Strikeouts mounting as Astros drop series

Strikeouts mounting as Astros drop series
April 3, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Porter: 'We're not gonna panic'

After the first three games of the season, the Astros are on a record pace.

Not a good one.

As the Astros fell to the Rangers 4-0 on Wednesday afternoon – they lost the series – they struck out 15 times for the second consecutive game. They struck out 13 times in the Opening Day win.

In three games, the Astros have struck out 43 times. Over half of their outs (53 percent) have come on strikeouts.

With at least 13 strikeouts in their last three games, the Astros have already tied the longest such streak since 1916. They also did it in June of last season. This current three-game streak of 13-strikeout games is the longest to ever start a season. The Rangers' 43 strikeouts are a new MLB record for a team in its first three games.

“I think yesterday was more about their guy,” manager Bo Porter said. “Today was more about our guys. I think our guys expanded the zone way too often today and it’s something that we need to make an adjustment to and do a better job of. Even the fastballs they threw to get ahead in the count, either we fouled them off or didn’t put them into play.”

After Jose Altuve led off the bottom of the first inning with a double, he moved to third on a groundout. With one out, the Astros had a man on third in the series finale with a chance to take an early lead on the Rangers.

Then, Carlos Pena struck out swinging. That was strikeout No. 1 on the game.

Then, Chris Carter struck out swinging to end the inning. That was No. 2.

The Astros never scored a run on Wednesday. For the second day in a row they were shut out. They also ended up striking out 13 more times before the afternoon game concluded.

All three of the Rangers’ starting pitchers in the series set career highs for strikeouts against the Astros.

“For me, it’s an out,” said outfielder Rick Ankiel, who struck out twice in two at-bats on Wednesday. “And an out’s an out. It is what it is. Who cares, really?”

Rangers starter Alexi Ogando went 6 1/3 innings and struck out 10 Astros. His stuff was working but, as opposed to Tuesday night, when Yu Darvish was dealing a near-perfect game, the Astros helped the opposing pitcher.

Porter said they expanded the strike zone, which was something they hadn’t done in the two previous games. That, combined with Ogando’s slider, made for a plentiful strikeout day.

The Astros last five outs came by strikeout. On the season, Brett Wallace is 1-for-10 with eight Ks.

Carlos Pena is 2-for-11 with six strikeouts. Chris Carter is 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts. Those were the Astros’ 2-3-4 hitters on Wednesday afternoon.

Combined, those guys are 3-for-32 with 21 strikeouts. The middle of the lineup is supposed to be where runs are generated. That’s not happening. Right now, those guys can’t seem to get the ball into play.

“I felt like we’ve been chasing a lot of pitches lately and putting ourselves in holes early in the count,” Carter said. “We have to go up there and wait for a pitch to hit.”

The potential for power still exists in the middle of the Astros’ lineup; it just hasn’t shown up yet. That was the design of this team. It might be too early to say, but, so far at least, that design looks mighty flawed.

“Whenever you have guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, strikeouts are a part of it,” Porter said. “It comes and goes in phases and that’s why I’m not overly concerned about it. These same guys, I’ve watched them swing a bat for over a month and a half now. I’m confident that they’re going to be able to hit and it’s three games. We’re not going to panic.”

The all-time record for strikeouts in a season is 1,529 by the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks. The AL record is 1,387 by the 2012 Athletics. With 43 strikeouts in three games, the Astros are well on pace to shatter both records. If they were to stay on this pace – which would be hard to do – they’d finish with 2,322 strikeouts.

But they probably won’t stay on this pace. At least they don’t think they will.

“We have only three games and I trust my team,” leadoff hitter Jose Altuve said. “We have a really good team. I know we’re going to do really good.”

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