All of last postseason Astros manager A.J. Hinch dealt with a less than ideal bullpen situation. Scraping by on recycled starters and questionable relievers, he helped lead the Astros through a complex postseason to their first ever World Series championship. On Tuesday night, with one of the league's best bullpens at his disposal, Hinch put in questionable relievers in high leverage situations and left arms on the mound longer than he should have. The result was a brutal 8-2 loss at Minute Maid Park to put the Red Sox up 2-1 in the best-of-seven ALCS.
The first mistake was pulling starter Dallas Keuchel after five innings, giving up two runs on four hits, and replacing him with Joe Smith, his first appearance in the postseason. Smith gave up a home run to put the Sox back up after the Astros had tied the game up. Smith lasted one-third of an inning.
Perhaps Hinch's biggest mistake, however, came in the eighth inning. With the Red Sox clinging to a 3-2 lead, Hinch went to his closer, an odd choice considering he still had Colin McHugh in the bullpen. Roberto Osuna gave up five runs on two hit batsmen and a grand slam to light hitting Jackie Bradley.
But, make no mistake, Hinch doesn't bear the burden of this loss alone. Once again at home, where the Astros struggled most of the season offensively, the bats were mostly silent, generating only two runs on seven hits. Both Jose Altuve (knee) and Carlos Correa (back), two of the 'Stros best hitters, are struggling with injuries, and it's readily apparent in the lineup.
The end result was a tough loss forcing the Astros to win three of the next four games. The good news is the next two are at home and they will likely need both of them to win the series. No one should be counting out the world champs, but they will need to hit better and make better decisions with their pitching if they are going to knot the series up and, ultimately, move on to the World Series for a second year in a row.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.