Three takeaways after a tough road trip

May 23rd, 2021

ARLINGTON -- A week after sweeping the Rangers in four games in Houston, the Astros had the tables turned on them at Globe Life Field.

Adolis García, who had a walk-off homer Friday and launched two homers Saturday, played the role of the hero once again when he delivered a walk-off infield single off Ryan Pressly in the 10th to send the Rangers to a 3-2 win and series sweep.

The stinging loss capped a disappointing 2-4 road trip for the Astros, who return home to Minute Maid Park, where they’ve won six games in a row. Houston will welcome three of the best teams in baseball with the Dodgers (Tuesday-Wednesday), Padres (Friday-Sunday) and Red Sox (May 31-June 3) coming into town. 

“Three really, really good teams,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “It’s going to be fun. It’s like playoff baseball. These guys are really good. I think we need to continue putting together good at-bats, playing good [defense] and pitching and worry about what we can control. It’s always fun to compete against the best. We’ve got three of the best teams in baseball coming in.” 

Here are three takeaways from the road trip: 

1. Not being able to contain García was costly 

García, the Cuban sensation who was called up April 13, went 5-for-15 in the series but delivered two walk-off hits and put on a show Saturday with a pair of homers. The Astros had actually pitched him well for most of Sunday, when he started 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a hit into a double play.

Astros manager Dusty Baker’s decision to not intentionally walk García in the 10th Sunday -- with one out and the winning run at third -- was perhaps the wrong move. With the infield in and Joey Gallo on deck, second baseman Jose Altuve made a nice play to snag Garcia’s grounder, but Altuve had no shot to get Nick Solak at the plate.

“He just found a hole,” Baker said. “Joey Gallo has hurt us the last couple of years since I’ve been here. Then they got the dangerous [Isiah Kiner-Falefa] after that. Yeah, we considered [walking García], but I thought with Pressly’s stuff -- he jammed the heck out of him. You can’t make a better pitch than he made.”

2. Where did the offense go?

The Astros were an offensive juggernaut heading into the Texas series, having won eight of nine games while hitting 13 home runs and averaging 6.8 runs per game. They didn’t have fewer than nine hits in that span, but the Rangers -- with former Astros pitcher Mike Foltynewicz throwing seven scoreless innings on Sunday -- held them to eight hits Saturday and seven Sunday. Houston hit one homer in the series.

“Before today, we got plenty of hits,” Baker said. “We just couldn’t get them with runners in scoring position. You go through periods like this. You [don’t] know when they’re going to happen, and you don’t know when they’re going to come out of it. We certainly have to come out of it with the next opponent we’re facing, the Dodgers.” 

Designated hitter Yordan Alvarez went 3-for-22 with nine strikeouts on the road trip. 

3. The bullpen remains an issue 

Astros general manager James Click said on the team’s pregame radio show Sunday that the club will start addressing the bullpen internally, which may mean some struggling arms could get sent down. And there are plenty of them. The only sure thing is Pressly, who certainly bears no fault in allowing the automatic runner to score Sunday without a ball getting hit out of the infield.

The only game during the road trip in which the Astros bullpen didn’t allow a run was Wednesday in Oakland, when Zack Greinke threw eight solid innings and Kent Emanuel had a clean ninth. In the four games after that, Houston’s relievers gave up 12 runs (seven earned) in 16 2/3 innings and walked eight batters. They blew saves both Friday and Saturday. 

Ryne Stanek, who had a scoreless eighth Sunday, has to cut down on walks. Lefty Brooks Raley has pitched well of late, but Enoli Paredes is walking too many guys. Andre Scrubb hasn’t approached last year’s success in limited action, and Joe Smith and Bryan Abreu have been inconsistent. It doesn’t help that Houston’s big offseason bullpen addition -- veteran right-hander Pedro Báez -- has yet to throw a pitch because of COVID-19 and a shoulder injury.