Astros: Five key takeaways from disaster in San Diego

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 23: Zack Greinke #21 of the Houston Astros sits on the field as groundskeepers work on the mound during the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on August 23, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 23: Zack Greinke #21 of the Houston Astros sits on the field as groundskeepers work on the mound during the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on August 23, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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Here are our five key takeaways from the Houston Astros getting swept in San Diego.

It seems like the Houston Astros‘ inevitable plummet back to earth came even faster than their ascension into the stratosphere. That eight-game winning streak wasn’t sustainable, of course, but it sure was fun. But the streaking San Diego Padres stopped it in its tracks, and the hometown nine will return home with their tails between their legs.

Quite a few things went wrong over these three games, most notably the fact that the offense cooled off considerably. The pitching had its troubles as well, especially in the blowout on Saturday. Lance McCullers Jr. and Brandon Bielak struggled, and even Zack Greinke wasn’t quite as sharp as we’ve been accustomed to.

Part of that can be attributed to the fact that the Padres are just playing some really good baseball right now. They swept the Rangers earlier in the week, so San Diego is now the hottest team in the sport. That may not be much consolation to Astros fans, but at least we didn’t lose to a bunch of scrubs.

Thankfully the road trip is now over, and the team will return home to face the Angels. The Astros ended their road trip with a 2-3 record and are 15-13 on the season, 4.5 games behind Oakland in the AL West. Here are our five key takeaways from this series.

Altuve is Back

At long last, Jose Altuve seems to have finally broken out of his slump. He put together a couple of multi-hit games in Colorado and he followed that up with a couple more in San Diego. He did go 0-for-4 on Sunday, but we won’t begrudge him that.

Still, he went 5-for-12 with a walk in the three-game series, pushing his season batting average back above .200. If the Astros offense is to survive without Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez, they’ll need Altuve at his batting title-winning best.

Tucker is Legit

After breaking out in Denver, Kyle Tucker reached base safely in all three games of this series. He had only two hits, but he made them count — an RBI single on Friday and a two-run homer on Sunday. He also drew three walks in the series, stole a base and only struck out once.

His overall numbers still aren’t that impressive, but Tucker looks to be rounding into form nicely after a difficult start. With Alvarez done for the season, Tucker likely won’t have to fight for playing time with Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley, so he should continue to get his chances.

Bielak is Mortal

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After an excellent run to start his major league career, rookie Brandon Bielak hit his first bump in the road. He recorded only four outs in his start on Saturday, allowing seven runs on five hits, one walk and one hit batter. He also coughed up four home runs in the process and saw his season ERA rise from 1.69 to 4.37.

This doesn’t mean much, of course, except to prove that he’s actually mortal. Rookies will have their struggles, as we’ve seen with Cristian Javier. Hopefully Bielak will simply learn from it and move forward, proving himself to be a permanent member of the team’s rotation.

Offense Needs Help

The Astros scored only eight total runs in this series, which was working fine when they were getting stellar pitching last week. But when the pitching comes back down to earth, as it did in this series, the offense has to step up.

Yuli Gurriel went 0-for-7, George Springer went 1-for-11 and Abraham Toro went 0-for-12. Michael Brantley was also hitless in his return to the lineup on Sunday. If the Astros are going to have success, some of these guys are going to have to get going.

Team’s Shortcomings Exposed

This is the bottom line in all of this. The Astros are a flawed team thanks to their myriad injuries and some key free agent departures. The offense has some holes (Toro’s .132 average, Springer’s struggles, lack of Bregman and Alvarez) and the starting rotation is relying on a pair of rookies and a third starter who’s coming off Tommy John surgery.

The bullpen is still a work in progress and will have its good days and its bad days. Humberto Castellanos lost his roster spot after getting tagged for four runs on Saturday, and Joe Biagini is on the road to getting non-tendered this offseason. Even the impressive Enoli Paredes got taken deep by Manny Machado. Expect more ups and downs the rest of the way as the team deals with so many missing players and has to rely on rookies more and more.

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