1 at Minute Maid Park on August 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Here are our five key takeaways from the Houston Astros sweep of the Rockies.

The injuries keep piling up and the Houston Astros just keep on winning. They lost third baseman Alex Bregman to a hamstring injury, and reliever Josh James injured his hip on Thursday, but that didn’t stop the team from taking all four games against the Colorado Rockies to extend their winning streak to eight games.

The first two games were low scoring 2-1 affairs, with the second game lasting 11 innings. Then the series shifted to Denver and the bats came alive as the Astros scored a total of 23 runs in the final two games. It was a tale of two stadiums in this one, but Houston came out on top in both.

The Astros are now 15-10 and closing in on the first place Oakland Athletics. But things won’t get any easier as they travel to San Diego to take on the Padres. For now, though, here are our five key takeaways from this series.

Altuve, Tucker Heating Up

Jose Altuve’s batting average fell down to .168 after the two games in Houston in this series. But the elevation seemed to do him some good as he went 4-for-10 with a double and two RBIs in the two games at Coors Field. He looked more like himself, which the team has long been waiting for.

Similarly, Kyle Tucker raised his season batting average from .193 to .239 in those two games as he hit three triples and a homer, driving in six. He showcased the very talent the team has long known him to have, so hopefully he can take that momentum with him to San Diego.

Trio of Aces

The first three starters the Astros put forth in this series were excellent. Brandon Bielak allowed one run on one hit and four walks in six innings on Monday, lowering his season ERA to 1.69. Framber Valdez went 7.2 innings on Wednesday, allowing one earned run and bringing his ERA down to 1.72.

But the best start was from Zack Greinke on Tuesday, who delivered eight scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and striking out seven. Unfortunately he couldn’t get the win as the offense gave him no support, but it was an absolute gem from a pitcher who’s become the team’s de facto ace.

Javier Struggling

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On the other hand, Cristian Javier is having a rough go of it lately. For the second time in three starts, he failed to complete four innings as he allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks in 3.2 innings on Thursday.

He gave up five runs in three innings against Oakland on Aug. 9, but sandwiched between these two starts was a six scoreless inning performance against Seattle. He has plenty of talent, of course, but there will be some bumps in the road as the rookie learns to navigate pitching in the big leagues.

Jones, Toro Add Punch

The Astros offense is falling apart with injuries, but a couple of rookies stepped up in this series. Taylor Jones had his first major league hit and RBI on Wednesday when he put up two hits and a pair of RBIs. He looks to be getting regular at-bats in the absence of Yordan Alvarez.

Abraham Toro, who’d been struggling immensely, went 2-for-3 with an RBI in relief of Bregman on Wednesday and then destroyed a three-run homer on Thursday. He’ll be getting most of the starts at third base while Bregman is out, so the team will need him to continue contributing at the plate.

Bullpen Struggles Again

Coors Field can be a difficult environment for any pitcher, and the Astros bullpen found that out firsthand. Joe Biagini got roughed up on Wednesday in his first outing after being activated from the Injured List, and then Brooks Raley imploded on Thursday in relief of Javier.

James and Ryan Pressly also gave up runs, so it wasn’t an easy series for them. But on the flip side, Enoli Paredes and Blake Taylor continued to impress. The team may have found a couple of reliable guys in these two rookies.

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