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Astros: Five key takeaways from backbreaker in Oakland

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Kyle Tucker #30 of the Houston Astros can not catch a ball hit by Tommy La Stella #3 of the Oakland Athletics that resulted in a double and two runs scoring in the seventh inning at RingCentral Coliseum on September 09, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Kyle Tucker #30 of the Houston Astros can not catch a ball hit by Tommy La Stella #3 of the Oakland Athletics that resulted in a double and two runs scoring in the seventh inning at RingCentral Coliseum on September 09, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Here are our five key takeaways from the Houston Astros series loss in Oakland.

The Houston Astros five-game series in Oakland, which was their most important series of the year to date, which could have saved their season if they’d played well, can be summarized in one word: Welp.

That’s about all there is to say now that the Astros are leaving the Bay Area with their tails between their legs. Coming into the series just 3.5 games behind the A’s, Houston lost four of five, effectively ending their chance of winning a fourth straight AL West title.

The offense, which performed so well in Anaheim, went cold in Oakland, and the bullpen continued to struggle. The Astros have now fallen to 1-8 on this road trip and finished their season series with the A’s at a dismal 3-7. That’s just not a recipe for success.

At 22-23 on the season, the team gets a much-needed day off before playing two games against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. So, in other words, the schedule doesn’t get any better, at least not until the return home. Here are our five key takeaways from this series.

Division is Done

If the Astros had any hopes of winning the AL West this year, those hopes rested on a good showing in this series. Now that they’re 6.5 games back with only 15 games to play, they can pretty much say goodbye to any notions of winning the division. The A’s all but locked it up with this series.

The Astros can still make the playoffs if they finish second in the division, and they’re currently clinging to a two-game lead over Seattle (one game in the loss column). They’ll take on the Mariners for three games in Seattle from Sept. 21 to 23, so that could turn out to be an even more pivotal series than this one was.

Bullpen Blues

With the exception of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Astros actually got some decent starting pitching, but they couldn’t pull out a win except in the one game in which they got a poor start — four runs in three innings from Chase De Jong. Some of that was the fault of the offense, but the bullpen played its role as well.

In total, the bullpen threw 14.2 innings in this series and allowed eight earned runs on 16 hits and 14 walks. Blake Taylor is hurt and pretty much everyone else is struggling, so Dusty Baker doesn’t really have anyone reliable to turn to. That’s why he tried out Brandon Bielak in the eighth inning on Thursday.

Offense Goes Cold

A group that had no trouble scoring runs against the Angels suddenly went dormant against the A’s. Even the return of Alex Bregman couldn’t make an impact. The team scored a total of 10 runs in the five-game series, and you’re not going to win much when you average two runs per game and have a terrible bullpen.

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Kyle Tucker went 1-for-17 in the series, Yuli Gurriel went 2-for-17, Carlos Correa was 3-for-16, Josh Reddick was 2-for-11 and George Springer was 5-for-19. Bregman, in his two starts and one pinch hit appearance, went 0-for-8. The bats just all went cold at the wrong time.

Garcia, Urquidy Impress

One bright spot was a couple of good starting pitching performances. Rookie Luis Garcia, making his first major league start, threw five scoreless innings on Wednesday, allowing only one hit and two walks while striking out four. He appears to have earned a rotation spot for the time being.

Urquidy, making only his second start of the year, blanked Oakland through five but gave up a two-out, two-run homer in the sixth. Still, he put up a solid outing by allowing just two runs on two hits with three walks in six innings. Both of these starts should’ve resulted in a win, but the offense and/or bullpen took that away.

Set Sights on 2021

This isn’t to say this season is over, because the Astros can certainly still make the playoffs. If they get Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers and Justin Verlander back and don’t lose anyone else to injury, they’ll have a halfway decent chance to win a few games in the postseason. But they’re not winning the World Series.

A bullpen like this, even if Taylor returns, simply won’t be good enough to make a significant playoff run. They might win a few games and maybe even a series, but no matter what the oddsmakers say, this team’s chances of winning a title are next to none.

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