Assessing the winless Astros after one week
So what have we learned about the Astros after six games? The pitching has a chance to be OK, but they have some major offensive problems. Either everyone not named Jeff Keppinger is a slump at the same time, or this is just not a very good offensive club.
Surely, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, who have been at the center of the offensive struggles, can only get better, and the return of Lance Berkman – which won’t be until April 20 at the earliest – can only help stretch out the lineup a little bit.
But there remain questions at catcher, shortstop and second base. These were three spots in the batting order that were somewhat in doubt coming into the year, and J.R. Towles, Tommy Manzella and Kaz Matsui haven’t done much at the plate, not that they’re alone.
The Astros don’t expect Manzella to carry the team offensively. If everyone is hitting as they should, he’ll hit at the bottom if the lineup and make all the plays defensively like he’s done for the most part this year. Matsui needs to give them more or perhaps risk losing his job to Keppinger, who’s certainly a better offensive player and remains steady with the glove.
But what to do at catcher? Towles is hitting .067 (1-for-15) with four strikeouts and doesn’t look comfortable. It’s too early to summon Jason Castro from Triple-A Round Rock, and he’s not off to a great offensive start anyway. Like everyone else in the lineup, the Astros can only hope he turns it around and in a hurry.
Manager Brad Mills said something interesting Sunday when asked why he didn’t pinch-hit Towles with runner at first and second in the seventh inning.
“We needed to find out what’s going on here and how he’s going to do it,” Mills said.
Towles struck the ball well right back at the pitcher, but made an out.
The Astros face Adam Wainwright in Monday’s series opener in St. Louis, so they continue to see strong pitchers. Tim Lincecum shut them down Monday, and Roy Halladay threw a complete game against them Sunday, with both guys beating Roy Oswalt.
Oswalt is frustrated, understandably, and left the clubhouse with addressing the media Sunday. He has two quality starts and two losses to show for it because the Astros have scored only three runs in his two starts. It’s nothing that Oswalt hasn’t seen in the past.
Yes, there are 156 games and the offense will come around at some point, but after the first week of the season the Astros are the worst team in baseball.