Anyone got a panic button handy?? I know just over a quarter of the season is gone, but the Astros not only have a poor record, but there are also concerns with how they have managed to lose games, and they are in the midst of prolonged slumps from key players. Today's was Dallas Keuchel's turn to prolong his slump, and he continued pitching more like the 2013 version of himself than the 2015 version. For most established, major league professional baseballers, playing like you did three years ago is a good thing. For Dallas, not so much. For Carlos Gómez, it would be great.
So Keuchel wore the loss in a 9-2 beat down. The Rangers leave town with a sweep, all the Astros' lunch money, and a 25-19 record. Meanwhile, the Astros are reeling at 17-28, good for the second-worst record in the American League and the fourth worst record in baseball. They have a current losing streak twice as long as any winning streak this year. And it isn't all an illusion, either, as the Astros have the third-worst run differential in the AL, although they are also just a lopsided series away from evening that up.
Being an Astros fan is hard.
Short-form of the recap today, thanks to the amount of time that has elapsed between the game and the writeup:
- Kuechel. Not good. Keuchel has struggled with his command this year, and it was evident in this game. He seems to have been missing mid-thigh a lot this year, instead of hammering the knees. Plus, he relies on pitches that look like strikes until they break out of the zone, and lots of those seem to have missed the strike zone by a greater margin this year, making them clearly balls. It is hard to get information on the latter, but we can look at the former thanks to the great work at baseballsavant.com:
How I interpret these is yes, Keuchel is missing in the middle of the zone more this year (12.5% of pitches mid-thigh in 2015 versus 14% in 2016) plus he is getting hammered more in that band in 2016. Exit velocities are up across the board. Command and control are everything for Keuchel, and in the fateful third inning earlier today, he was missing big when he was trying to throw out of the zone, and missing up when he was trying to hammer the knees. Plus, he had trouble keeping his breaking ball down. I am officially worried.
- Speaking of the fateful third inning: Alan Ashby and Bill Brown were saying how good Keuchel looked in retiring the side in order in the first two frames, striking out two and getting four groundouts in the process. Then the third happened - 0-2 hit by pitch on a back-foot breaking ball (Ryan Rua had no intention of moving out of the way) on the leadoff guy, then a double to the LF power alley that scored Rua, followed by two strikeouts for the first two outs, then a single, a walk, a double to deep CF and a single to shallow CF, before another strikeout. Five runs in, on a HBP, a walk, two doubles and two singles.
- Keuchel also was scored on in the fourth, after a lead off double (Ryan Rua again) put a RISP. A full count single to CF scored the run - more good hitting from the Rangers catchers, who had done well the last two games. And also a run in the sixth - two one-out singles, K, RBI single scored a run. All singles well hit, all found large holes some against the shift.
- Devenski made it look easy in the eighth, setting the side down on seven pitches. Sipp got the ninth, and after a leadoff single, Drew Stubbs' TOOTBLAN helped the Astros immensely. Stubbs was on first when Desmond singled to RF. Stubbs initially had ideas that he could go first-to-third, got a little too far off second, and Correa positioned himself between Stubbs and second base to catch Springers' throw. A DP ended the night for the Rangers offense.
- Not a good night for the Astros "O" - five hits and three walks was the sum total of their offensive effort. Lots of line drives seemed to result in outs. Evan Gattis was the pick of the Astros - 2-4 with a long home run into the LF power alley off Cole Hamels in the sixth. Jose Altuve (0-4) was responsible for the other RBI - a groundout to short with two RISP in the third. Handsome Jake was responsible for the other extra-base hit - a line drive to CF that Ian Desmond misplayed, and it got behind him. Marisnick went 1-2, with a walk.
- Also on base twice was Jason Castro (1-3, BB). His line looks healthier: .223/.360/.398. Castro's OBP now ranks second in the team, behind Altuve's .413 mark and ahead of Springer's .350 and Correa's .349. Go Castro!!
- The Astros got a bit hosed on the strike zone again. Keuchel needs the low strike - he didn't get much, but Hamels got a couple of calls. This umpiring crew seem to have done the Astros no favours at all...
Thankfully, the Rangers head out of town. Next is a day off, then a three-game set with the Orioles... yes, the AL East leading Orioles. Sigh.
Chris Tillman (6-1, 2.61) versus Doug Fister (4-3, 4.22)
8 Eastern, 7 Central. On Tuesday, remember.