The ‘Big Inning’ was once again the curse of the Houston Astros pitching staff.
Lucas Harrell had been making great strides lately, seemingly gaining great command of his repertoire and putting together genuine wins. He had also been adding to his trade stock. If a serious contender had shown interest, then the Astros could have been looking at some good prospects.
The St. Louis Cardinals came to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night leading the National League in most batting categories, including a team average of .274. They also top the tables of on-base percentage and hits with runners in scoring position. The Red Birds just know how to get on base; it’s no wonder they’ve been dominating so convincingly. Over the weekend, they lost three straight to the Texas Rangers, and looked as though they were not at all happy about it.
Harrell gave up three walks, seven runs and was yanked off the mound in the fourth inning by Bo Porter. He is every bit a confidence-driven pitcher, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the setback and approaches the hill next time out. The scoring surge was opened by his poor command in the fourth, but he was by no means the only Astro to blame. After the optioning of Marwin Gonzalez, Ronny Cedeno’s error at shortstop, his tenth of the season, was salt in the wound.
Houston came into the game with a June batting-average of just .219, compared to the .289 of St. Louis, which of course called for strong defense. Giving up 15 hits and 13 runs is not exactly indicative of that idea. The Astros were able to have a four-run inning of their own in the sixth, but again this just isn’t enough when combined with little-league defense.
Justin Maxwell, who just came back from a broken hand, had a scary moment in center-field while diving for a line drive. He face-planted into the ground and had to leave the game. Afterwards, the prognosis was a mild-concussion, something that neither the Astros nor Maxwell need. Brett Wallace returned from the minors and was able to snap a 0-24 batting drought with a two-RBI triple, small consolation. Houston had better show up on Wednesday to show that they can indeed play with the big boys.