• Brian L. Barefield

Around The Bases: Astros Bats Go Cold In Series Split With Arizona

The Houston Astros split a brief two-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, losing the final game in extra innings 3-2. Let’s take a trip around the bases and recap the series as the Astros head to Seattle to take on the Mariners, who are currently on a four-game losing streak.

First Base: Bats Are Frozen

After a scorching start at the plate against the Los Angeles Angels, where the team scored 20 runs in four games, Houston struggled to get four runs in the last two games against the Diamondbacks, going 14-for-68 from the batter’s box. The Astros have one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball when they are firing on all cylinders, but lately, they have been misfiring.

Outfielder Kyle Tucker was held hitless during this series, and since he hit two home runs against the Angels in the second game of the year, he has managed just one hit in his last 15 at-bats. Second Baseman Jose Altuve broke out of a similar slump with two hits on Wednesday to raise his batting average to .150 on the season. The former A.L. MVP knows that they have a long season and will get it together as time goes on.

“We’re good,” said Altuve. “I don’t think we’re bad. We’re good. We have won four games. I’m not worried at all. We have good players that are here. I think we’re good.”

Second Base: Rescue 911

CBS had a docudrama series back in the late ’80s called “Rescue 911” that used actual 911 emergency calls in their stories. I can imagine that Astros manager Dusty Baker may have seen an episode or two and learned that it is ok to call for help when your starting pitcher is not having a good game.

Although the starters Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez gave up only one earned run in the series, their inability to pitch longer innings had pitching coach Joshua Miller reaching for the bullpen phone. In the first game of the series, Garcia lasted only four innings as he struggled with command issues in his first start of the year.

Valdez also struggled with his command in game two as he walked five batters in three innings and the only run he gave up was when he hit a batter with the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning.

Houston’s bullpen picked up the slack for their two starters by pitching 11 combined innings and holding Arizona hitters to four hits and three runs. Baker’s use of his relief pitchers was masterful, but it isn’t something that he wants to do so early in ballgames.

Third Base: Javier Is Always Ready

Relief pitcher Cristian Javier is becoming a bright spot for the Astros bullpen. In his second appearance of the season, the former starting pitcher threw three scoreless innings and struck out five Arizona hitters. He has not allowed a run in 4 2/3 innings and is becoming one of the most reliable arms in the bullpen.

Home Plate: Centers of Attention

For the second game in a row, the starting center fielder for the Astros made a case on why they should be in the lineup consistently. Jose Siri played exceptionally well in game one of the series by using a combination of offense and defense to help Houston get the victory.

Not to be outdone by Siri, game two starter Chas McCormick shined in the 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks. He went 3-for-4 at the plate and was the tying run for the Astros in the top of the seventh inning, using his speed to tag up from third base on a flyball hit to the outfield by catcher Martin Maldonado.

Siri and McCormick have combined to go 5-for-8 during the series. Both are batting over .430 through the first six games of the season.

Suppose they can continue to have success when they are in the lineup. In that case, it will make things very difficult for their manager, who must figure out how to get Jake Meyers back onto the field once he finishes rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.

Houston finishes their final opening season nine-game road trip in Seattle and will head back home for their home opener on April 18 at Minute Maid Park.

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