Astros: Five key takeaways from series win against Rangers
Here are our five key takeaways from the Houston Astros series win against the Texas Rangers.
This was one of the uglier series wins I’ve seen from the Astros recently, but a win is a win. Houston took two of three from their in-state rivals and have opened up a three-game lead over the Seattle Mariners in the race for second place in the AL West and its accompanying playoff spot.
In spite of that, fans probably aren’t feeling too great about the team’s prospects right now. The pitching was (mostly) superb in this series, but the offense was flat out embarrassing. With everyone aside from Yordan Alvarez in the lineup, the Astros made some bad pitchers look really good in this series.
Their best showing was scoring four runs on Tuesday to back Jose Urquidy in a 4-1 win. But they wasted a brilliant effort from Lance McCullers as they allowed Kyle Gibson, who came into the game with a 6.14 ERA, to throw a four-hit shutout on Wednesday. If not for a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, they would have done the same on Thursday with Jordan Lyles and his 7.80 ERA on the mound.
Nonetheless, the Astros prevailed. It was a series they really needed to win, and they did. Hopefully it starts the building of some momentum for them, because this team could do something special if it would get hot. Here are our five key takeaways from this series.
Where’s the Offense
Oh where, oh where have the Astros bats gone? Oh where, oh where could they be? Someone had better find them soon or this team will be sitting at home in October. This offense hit a combined .138 in these past two games, which were started by two guys who’ve had awful seasons. The Astros made them look like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
They had only two extra-base hits combined in their last two games — a double by Alex Bregman on Wednesday and Tucker’s homer on Thursday. If that last one hadn’t left the yard, this series would look much different. Whatever is ailing this lineup needs to get corrected quickly before fans start calling for hitting coaches to lose their jobs.
Rotation Looks Fine
On the flip side, the Astros got some tremendous starting pitching. Urquidy allowed one run in seven innings on Tuesday, striking out seven, and is making a case for the postseason rotation. McCullers, making his return from the Injured List, followed that up on Wednesday with eight strikeouts in seven scoreless innings. He only allowed two hits and no walks, but of course came away with a no-decision.
Framber Valdez fanned 11 batters in 6.1 innings on Thursday, allowing one run. These starts all came against a bad offense, so take them with a grain of salt. Regardless, it’s a good sign to see all three of these pitchers look good at this point in the season. The Astros need every good pitcher they can find.
Raley With The Save
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Raise your hand if, before the season started, you said Brooks Raley would be called upon in a save situation in a one-run game for the Astros in September. No you didn’t, so put your hand down. But with Ryan Pressly having pitched both Tuesday and Wednesday (and taking the loss on Wednesday as well), Raley was the one to whom Dusty Baker turned on Thursday.
To his credit, he pitched about as clean of an inning as one can have, getting a three-pitch strikeout of Joey Gallo and a pair of first-pitch groundouts. Raley also tossed a perfect eighth inning on Tuesday to pick up a hold. He’s showing himself to be someone Baker can rely on in key situations, especially against lefthanded hitters.
James Turns a Corner
It’s not an exaggeration to say Josh James has had an awful season thus far, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his performance in this series. He pitched a scoreless inning on Wednesday and then 1.2 scoreless innings on Thursday, striking out five and allowing two hits, but no walks.
That last one is the important stat here, as control is his Achilles’ heel. He threw 33 pitches total in his two appearances, and 25 of those were strikes. He was attacking the zone and getting ahead in counts, which really is a key to success for him. His stuff is great, so if he can make hitters swing, he’s got a solid chance to be successful.
What’s with Gurriel
It’s hard to single out one hitter when the entire lineup can’t hit its way out of a wet paper bag, but Yuli Gurriel is in an especially bad funk. He was just 1-for-10 in this series and is hitting .147 in his last 11 games. He has only one extra-base hit in that span and has drawn only one walk in the month of September.
Gurriel doesn’t walk a lot to begin with, but the lack of free passes is magnified when you’re in such a slump. He’s about to become a free agent, so this is a really bad time to be in as bad of a stretch as this. Hopefully he snaps out of it soon.