The Astros opened the mini-season this weekend with a four-game series with the Seattle Mariners that concludes Monday night. Friday and Saturday (with one exception) went about as well as anyone could ask. Sunday? Ah, Sunday bloody Sunday was not a good day for the team or their fans.
Friday and Saturday ended with almost matching 8-2 and 7-2 wins for the home team. The only drawback of the first two games was the groin injury that placed Aledmys Diaz on the IL. Pluses from the first two days included:
- Two solid starting pitching performances by both Justin Verlander (6 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 7 Ks) and by Lance McCullers Jr.(6 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 6 Ks). This was especially encouraging for McCullers who had not pitched in a real game since the ALCS against Boston in 2018.
- Good to very good relief appearances, including three MLB debuts with Enoli Paredes, Cristian Javier, and Blake Taylor.
- Plenty of offense as each of the 11 position players who appeared, scored or drove in a run during the 2 game span.
- Some solid offense from the bottom of the order, led by Martin Maldonado and his 4 hits and 4 RBIs. Maldonado, Diaz, Josh Reddick, Kyle Tucker and Abraham Toro combined for a .391 BA with 6 runs scored and 5 RBIs during Friday and Saturday’s games.
- New manager Dusty Baker had a good couple of days as he was able to get the young pitcher’s feet wet and also got a good inning each out of Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski and Cy Sneed with Devo and Cy both striking out the side in their appearances. Every button he pushed worked during this two-game stretch.
And then…..Sunday happened.
- The most negative thing to happen on Sunday was the article from the Houston Chronicle (spit!!) that Justin Verlander would miss the rest of the season, followed by the announcement from the club and JV that the Chronicle was full of spit. Right now Verlander will rest for two weeks and then reevaluate his strained elbow. There has to be big concern at this point that the changes JV made to his delivery after his lat and groin injury/surgery in the Spring, led to the elbow strain. Whether that miraculously heals itself and does not recur or worsen….is an optimistic view at this point.
- Zack Greinke, unlike Verlander and McCullers pitched like he was not ready for the season to begin. He pretty much said so after the game when he said he was lacking endurance, command and even stuff (fastball at 87 mph). This led to him getting pulled in the 4th inning and led to the next bullet point in this list.
- Both Joe Biagini and Devenski brought their gas cans to the fire as Biagini let the M’s race away to a 4-1 lead and then Devo allowed the Mariners to flip a 5-4 Astros lead into a 7-5 M’s lead and 7-6 victory.
- The offense scored 6 runs, which certainly should be adequate to win most games, but they did leave some meat on the bone, especially stranding Reddick after his leadoff triple in the 6th inning and with wrapping strikeouts by George Springer, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman around ninth-inning doubles by Kyle Tucker and Michael Brantley.
- On a positive note, the youngsters bent but did not break out of the bullpen as Bryan Abreu, Blake Taylor and Brandon Bailey (in his MLB debut) did what the veterans in the bullpen could not do and held the M’s scoreless in their combined 4 innings of work.
And it all may not matter. Additional bad news had 12 Miami Marlin players and 2 coaches test positive from COVID-19. This caused a cancellation of their game, but also the cancellation of a Phillies – Yankees game as the Phillies were exposed to the Marlins in their series. The domino effect of such a breakout could bring the season to its knees and to a halt.
There are more important things than a baseball season these days, but the distraction and entertainment it brought have been welcomed. Where it all goes now will be seen pretty soon.