Here are our five key takeaways from the Houston Astros getting swept in Anaheim.
Just when you thought the Houston Astros had successfully weathered their toughest trials of the season, they find a way to hit a new low. This one came in the form of a four-game sweep at the hands of the (formerly) last-place Los Angeles Angels that leaves the team burned and bewildered as they head north to Oakland.
A date with the first-place A’s, in which the teams play five games in four days, is about the last thing the Astros need right now, but here we are. The outcome of this season could very well hang in the balance this week, so we’ll see if the team can cobble together enough pitching to hold its own against the division leaders.
The pitching staff took an absolute beating in this series. Of the 15 pitchers who made an appearance in this four-game set, 13 of them were scored upon. Andre Scrubb and Ryan Pressly were the only ones who managed to get through this series unscathed, and they only pitched on Friday.
The offense did fine despite the absence of Jose Altuve, cranking out 25 runs in these four games. Part of that may be due to the fact that the Angels’ pitching staff is almost as bad as Houston’s, but nevertheless it’s clear the offense isn’t the problem. Here are our five key takeaways from a series we’d like to forget.
Many fans are second-guessing Dusty Baker’s decision to let Framber Valdez go back out for the eighth inning on Sunday after he’d already crossed the 100-pitch mark. The decision didn’t work out, of course, but what was the alternative? With the team’s bullpen an absolute wreck, who would you have trusted to pitch in a tied game in the eighth?
Chris Devenski has been scored upon in both of his appearances since coming off the Injured List. Brad Peacock didn’t look great either, and these two were supposed to be the big reinforcements. Even the ever-reliable Blake Taylor fell victim in this series. There just aren’t many pitchers Baker can trust out there, and it’s clear this is the team’s biggest weakness.
Rotation Falling Apart
Valdez allowed five runs even before the questionable decision to send him out in the eighth. Lance McCullers Jr. is now on the Injured List after failing to record an out in his start on Friday. Brandon Bielak struggled again, and Jose Urquidy failed to complete four innings in his first start of the season.
Zack Greinke is clearly the ace, and at least he’s pitching like it for the most part. Cristian Javier has done well, and Valdez was doing very well before Sunday. But the rest of the rotation is a mess right now, and Baker is going to have to figure out how to manage this week with five games in four days.
Tucker Back in Groove
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
One bright spot in this series was the play of Kyle Tucker. After slumping a bit against the Rangers, he broke out again against the Angels. He homered twice in this series and also had two doubles and seven RBIs. He’s now hitting .284 on the season with a team-leading eight homers and a .933 OPS.
Pitching Injuries Hurt More
The Astros were without Altuve, but the offense kept humming. They’re still without Alex Bregman and also Yordan Alvarez, but that doesn’t seem to hamper them much right now. On the other hand, they can ill afford to lose any more pitching, and the loss of McCullers hurts. Every pitching injury seems to have a bigger impact than the loss of a hitter.
Changes Needed This Offseason
If the Astros intend to play for another World Series in 2021, GM James Click is going to need to pay some serious attention to the pitching staff this offseason. Some of that will depend on the health of Justin Verlander and Roberto Osuna, but it’s clear that a couple of quality relievers need to be added along with perhaps a starting pitcher.
George Springer’s foray into free agency will be the big storyline of course, but the Astros cannot expect to win a title with the pitching staff as it is currently constructed. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out this winter.