Hot temps, cold bats

Fowl Play



Last week was sweltering hot.

I covered two games on Friday and soaking in the sun at both made me dread the coming summer. Temperatures were in the 100s and, though I’m not a meteorologist, I suspect this summer won’t bring any relief.

But, as the heatwave came, the Houston Astros’ bats went cold, like arctic cold.

Houston opened the season by winning six of their first seven and scoring a total of 51 runs. The Astros outscored Oakland 41-11 in their first five games against each other this season.

As the heat rose, though, I guess the Astros’ bats went cold. Entering Tuesday night’s tilt with Detroit, Houston is on a three-game skid. During that time, they’ve been outscored 19-7.

When you dive deeper, you see the problem isn’t just hitting; Houston has tallied 24 hits during the skid.

The problem is hitting with men on base. During their previous three games, Houston has left 22 runners on base and hit a dismal 2-for-26 with runners in scoring position.

You aren’t going to win any games like that. That abysmal performance wasted a brilliant start by Lance McCullers on Friday. The 27-year-old righthanded pitcher threw five innings against Oakland, allowing one run on two hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

Despite it being a small sample size of two starts, McCullers is on to open the season. He boasts a 1.80 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched.

We’re also just 10 games into the season, so nobody should panic right now. Yes, I’m talking to myself.

These early-season bumps always make me think of the 2005 season when the Houston Chronicle sports team gave the Astros their last rites. The front page of the June 1, 2005, sports page was emblazoned with a headstone that read “RIP Astros’ Season April 5, 2005-June 1, 2005.”

Houston was 15-30 at the time and rightfully should’ve been written off. They would finish the season 89-73 and make the postseason as a wildcard team before eventually reaching the World Series.

All that’s to say, we’ve got a long way to go in the season.

But it was absolutely incredible to see fans back in the stands.

The Texas Rangers welcomed a full-capacity crowd of near 40,000 at the new Globe Life Field for their home opener. Because of club-implemented restrictions, somewhere around 20,000 fans were in attendance at Minute Maid Park for Houston’s home opener.

Heck, I saw fans in Detroit make it to the ballpark in a snowstorm for the Tigers’ opener, where Miguel Cabrera hit a home run during the near-whiteout conditions.

I hope you and yours get a chance to make it to either an Astros or Rangers game, or even a San Antonio Missions game this season at Wolff Stadium.

The Missions, in the restructuring of the Minor Leagues, were aligned back in Double-A as an affiliate of the San Diego Padres after a run in Triple-A. They will face old Texas League foes Corpus Christi, Midland and Frisco this season, along with my favorite new MiLB team, the Amarillo Sod Poodles. However, it will no longer be known as the Texas League. It will now be known as the Double-A Central Division.

The Double-A season begins May 4 and the Missions’ home opener is Tuesday, May 18, vs. Frisco Rough Riders.

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