It is so strange how the fortunes of sports teams can change so completely in the matter of a few days or weeks.
Two weeks ago the Astros were riding a huge wave of good news and great actions. At the trade deadline they had picked up the biggest plum in pitcher Zack Greinke and then also picked up another pitcher Aaron Sanchez, who might be a Charlie Morton steal and a solid reliever in Joe Biagini. They had also upgraded backup catcher with Martin Maldonado and they had the super bonus of finding a real Designated Hitter (Yordan Alvarez) over the last couple months to replace their Designated Misser (Tyler White). Their injured position players (Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz) had all returned and assimilated themselves back into good production. Plus Yuli Gurriel was so hot you could feel the heat from a few thousand miles away.
But in a perfect storm of bad luck, bad timing and bad performances the Astros have a big challenge facing them on the pitching side of the ledger. What all happened simultaneously to lead to at least a short term crisis?
- First of all their closer Roberto Osuna capped a couple months of declining performance by handing away a get away game to the terrible Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. There is something about blown saves that is both psychologically depressing to the team and often contagious to the other folks in the bullpen.
- Also, their oh so crucial pitching coach, Brent Strom is not with the club as he recovers from emergency gastrointestinal surgery.
- Then the nicely laid out rotation of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Wade Miley and Aaron Sanchez got side swiped by a rain out in Chicago, which forced them to play a doubleheader on Tuesday against the Pale Hosers.
- Part of the unlucky circumstances was that they would not have another day off for 13 days. This was after having two days off the week before. A day off would have let them skate past the doubleheader issue.
- The doubleheader immediately meant they would have a TBD for one of their weekend starts against the A’s if they were going to keep everyone on normal rest. On top of this it meant they would have to use up most of their bullpen in one day as they were likely going to need an inning from three or four relievers in each game.
- Then in another bad break 2nd game starter Gerrit Cole went lame with discomfort in his hamstring (Can we explore transplanting un-pullable hamstrings into all our Houston athletes? We do have one of the biggest med centers in the world here.) This meant that the Astros had to use multiple relievers for multiple innings each, burning them for use in the day(s) that followed.
- So when the Astros really needed a good, long outing from Wade Miley on Wednesday – he put up by far his shortest (3.1 innings) and worst (7 runs / 3 earned – but most of the unearned was his fault) performance of the season.
- On top of this, the Astros pitching in this game, 5 times allowed the White Sox to score in the bottom of an inning where the offense had scored in the top and where All-Star Ryan Pressly gave up the dagger blow, a James McCann tie breaking grand slam with 2 outs 2 strikes in the bottom of the 8th.
The Astros now totter off to Oakland for the kind of four game series that could bury the A’s for the rest of the season or give them new life against our hometown heroes. Will the ill winds continue to blow against their ship?
One can only hope that the Astros can stop the bleeding. But will they have to wait for Cole’s muscle to heal first?