Astros offense missing the key hit

Astros offense missing the key hit
August 31, 2013, 11:00 pm
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(Troy Taormina - USA Today Sports Images)

Astros manager Bo Porter said the team is in a rut offensively. Saturday was much the same. The Astros couldn’t get the big hit when needed and fell 3-1 to the Mariners at Minute Maid Park for their fifth straight loss.

The Astros have scored only four runs total in losing the first three games of the series to Seattle. In their last four games the Astros are 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position. Seattle has won three straight after losing six straight.

On Saturday Houston out-hit Seattle 8-6 but the Mariners’ three-spot in the first inning held up. The Mariners scored the three runs on three hits and two walks, but none of the balls hit that inning were hard hit.

“That pretty much sums up our season,” said Houston starter Dallas Keuchel. “I can’t dwell on those or I would have been in a world of hurt. I got out of it and gave ourselves a chance to win.”

Keuchel (5-8) rebounded strongly after the first inning. The left-hander pitched well in defeat, retiring 12 straight Mariners at one point. Keuchel retired the side from the second through the fourth inning.

From the second to the seventh inning Keuchel faced the minimum number of batters. He was aided by catcher Cody Clark throwing out two base stealers at second base. Clark has thrown out five of six base stealers since being called up by the Astros on Aug. 23.

“I was more in attack mode in the second inning,” said Keuchel, who allowed only four hits – all singles – in seven innings. “I thought I threw the ball well.

Keuchel was coming off a seven-inning scoreless game versus Toronto. Over his last two starts Keuchel is 0-1 but has a 1.93 ERA. He has not given up an extra-base hit in two consecutive starts.

Seattle starter Joe Saunders (11-13) kept Houston to one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings, giving up six hits. The left-hander has allowed one run or less in 10 of his 17 starts.

“He mixed speeds,” said Clark. “We had chances to score early. He made the pitches when he needed too.”

Matt Dominguez and Brandon Barnes had two hits each for the Astros, who scored their run in the fourth. Barnes scored on an error by second baseman Nick Franklin.

Barnes’ second hit chased Saunders from the game with one out in the sixth. Saunders was the starting pitcher when Barnes hit for the cycle on a five-hit night on July 19 at Minute Maid Park.

Saunders came in the game allowing 79 extra-base hits and 195 hits in 157 1/3 innings. He was much more efficient on Saturday.

“He did a good job of locating,” said Barnes. “Making you get off his fastball, and throwing that changeup. And in fastball counts, you’d be out front of it.”