By Will Martin
Going into the week that began on June 16 the Astros looked primed and ready to prepare to leapfrog their Texan opponent sitting two games above them in fourth place as they match their win total for 2013 (33) at the All-Star break some three weeks ahead of schedule.
Win #33 came on Friday June 20 when Jarred Cosart earned his seventh win of the season to help snap a three game skid at Tampa Bay.
Cosart went eight innings without allowing a run while George Springer provided all the run support Jarred needed in a 3-1 victory inside the very ballpark where his career began less than one calendar year ago on July 12 at Tropicana Field, also against David Price.
“I knew I had to execute my pitches down and attack the zone early because they were going to be swinging early, and it’s pretty true,” Cosart said. “They came out swinging, and I was able to get a lot of ground balls.”
With a 3-0 record against the Rays and a 1.17 ERA Cosart was quick to credit David Price for some of his desire to succeed.
“I’m a young guy in the league, and that’s a guy I’ve watched for years — and he’s one of the best in the league, and he’s proven that,” Cosart said. “That’s where we’re all trying to get, just trying to go out there and compete pitch for pitch. It’s always fun to beat the best.”
The week didn’t start out so well with a two game swing in Washington DC-a place Bo Porter knows well-with back to back 6-5 defeats to start off a week where the bats went cold. A third straight 1-run loss where Darin Downs and Josh Zeid were unable to hold a lead late cost Houston a win in the nation’s capital.
“That’s always tough,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “When you look at the good run in which our bullpen was on, a lot of that was predicated by the fact our starters were going deep into the game — seven innings Dallas Keuchel sometimes eight or nine. The guys were well rested. Any time you start to stretch it out and now you’re trying to get 12 or more outs out of those guys down there, it makes it very challenging.”
Dallas Keuchel had his difficulties in the opener at hot and humid Washington. The finale allowed Scott Feldman an opportunity to get the win after a 4-run fourth inning and a 4-2 lead on the Nats.
“It was a battle,” Feldman said. “I was throwing a lot of pitches, and it’s hard to stop sweating when you’re throwing so many pitches like that. The last couple of innings were better, but I wish I had been a little more conservative with them early on in the game.”
Of note during that June 18 game, Jose Altuve collected hits #500 and #501 in his 426th game. Altuve now the fastest Astro to get to 500 hits in their history besting Cesar Cedeno who reached 501 hits in 427 games and Terry Puhl who hit the 500 plateau in 1980 in his 45oth game. Nats starter Gio Gonzalez got a no-decision while Rafael Soriano collected his 14th and 15th saves.
Dallas Keuchel may have hit a plateau at this point of the season. He suffered a second loss in the week to fall to 8-5 after Dexter Fowler hit a first pitch home run and a challenge aided RBI gave Keuchel an early lead. One that was lost after a three run fifth by the Rays courtesy of a two run double by Yunel Escobar. Allowing the bases to load on a walk and bunt single and single didn’t help DK’s cause.
“This game can be pretty ruthless sometimes,” Keuchel said.
In that sense what looked to be a double play grounder to Sean Rodriguez was not relayed quickly enough thus a fourth run came across as the Rays would close out a 1-6 week for the Astros with a 5-2 defeat. This despite a complete game performance by Dallas Keuchel.
“Dallas Keuchel did a tremendous job of battling,” manager Bo Porter said. “I felt like there were some critical breakpoint defensive plays that if we play a little bit better overall, he would have fared better and the game would have been a different outcome.”
“The double play that ended up not being turned, the ball that goes right past Guzman … it’s one inch the other way, he fields the ball and throws the ball to the plate and it’s a different outcome,” Porter said. “Baseball is a game of inches. You get in those breakpoint situations, if those plays go your way, you’re in a much better position to win the game.”
The Astros since June 17 are mired in a 25-56 slump or a .160 average with 59 strikeouts.
A spot start was utilized by Houston with rookie Jake Buchanan getting the ball with Brad Peacock nursing a bad case of food poisoning. It was a night to forget as the Astros were infield hit away from being no-hit in an 8-0 loss to the Rays.
“It was a little nerve-wracking but not as bad as I thought it was going to be,” Buchanan said. “I think I had a little adrenaline, more than I’m used to, so it kind of affected my command. I just didn’t really have the command I normally do and walked some batters and fell behind with some bad pitches. It was pretty exciting to get out there and pitch in a big league game.”
Jose Altuve had the lone hit of the evening in the fourth inning as Jake Odorizzi improved his record to 3-7 for Tampa Bay with some relief help in seven plus innings of work.
The Astros now return home for a lengthy homestand beginning with the Atlanta Braves for three followed by three with the Detroit Tigers.
6/24 vs Braves 7:10 p.m.
6/25 vs Braves 7:10 p.m.
6/26 vs Braves 1:10 p.m.
6/27 vs Tigers 7:10 p.m.
6/28 vs Tigers 3:10 p.m.
6/29 vs Tigers 1:10 p.m.