Astros 2023: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

All bows to Charles Dickens, who, unlike your volunteer scribe, was paid by the word, but let’s be honest, a 2-3 start to the season is not the worst of times, especially for the defending World Champions who started last season 7-9 on the way to the crown. But looking at each portion of the season through a microscope, every little blip or speed bump seems like the end of the world.

The Astros’ 7-6 loss in 11 innings to the lowly (well, not as lowly today) Detroit Tigers was not pleasant. It was a game, depending on your point of view, that the Astros coulda woulda shoulda won or could have easily lost in regulation. It was hurtful in a lot of ways, not the least of which was letting two and almost three comebacks go to waste and, of course, losing to a team that is not supposed to be in their zip code.

But it was not all bad news, so we will do a little tit-for-tat on good and bad from last night’s game….

Good News  – Alex Bregman’s bat finally woke up. Like many players in a bad slump, there was a transition period where he was out on a liner and a long flyout his first two times up. This was a definite improvement over his recent K string, where he looked like a blindfolded kid playing pinata. Then after getting hit by a pitch, leading to a huge at bat by Yordan Alvarez, he hit solid singles in his last three at bats and lifting that batting average from a Blutarsky-ish .000 all the way up to a nose bleed inducing .143 BA.

Bad News – Pitchers must earn three outs in innings to get back to the dugout. From the Astros’ pitching side, it looked like this early on.

  • Second inning – Hunter Brown has two outs and a guy on first. He then gives up two singles to load the bases and a third single to put the Tigers ahead 2-0.
  • Fifth inning – Not to be outdone by himself, Hunter gets the first two guys out but….then walks the next two, gives up a running scoring single, and then loads the bases with another walk. Note – what I wrote above is not entirely true, as Hunter Brown did not have to get three outs to get back to the dugout. He was then replaced. The cherry on this sundae is Phil Maton walking the first guy he faces to put the Tigers ahead 4-0.
  • Not sure if it is good news that the rest of the runs scored by the Tigers on two home runs were with one out instead of two…

Good News – Phil Maton did not have to face his brother in this game, so his hand and his locker are still intact.

Bad News – The Astros again showed they don’t know how to play the small ball required to win extra-inning games under the new rule system. After Hector Neris did a great job in the top of the tenth inning to hold the Tigers at 5-5, the Astros did not get Chas McCormick home. There were a number of moving parts here:

  • Dusty Baker did not call for a bunt. Perhaps David Hensley cannot bunt well, but Jeez Louise, in this day and time when this extra-inning situation can come up in any game with the new rules, shouldn’t the teams and the players be practicing this?
  • Hensley did not hit the ball to the right side, which he is normally pretty good at doing. But he did hit it in play up the middle to the left of second base.
  • Echoing something that happened over the weekend when Chas McCormick was on second base and failed to move up on a grounder up the middle, he did not have much of a lead and did not take a secondary lead, and he stayed at second base. It would have been a tough play to cut him down if he had been a little more aggressive.
  • This meant when Mauricio Dubon did his job by driving the ball deep to right center, Chas advance 90 feet to third base rather than to home plate with the winning run.

Good News – No other team has Yordan Alvarez on their roster. He again came up with a game-changing at bat by tying the game up with a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth, a 435 ft pop-up that barely made it over the fence. Oh, wait a minute, that would be at Yellowstone Park. At Minute Maid Park, it easily flew over the fence plus.

Bad News – Hitters who had been contributing suddenly shut down. Jeremy Pena had one walk in 5 plate appearances, Chas McCormick had nada in 5 ABs, Kyle Tucker had one walk in 4 plate appearances, and David Hensley had a walk and a hit, but not when they needed it. And to be a real moaner, groaner here, but Yordan seemed to be trying too hard as he went 0 for 5 outside his long dinger.

Good News – Mauricio Dubon actually did the right thing a couple of times at bat on Monday night. He went with the pitch and ripped a screamer down the right field line that only a diving catch kept from clearing the bases and breaking the game open in the 5th inning. He also did the right thing by hitting a long fly ball to right center that was run down in the 10th inning. Baby steps.

Bad News – The bullpen, along with getting overworked, is also giving up runs at a much higher rate than we last saw them. Abreu, Montero, and Neris have all given up home runs, and Pressly had his opening-night meltdown.

Good News – Ronel Blanco, who pitched so well in the spring, has continued to pitch well during the season – giving up no hits and no runs with 6 Ks in three innings of relief to date.

Bad News – The starting pitching has been like Roger Miller’s old stogies – short but not too big around. They are not near as dominating as last season, and they are not pitching deep, which is putting a lot of pressure on the bullpen, especially with the team playing eight games in eight days right out of the chute.

Note: The injuries to Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Altuve, and Michael Brantley were not included here because though they are Bad News, they are also Old News.

As always, it’s your turn. What do you have on your Good and Bad News lists today?


18 comments on “Astros 2023: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

  1. First, a shout out to Chip for changing the Chipalatta banner to Minute Maid Park. Did anyone else notice??

    Now, it, once again, seems like Dusty is asleep during the game and not making the adjustments that everyone here is writing about. Thus, a below .500 beginning to the season.

    As you so eloquently scribe Dan, in the extra innings, with an Astro on second base to begin the bottom of the inning, bunt the runner over and anything could happen afterwards to win that game.


  2. Our Astros went 14-12 in April 2021, 11-10 in the shortened 2022 April schedule. Those number are certainly still doable.

    We got a clean frame from Pressly last night.

    Chas still has a .429 OBP. And he gets to rest tonight.

    By Frenchy standards, he’s hot. Two hits tonight?

    It looks like Julks will be getting plenty of playing time to lose his job.

    On the flip side, that’s a scary 6-9 foursome tonight.

    Dusty continues to manage a very lazy game offensively. He does not have the luxury of doing nothing right now.

    Is Maldy going to catch 5 of every 6 games in 2023?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh gosh, the faithful are in hiding.

    After the game last night, Dusty said the club is playing “fair”. I wondered if that meant everyone was playing by the rules or if he meant the guys are playing just okay.

    In fact, they are playing bad. Bregman thrown out at second by a week after assuming a homer on a ball that was not. He should know better. Frenchy picked off. Pena really struggling. I realized last night that he just does not have anything close to that strong Correa relay arm that guns guys at home. Yordan though, he’s accurate!

    Stanek was the forgotten man last year in the post season. Maybe for good reason. That two run shot late was the dagger.

    Anyway, time for the Reptile to assert himself today and for the top end of the pen to come through. A win and a day off will allow a reset.

    Right now we’ve got maybe four reliable hitters. Someone else has to step up and provide some extra base hits. Singles won’t help enough right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dave and fellow Astroholics:

      This is not a test. Proceed immediately to your safe place. If you have not storm shelter, take refuge in an interior hallway or bathtub. We have already requested and been granted a disaster declaration from the governor. F.E.M.A. representatives are on hold. A phone bank of grief counselors is standing by to take your calls. Mattress Mack is giving away queen-size sleep sets for the guest rooms of those fans whose spouses have let it be known that they have all the Astro-related fuss, worry, and stress that they can stomach.

      I know it’s hard right now – but rest assured, we on the Chipalatta team have your back. If you are dealing with an Astro-championship addiction, we recommend you call 1-800-ALTUVE.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good news – Pena is swinging a LITTLE less out of the zone than last year so far (41% to 37%). Bad news, he is swinging less at pitches in the zone as well. Hey, it’s still small sample maybe it will change, but he looks eerily like the exact same guy he was last year, and that looks a lot like a sub .300 OBP. Yes, I understand, he is leading off, so he is trying to make a conscious effort to see more pitches, but he has still swung at some bad ones, and still let some good ones go.

    Good news – Another quality start from the QS king. Bad news, another more quality start by the Tigers pitching staff.

    Good news – In only 6 games King Tuck and Yordan have already combined for .9 WAR – over 162 games that would put them over 12 each. Bad news – the rest of the offense has a combined negative number.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would like to see the following lineup

    3B Bregman
    DH Alvarez
    1B Abreu
    RF Tucker
    SS Pena
    CF McCormick
    2B Hensley
    LF Julks
    C Maldonado

    Well actually I would like to see….
    2B Altuve
    DH Alvarez
    1B Abreu
    RF Tucker
    3B Bregman
    LF Brantley
    SS Pena
    CF McCormick
    C Lee

    Maybe some day


  6. I’m good with your temporary lineup, but I think Diaz, with a bit of patience exercised, has much more upside than Julks.

    And the second lineup? Lee and Diaz. And Maybe Chas/ Dirden in center.


  7. Good News: We have good bench players
    Bad News: They are starting at C, 2B and half of the games at CF

    Good News: We won’t lose another game on Thursday
    Bad News: We’re not playing on Thursday

    Good News: Jesus loves you!
    Bad News: The devil hates you!


  8. The lineup for today….

    Pena SS
    Bregman 3B
    Alvarez DH
    Abreu 1B
    Tucker RF
    Hensley 2B
    McCormick CF
    Julks LF
    Salazar C

    And Javier on the mound


  9. Astros up 4-1 with HRs by Chas and KTuck – Chas also with a double and Julks with a sac fly
    This probably relegates Chas to the bench for a couple weeks


  10. That was much more of an Astroish ballgame. Great job by Reptile. And guys hitting doubles and home runs! Let’s get the pen rested up and hope that helps them pitch close to our expectations. Maybe for the time being, Corey Julks should keep playing. And Chas too. That’s probably too big an ask though. Enjoy the day off everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Having watched many MiLB games over the last couple years I can’t recall any issues with the pitch clock. With less than ten games under our belts the MLB games have had a ton of issues. I’m not sure how much is on the players and how much is on the umpires at this point. If I were Manfred I’d make some changes such that the hitter’s clock and pitchers clock were two separate entities. It’s detracting from the game. Speeding up the games is a definite win. Then again, perhaps Manfred and his cronies are enjoying the fact that some of us are focusing on the chaos of the pitch clock and ignoring the fact that HRs are way up despite exit velocities being down.


    • I go with the old philosophy that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t care for the pitch clock, batter clock, but a ‘Clockwork Orange” is OK. Bigger bases doesn’t seem right either. However, I think there are better ways to speed up the game. Unfortunately they are up to the umpire’s discretion so I guess it’ll stay as it is now.
      As to the Astro’s dilemma, I believe that Dusty will keep throwing mixed line up signals until whenever. It makes no difference if Chaz, Julks, or whoever goes 4 for 4 with a home run and 3 RBI’s, he’ll put somebody else in the next day. If the team is under 500 by the All Star break look for a change. I don’t see Crane putting up with a missed playoff appearance.


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