Astros: Five key takeaways from series split in Los Angeles

Here are our five key takeaways from the Houston Astros series split in Los Angeles.

The Astros finally ended their disastrous road trip with a floundering 2-9 record, though things ended on a halfway decent note in Los Angeles. Houston was able to take a split of the two-game series against the Dodgers thanks to a furious ninth-inning rally against closer Kenley Jansen.

Outside of that, though, it was more of the same. The Astros got some lackluster starting pitching in this series from two players who’d been their best starters this season, and the offense continued to struggle for the most part. Despite having nearly everyone back, they’re having difficulty scoring runs.

The good news is they’re returning home, and they’re getting a day of rest before welcoming the division rival Rangers to town, who’ve been in a tailspin for the past few weeks. The Astros need to get back on track after falling to within 1.5 games of third-place Seattle, which has played much better than Houston has lately. Here are our five key takeaways from this Dodgers series.

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Framber, Greinke Struggle

Framber Valdez and Zack Greinke have been great for most of this season, but that wasn’t true in this series. They both allowed five runs in five innings in their respective starts against the Dodgers, and they’ve both been in a slump lately when you factor in some previous outings.

In his last four starts, Valdez has pitched to a 6.92 ERA. Meanwhile, Greinke has worked to a 5.09 ERA in his last four outings. This is not the ideal time of year for either of these pitchers to struggle, especially Greinke. The Astros need him to be the ace as they prepare for the postseason.

Slumping Tucker Sits

Kyle Tucker got the day off on Sunday, and for good reason. He’s had only one hit in his last six games while watching his batting average fall from .284 to .252. What we’ve seen so far is that Tucker is a rather streaky hitter. He can carry the team for several games at a time, but he can also slump with the best of them.

Javier Shines in Relief

In an interesting bright spot in this series, Cristian Javier entered Sunday’s game in relief of Greinke and was absolutely electric. He pitched two innings, allowing one hit and striking out five. With the team enjoying two days off (Friday and today), they could afford to use one of their starters in relief this weekend if needed.

This is also a good tryout of sorts, as the Astros will not need five starting pitchers in the postseason. One or two of their starters could pitch out of the bullpen, and I noted recently that Javier could be a good candidate for that. With his stuff, he could be relied on for some key outs as a reliever in the playoffs.

Springer Loves Dodger Stadium

George Springer had three hits in this series, including a double and a home run. When you consider his performance in the 2017 World Series, it seems like he enjoys hitting at Dodger Stadium. Of course, it seems like all the Astros love hitting there when Jansen is on the mound.

Trip Mercifully Ends

This 2-9 road trip was an absolute disaster for the Astros. They got swept by the Angels, lost four of five to the A’s, and then salvaged a split in Los Angeles. The offense disappeared after they left Anaheim, and the pitching was sometimes decent and sometimes horrid.

The good news is 10 of the team’s final 13 games are against either the Rangers or Diamondbacks, both of whom are last-place teams. The other three are against the Mariners, which will prove to be an interesting series with playoff implications. But the Astros schedule is much easier now that they’ve finished this gauntlet of a road trip.