It is hard to overstate how painful it must be to watch the Astros offense play if you root for them. This year Astros batters are striking out at a 26.7% rate. That easily dusts their ignominious league leading performance from last year of 22.7%. To put it another way, the Astros are striking out at over 9.9 times per 9 innings of play so far this year. That is just a staggering rate, to say the least, but none of that futility was on display tonight.
The Astros got on top early with three singles in a row with two outs in the top of the first inning. Carlos Pena got the first RBI, driving in ex-Yankee farm hand Brandon Laird. Andy Pettitte struggled with his control, loading the bases with a walk to Ronny Cedeno. Carlos Corporan then slugged a belt high fast ball into the right field corner for a two-RBI double. Pettitte finally escaped with a hard line out to Eduardo Nunez and what should have been an easy walk in the park quickly degenerated into a 3-0 lead for the Astros. It goes to show that, even against the weakest of lineups, missing location can lead to crooked numbers very quickly.
Austin Romine received his first start behind the dish tonight since being called up post-Francisco Cervelli’s injury. The battery had a lot of meetings as Romine and Pettitte struggled to get on the same page in order to find something that could work for the usually consistent Pettitte. The lack of K’s against such a whifferific lineup showed Pettitte’s continuing struggles to find his spots.
The fourth inning saw another two-out rally for the Astros as Jose Altuve lined a double to right field that pushed Corporan to third base. Brandon Barnes hammered a double to left field, driving in two and extending the Astros lead to 5-0.
Meanwhile, it was Lucas Harrell that was looking like a right-handed Pettitte tonight, as he generated worm burners galore. The rare base runner that did reach for the Yankees was getting wiped out by double plays, as Harrell generated three DP’s through the first four frames.
Pettitte never could get it going and departed in the top of the fifth with one out and runners on second and third again. Adam Warren entered, but provided little relief by allowing the Astros sixth run to score after a wild pitch. A few pitches later Corporan took a hanger over the fence to make it 8-0, and I was stunned to be watching the worst team in the league spank the Yankees on the night they started their best and most consistent pitcher to date. Pettitte entered the game with a 184 ERA+. He exited after 4.1 innings, giving up seven runs on 10 hits and a walk. More shenanigans ensued before the inning ended with a 9-0 score.
It was a fitting night to let recent call up Vidal Nuno make his major league debut for the Yankees. Topping out in the high 80s, Nuno makes his living as a left-handed control specialist who makes them earn it and hits his spots to generate his K’s. He made it through three frames without yielding a run, but did surrender four hits while striking out two.
Overall it was a brutal night to be a Yankee fan, watching them play against a team whose primary goal will be to avoid making it three years in a row with triple digit losses. At least the Yankees avoided the shutout, but there were very few batted balls that made it to the outfield and even fewer that were hit with authority. Tomorrow night the Yankees will hope Hiroki Kuroda can wipe the memory of this game away, as they take on Philip Humber and the Astros.