Astros Go Down in 0-2 Hole in ALCS — Four Thoughts

Jose Altuve has struggled on offense and on Monday, his play in the field cost the Astros dearly.
Jose Altuve has struggled on offense and on Monday, his play in the field cost the Astros dearly. Photo by Jack Gorman
The Astros have out-hit the Tampa Bay Rays 19-10 in the first two games of the American League Championship Series. Unfortunately, they've only managed three runs to the Rays six. Monday afternoon's Game 2 felt like a carbon copy of Game 1 with the Astros shooting themselves in the foot as their offense continues to struggle.

If the offensive issues weren't enough, there were uncharacteristic gaffes in the field that led directly to the winning runs for the Rays. And, once again, a terrific pitching effort was squandered. Here are some thoughts.

The Jose Altuve-Yuli Gurriel error was just brutal.

In the bottom of the first inning, a weakly hit grounder was sent toward Jose Altuve. After scooping it, he casually tossed it to Yuli Gurriel at first. The ball was poorly thrown, getting to Gurriel on one hop. Gurriel misplayed it and the ball wound up dribbling away allowing the runner to reach first on what would have been the third out of the inning. Instead, Manuel Margot steps to the plate and drills a three-run homer to center field. Ballgame. In these close games, that one miscue can be the difference between winning and losing. On Monday, it was.

Carlos Correa continues to sizzle.

Correa got his fifth home run of the postseason, the second time he has hit at least five (2017), which is second on the all-time list of shortstop homers in a single post season. Only Rich Aurilia hit more (six) in 2002. It also takes him to 16 total playoff dingers, four shy of the shortstop record held by Derek Jeter, who played 100 more games in the postseason in his career at the position. Unfortunately, Correa only gets one turn through the batting order each time around.

The story of the series so far is RISP.

The Astros in this series are 2-14 with runners in scoring position. They have stranded 21 on the base paths. That is absolutely abysmal. Despite out-hitting the Rays, they just cannot come up with the big hits at the right moments. Case in point the ninth inning. Down three runs, they loaded the bases with no outs. George Springer then hit into a double play. One run scored, but the damage was done. Still, the Astros loaded the bases AGAIN thanks to a pair of walks only to have Alex Bregman hit a smash liner right into the glove of the Rays center fielder. It has been that kind of series.

Astros pitching remains the team's strength.

If you want to look for any kind of silver lining, it has to be pitching. What was a giant question mark for the team coming into the playoffs has been the team's bright spot, especially when you consider two of last year's aces (Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole) are not with the team and Zack Greinke, the other solid starter, has been hurt. In Game 1, it was Framber Valdez. In Game 2, Lance McCullers, Jr. After allowing three hits in the first inning including that home run, he only allowed one through the seventh (another homer, unfortunately) and struck out seven. His stat line will show only one earned run in those seven innings. Andre Scrubb cleaned up in the eighth with no hits and two strikeouts. It was another masterful performance on the mound sadly wasted.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke