Correa healthy, Astros offense not ... yet
Houston isn't at all concerned after scoring four runs in three losses
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Astros aren’t about to start panicking about their rough offensive start. They’re not going to smash water coolers or make any other knee-jerk actions following a season-opening series at the Rays in which they lost three out of four games.
After beating the Rays on Opening Day on Thursday, the Astros’ vaunted offense was missing in action in three consecutive losses in which it managed four runs and 17 hits. The Rays, in beating the Astros 3-1 on Sunday at Tropicana Field, held Houston to four baserunners, with a Jake Marisnick homer in the third inning accounting for the only run.
“We didn’t create a lot of opportunities for ourselves,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “We didn’t leave a guy on base until the last inning. They took real good swings, and we walk out of here losing three of four. Needless to say, we’re ready to get out of here.”
The Astros went 17-for-92 (.213) in the three losses with three extra-base hits, eight walks and 23 strikeouts. Alex Bregman went 1-for-15 in the series with a homer, José Altuve was 3-for-14 with a homer and Yuli Gurriel was 3-for-13. Aledmys Díaz (0-for-9) and Tony Kemp (0-for-7) were hitless.
“Everybody knows that we have a good lineup,” Bregman said. “We’ve just got to get a better quality of at-bat, especially myself. My at-bats have been horrible.”
The Astros did hit several balls hard. George Springer stung a couple, hitting a lineout in the third inning with a 109.7-mph exit velocity and grounding out to start the game on a ball with a 104.2-mph exit velo. Last year, the Astros had an 87.6-mph average exit velo, which was 10th in the AL.
“We’ve been hitting a lot of balls hard right at people,” Altuve said. “Springer’s been crushing the ball right at people. Bregman, too. He only has one hit, but he’s been hitting the ball hard. That’s the only thing you can control. You have to keep putting good swings on the ball and things will be fine.”
In fairness, the Astros played without star shortstop Carlos Correa until Sunday. He missed the first three games with a neck strain and went 0-for-3 in his season debut. Michael Brantley didn’t start Sunday but came off the bench in the eighth and hit into an inning-ending double play. The Astros have yet to have their top six hitters in the lineup all in the game at once.
Much of the credit Sunday went to Rays starter Yonny Chirinos, who Hinch said “was nasty.” He set down 20 of the 22 batters he faced, allowing two baserunners in seven dominant innings. Marisnick homered in the third and beat out an infield single in the sixth. The Astros didn’t draw a walk until Springer with two outs in the ninth.
“We didn’t see him well at all,” Hinch said. “We didn’t have a lot of good swings. We had a couple of at-bats where things could have swung a little bit differently, but for the most part it was pretty high-end velocity. He had sink, the split was good, his breaking ball was good. We didn’t know whether or not he was going to stay in the game as long as he did. He was very effective.”
The game ended in rightful frustration, with Altuve trying to lay down a bunt -- he had a bunt single Saturday -- and instead popping it out foul to third base.
“With Alex hitting behind me and George on base, I was the tying run and I wanted to get on base in front of Alex,” he said. “It was a bad pitch. I should have taken it, but it is what it is.”