Astros' struggles vs. sub-.500 clubs continue

Baker on quiet lineup: ‘We’ve just been inconsistent’

August 24th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Chalk this up as something that doesn’t have an explanation and probably never will.

The Astros, who have played in four consecutive American League Championship Series and have been one of the best teams in the league this year, have dropped the season series to AL Central also-rans the Twins, Tigers and Royals, who beat them 7-1 in Monday night’s series opener at Minute Maid Park.

“It’s been tough,” said Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who went 3-for-3 with a walk. “We haven’t been able to take care of business against teams that aren’t on the same level in the standings as we are. It’s been tough, and we have to try to do better and take care of business.”

While the Astros have lost the season series to the three teams in the AL Central with losing records, they’ve dominated the first-place White Sox (5-2) and second-place Indians (6-1). The Royals have proven to be a much more difficult opponent, winning three of four games in Kansas City last week before taking Monday’s opener in Houston.

The Astros are a Major League-best 45-27 against teams that are above .500 this year, and 28-25 against teams at .500 or below. 

“It’s very disappointing, but that’s what happens when you play [a team twice in one week],” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We haven’t played them all year and they got hot. They went to Chicago [and swept the Cubs], and they’re feeling pretty good about themselves. It doesn’t matter if it's a softer part of the schedule as far as everybody here is concerned. 

“Right now, teams are playing you tough no matter who you play. These teams are as dangerous or even more dangerous than contending teams, because they have nothing to lose right now and you can tell.”

Astros starter Zack Greinke held the Royals to two runs and six hits, including a homer to Salvador Perez, but an Astros team that scored 30 runs in three games over the weekend against the Mariners managed only one run Monday. The Astros were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 on base.

After bashing 30 hits and 27 runs in wins over the Mariners on Friday and Saturday, the Astros have 19 hits and four runs in their last two games. They went 8-for-19 with runners in scoring position in the two wins over Seattle and are 4-for-25 in the two games since.

“We’ve got to get back to scoring,” Baker said. “We’ve just been inconsistent. Score a bunch one day and then the next day, have trouble getting them in. Boy, those guys, they’re handing it to us. I feel like a counter-puncher. They’re punching us, and we’re not punching them back.”

Greinke isn’t too concerned about the Astros’ struggles against non-contending teams. 

“I don’t know,” he said. “It seems like every year, I’m on a team and [the media] find some small thing to complain about. Like this year, you guys think that’s a big deal. Last year, we might not have won home games or something, like that was a big deal. Things like that. I think in Arizona [where I played 2016-2019], it was something like not doing enough good at home one time, too. I don’t know. You can’t win every game and it just happens.”