• Brian L. Barefield

It's Not Time To Panic Yet Astros Fans. Or Is It?

Photo Credit-Houston Style Sports

Across social media and local sports radio shows, the theme when it comes to the Houston Astros and their early-season woes is not to panic.

Houston went through a similar situation last season on their way to their third World Series appearance in five years when they started 6-1 and then lost nine out of their next ten games.

Most fans are hoping that history does not repeat itself, but with the way the team has played over the last three games, it may be time for the players to have some sort of intervention. Or pray over the bats to figure out what is going on with the Astros offense.

On Friday, the fans in attendance got a small glimpse of what Houston’s offense used to look like in the 4-3 heartbreaking loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, which pushed the Astros record to 6-7 on the season.

Houston broke a 13-inning scoreless streak in the bottom of the third inning when Alex Bregman singled for the second time in as many at-bats to bring home Martin Maldonado from third base. It was the Astros’ first run since April 19 against the Los Angeles Angels. Two batters later, Yuli Gurriel hit a single through the hole at second base to drive home two more runs to give the Astros a 3-0 lead.

Photo Credit-Houston Style Sports

Just when it seemed as if Houston had finally broken out of their hitting afflictions, the bats fell right back into the slumber as they went hitless over the next five innings. The Blue Jays pitchers retired 15 batters in a row.

“They have a quality bullpen,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker about the midgame drought his team went through. “They are not that easy to hit.”

The lack of production at the plate was magnified when starting pitcher Justin Verlander hit a wall giving up back-to-back home runs to Santiago Espinal and Bradley Zimmer to tie the game at three apiece in the top of the fifth inning. With the way Verlander had controlled the more significant bats in the Blue Jays lineup, it was surprising that his two mistakes would come against players who have struggled at the plate this season.

“Stuff was not as sharp as I’d like,” Verlander said. “Just a little loose, but you don’t have your best stuff every time out.”

Photo Credit-Houston Style Sports

Houston’s bullpen, which has been the only bright spot for the team, did not allow another run to cross the plate after Verlander was relieved in the top of the seventh inning until Matt Chapman doubled off Hector Neris in the top of the ninth inning. With two strikes and two outs, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. scored from first base to give Toronto a 4-3 lead.

The Astros would have an opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. With pinch-runner Jose Siri on third base and one out, Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano struck out pinch hitter Jason Castro and rookie JJ Matijevic to end the game.

After the game, manager Dusty Baker was asked about his decision to bring in two pinch-hitters, one who was making his major league debut in Matijevic and take the bat out of the hands of two veterans.

“I went by the numbers, and it didn’t work,” said Baker. “Things don’t always work in your favor, and they don’t always work towards the numbers.”

Houston will be back in action against Toronto on Saturday at Minute Maid Park, with the first pitch at 3:10 pm CST.

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