Astros go from spoiler to preservative

Astros go from spoiler to preservative
September 26, 2013, 3:00 pm
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When the Astros began a three-game home series versus the Reds on Sept. 16, it was the first of 10 consecutive games against three teams fighting for either a division title or a wild-card berth.

So much for being the spoiler. After Wednesday’s 7-3 loss at Texas, the Astros’ losing streak reached a club-record-tying 12 games. And making matters worse, the club set a franchise record with 108 losses with three games remaining on the 2013 schedule.

For the third consecutive year the Astros have eclipsed 100 losses, and for the third consecutive year the franchise has set a mark for most losses in a season. In 2011 the club lost 106 games, and last year lost 107 games.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” said first-year Astros manager Bo Porter. “It’s up to us as an organization to fix this.”

The Astros conclude their season with three games at Minute Maid Park against the New York Yankees starting on Friday.

After being swept by the Reds in three games at Minute Maid Park, the Astros were swept in four games at Cleveland, followed by losing all three in Arlington.

“Definitely coming into this situation I felt like we would fare much better than we did,” said Porter. “But at the same time there’s a reason why all these teams are either going to be in the playoffs, or they are fighting for their playoff lives.”

Wednesday’s loss was the 11th straight time the Rangers had beaten the Astros, who finished 2-17 against the Rangers this season.

The Astros had taken a 3-1 lead in Houston’s three-run fourth inning on a two-run home run to dead center by Brandon Laird, his fifth of the season, off winning pitcher Martin Perez (10-5). Houston starter Dallas Keuchel did not allow a hit until two outs in the fourth inning, and then things unraveled quickly.

Texas had a five-run fourth inning, all after two outs, with the big blow being Leonys Martin’s three-run double giving the Rangers a 4-3 lead.

“We couldn’t get out of that,” said Porter. “They just got big hit after big hit and put up a five-spot and we couldn’t mount anything to come back.”

Keuchel allowed seven runs, six earned, and six hits in 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and three walks. For the season Keuchel was 6-10 with a 5.15 ERA in 31 appearances. In 22 starts Keuchel was 6-8 with a 4.90 ERA.

“He definitely had some stretches where he was really good,” said Porter. “And even (Wednesday). It’s the one inning.

“You can’t take that one inning out and throw it away, but he had some really good stretches where he was really, really good. Had a couple of starts where he didn’t fare to well but Dallas Keuchel is a major league pitcher.”

On Wednesday Keuchel was one pitch away from getting out of the fourth inning unscathed. The left-hander had a 0-2 count on Craig Gentry, but he hit Gentry to load the bases with two outs and the Astros leading 3-1. Martin, the next batter, cleared the bases with a double and the Rangers were on their way to another win over the Astros.

“I felt like he elevated the ball a little more at the back end of that inning,” said Porter. “The double by Martin was a breaking ball. He wanted to get it down, left it up a little, and he (Martin) was able to get it down the line to drive in three runs.”

Keuchel said he feels like he’s proven he can pitch in the major leagues and will compete for a spot on next year’s roster, either as a starter or long reliever.

But Wednesday’s outcome came down to the Rangers’ five-run fourth inning in which seven straight Rangers reached base. Keuchel hitting Gentry with a pitch had consequences.

“I had Gentry 0-2 and I think if I make a good pitch inside fastball I get him,” said Keuchel. “Obviously I pulled it and they get five runs. I have to do a better job of making pitches and getting out of the inning, especially when we put up a three-spot in the top of the fourth.

“It’s just one of those days where one pitch leads to a downfall. I take blame for that and I got to do a better job of getting out of that inning.”

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