The Houston Astros arrived in St. Petersburg, Florida, riding a fairly dire streak. The Tampa Bay Rays were playing as well as anyone in the majors. It seemed to add up to a blowout three-game series, but as it transpired the Astros were able to emerge with some optimism.
The Rays and the Astros are both in the bottom three of a list ranking attendance numbers for all major league teams. The Astros’ numbers have understandably declined as the season has progressed and hope has turned into frustration for many fans.
The Rays, on the other hand, are in the most difficult and talented division in the league, and they are doing extremely well. Tampa Bay is second only to the Boston Red Sox, and sit above the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, all teams who began the season with plans of playing in October.
And so one could be forgiven for thinking the Astros had little hope going into the weekend series. Indeed, from the point of view of the Astros, the success of the trip to Tropicana Field became less with each game, but there were flashing moments where the balance may have easily shifted in Houston’s favor.
Compared to Jarred Cosart’s terrific debut on Friday, few things were likely to shine too brightly, but familiar patterns carried on, some good and some bad. Brett Wallace continued his solid batting streak, with a long-ball on Saturday and the team’s only multi-base hit during Sunday’s loss.
Unfortunately, Houston’s most common theme prevailed again this weekend. They failing to close out a game. Looking at Saturday’s final losing score of 4-3 you might think it was a close-fought game and the Astros were close but just unlucky. The reality is that they were 3-0 up and in command, but the closing pitching failed them again and blew yet another lead. For all the optimism that Friday’s youthful performance brought, Saturday’s choke and Sunday’s blowout were cold reminders of some hard facts.