The Houston Astros kept it close in their first matchup with the Oakland A’s on Tuesday, but the bullpen imploded with a small cushion of a lead. While Cristian Javier did post a quality start with only three runs surrendered over six innings, the right-hander continues to have a home run issue, as all his runs came off the long ball.
Manager Dusty Baker has made some controversial moves this season with bullpen arms, but in all reality, he only has one high-leverage, consistent arm in Ryan Pressly. While some are calling for the Baker experiment to end, there is no way the Astros would fire their manager at this stage of the season and their divisional placement.
While falling to a walk off, here are the Astros’ two biggest weaknesses.
There will always be injuries that come and go for a pitching staff, and while the Astros look to regroup in the coming month with Jake Odorizzi and Framber Valdez returning, Pedro Baez has been throwing from flat ground in West Palm Beach. Experienced starters are close to returning, but that doesn’t help with the lack of high-leverage relievers.
Lack of high-leverage relievers
The bullpen was relying on Brooks Raley and Joe Smith in high-leverage situations until Ryne Stanek came around and was dominant. These three have gone different ways in ability since the start of the season. While Pressly is the only big situation arm, Baker can’t burn his closer right away.
With this in mind, the returns of Odorizzi, Valdez and possibly Jose Urquidy from the injured list would push Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia to the bullpen, as long outing relievers. This doesn’t truly fix the issue, and if Baez doesn’t return once his 60 days are up, the Astros could go shopping. Two veteran arms on the market or in free agency are Oliver Perez and Jeremy Jeffress.
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Lack of outfield depth
This one needs to be addressed, if the production doesn’t improve from Myles Straw. While having two hits in four at bats last night, Straw is getting sneaky at boosting his numbers, but the Astros aren’t looking to a fourth outfield as much as they could. Many contenders have that leeway, and Houston isn’t using that in Chas McCormick or Aledmys Diaz.
While there isn’t much in house product you’d like to rely on down the stretch as replacements, Jose Siri has been excelling in Triple A. Issues circling his plate discipline are still there, but as all contenders are looking for outfield help at the moment, the Astros would have to act quick for a rental.
Houston is back on the field on Wednesday at 8:40 p.m. in Oakland. While they look to even the series, Zack Greinke takes the mound against the A’s, who he’s dominated this year.