Astros struggle out west

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The Houston Astros managed just two wins in its 11-game road trip to the west coast last week but still sat in second place in the American League West by 2.5 games entering this week of play with 13 games remaining in the regular season.

The Astros returned home, where they have one of the best home records in baseball, to begin a three-game series with the Texas Rangers at the beginning of this week and will battle the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend. Houston will then travel to Seattle to face the Mariners team that sits in third place in the west and just outside the playoff picture.

Despite owning the fifth-best home record (16-6) in the Majors this season, the Astros fell to 7-18 on the road which is third-worst behind only Pittsburgh and Arizona. Houston will finish with four more away games due to postponements and rescheduling, playing 32 away and 28 home games.

Most recently, the Astros split a two-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a rematch of the 2017 World Series that lasted all seven games. Earlier this season, the teams met in Houston and the visiting Dodgers took both games and now own the season series three games to one.

The Astros would have been swept again had it not been for a five-run top of the ninth inning in the first game of the series off Los Angeles reliever Kenley Jansen. Scoring hits were made by Josh Reddick (two-RBI double), Martin Maldonado (one-RBI single), George Springer (one-RBI fielder’s choice), Alex Bregman (go-ahead, one-RBI single) and Yuli Gurriel (RBI sacrifice fly) to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 7-5 win.

Springer has been a bright spot in the lineup, boasting a .333 average over his last 12 games with two doubles, a triple and four home runs, seven RBI and an OPS of 1.039. Maldonado has kept up the heat behind the plate with his 20 RBI registering third among American League catchers, 21 walks leading the club and a .366 on-base percentage ranking second among Houston regulars.

Bregman recently returned to the starting lineup after missing 17 games with hamstring discomfort and collected a hit in each of the last two games.

On the mound, Zack Greinke and Framber Valdez are tied for the team lead with 57.1 innings pitched between Greinke’s 10 starts and Valdez’s eight starts and one relief appearance. Behind them is rookie Christian Javier with 44.2 innings pitched over eight starts and two relief appearances with an ERA of 3.22 which is the lowest among Astros pitchers who have registered 20 or more innings pitched.

Javier is one of 15 rookie pitchers used by Houston this year, two more than the previous high for new Astros pitchers set in 2011. Of those 15, 10 made their Major League debuts in 2020 and three of the five rookie starters remain in the rotation.

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