Will Philip Humber stay in the rotation?
With a 9-0 loss to the Tigers on Sunday, the Astros were swept by the defending American League champion. They have lost six in a row and 10 of their last 11 and now sit at 8-24, the worst record in baseball.
But even as this young team is in rebuilding mode, they’re not looking for excuses. In fact, a few players spoke up at a team meeting after the game.
“[We met] as a group, as a family like we,” catcher Carlos Corporan said. “A few guys stepped up and said the truth -- the thing we have to do to win some ballgames because it‘s not fun to come here and lose every day.
“Nobody is quitting. We are going to fight together. We have each other’s back and we’re going to grind until the end.”
In Sunday’s loss, starter Philip Humber had a shaky start to put his team in an early hole. He gave up six runs in the first two innings, including a pair of two-run home runs. He lasted just four innings, giving up eight hits and eight runs while walking three.
“It seemed like every mistake I made they hit hard and I just didn’t make enough good pitches,” Humber said. “My velocity is pretty down, so that makes every mistake…you don’t get them back as much as you might with a little better velocity, but it is what it is and I’ve got to pitch with it and find a way to make better pitches.”
“In his first three starts, he was really attacking the strike zone. There weren’t that many deep counts, it was early contact,” manager Bo Porter said. “In the last four, it’s a lot of deep counts and a lack of attack of the strike zone, which has put him behind in the count, and when you get behind the count, you allow them to get into a hitter’s count and when you put something in the zone, they’re going to be in attack mode and put good swings on them.”
Porter has made some recent moves in the starting rotation, sending starter Brad Peacock to the bullpen and then down to Triple A before calling up Jordan Lyles to take his spot last week. Then he announced Sunday that Erik Bedard has been moved to the bullpen for an indefinite amount of time, but he wouldn’t commit to a decision about Humber, who is now 0-7 with an ERA of 8.82.
“We will take the off day and think about it and look at the schedule and how it maps out moving forward, but I’m not going to make a knee-jerk decision sitting here today after the game,” Porter said. “We’ll think about our options and go from there.”
“That’s out of my control, but I definitely haven’t done anything to prevent that from happening,” Humber said. “I just try to control what I can. I try to come in and work as hard as I possibly can every day, and just right now it’s not happening for me.”
It was quite the opposite for Tigers’ starter Justin Verlander. He a no-hitter going through six innings before Carlos Pena broke it up with a single to right field with one out in the seventh.
“We just kept trying to put together good at-bats,” Pena said. “It was our best chance and that’s exactly what I tried to do all game, and finally we were able to get a hit there at the end.”
Corporan followed Pena with a single to left field.
“Today he was mixing good pitches,” Corporan said. “I felt like I faced three different pitchers every at-bat. He was changing speeds. I was just trying to put good swings and stay with plan.”
Those were the only two hits the Astros got off Verlander, although they did get two more off reliever Darin Downs.
“He’s got different speeds that can go all the way up to 100 mph then throw you something as slow as the low 70s – that’s a very big spread,” Pena said. “He throws all his pitches for strikes at any time. It always seems like he has something up his sleeve, and he pulls it out when you least expect it.”
“He had his good stuff today,” Porter said. “He was throwing all his pitches for strikes, threw the ball in and out and stayed ahead of our hitters, and then he had his good put-away stuff.”
The Astros have an off-day on Monday before starting a three-game series with the Angels on Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m.