In the four games of their first-round playoff series, the Houston Astros got RBIs from nine different hitters. It showed their lineup was deep, dangerous and maybe even World Series bound.
In five games of their American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, the Astros have scored exactly nine runs. Going into Game 5, only three Astros players had driven in runs — and it stayed that way Wednesday, as the Astros were shut out 5-0, falling behind 3-2 in the series.
That lineup that once looked so impressive now looks limp, lost and maybe even bound for a winter vacation. The Yankees are one win from the World Series. Astros fans are looking at the box score like, “Are you serious?”
This Astros team looks completely different from the one that scored in the first inning of each game against the Boston Red Sox. On Wednesday night, they were absolutely schooled by Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka, who pitched seven scoreless innings, struck out eight and allowed just three hits. The Astros could only muster one more in the game. All four of the hits came in different innings, proof that the Astros couldn’t get anything going in Game 5.
“It’s rare,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch, “because of how much offense we put up through the first six months of the season and even in the Division Series. We’ve swung the bats very well and to this day I believe we’re one good game [away from] coming out of it.”
If it were only Game 5, maybe this wouldn’t be so concerning. But the Astros got just three hits in Game 4 and four in Game 3. The games the Astros won — Games 1 and 2 in Houston — they only scored four runs total.
These Astros — who scored the most runs in MLB in the regular season and seemed like a postseason juggernaut four games in — have seen their bats go so quiet so quickly you’d think they had a bedtime.
What happened? Well, here a few things:
• MVP candidate Jose Altuve, who had 13 hits in the Astros first six postseason games, has had zero in the last three. In fact, every game in which he hasn’t gotten a hit in this postseason, the Astros have lost.
• It’s not just Altuve, though. The Astros as a whole are hitting .147 in the ALCS, which is like a decent NL pitcher’s batting average. For comparison, they hit .333 in the ALDS. They’re getting on base 23 percent of the time in the ALCS vs. 40 percent of the time in the ALDS.
• Lead-off man George Springer, an important Astros cog, hit .412 with a .474 on-base percentage in the ALDS. In the ALCS, he has one hit in 18 at-bats.
• Yankees pitching has certainly been good — they’ve got an utterly fantastic 1.46 ERA — but the common denominator here is the Astros bats and their futility. No matter who the Yankees have put on the mound, including Sonny Gray, who got tagged for three runs in 3.1 innings in his ALDS start. The Astros only got one earned run in five innings against Gray in Game 4.
Of course, the Astros jokes were flying on Twitter. They’re bound to, when you’re the best offense in baseball getting silenced by the Yankees. (We’re guilty too):
— Adam Clanton (@adamclanton) October 18, 2017
Can you find the Astros offense?
(Yes, we hid an Astros logo in there) pic.twitter.com/elknJ32MXt
— Big League Stew (@bigleaguestew) October 19, 2017
A helicopter is idling over Yankee Stadium. I assume it's Life Flight for the Astros.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 19, 2017
The Astros do have the luxury of leaving Yankee Stadium — where the Yankees haven’t lost a postseason game this year — with a day off before heading home. So Hinch believes his team can make some adjustments and find the mojo in their bats.
“We’re going to go home,” Hinch said after the game. “We hit well. We get a day off tomorrow, which is probably the most important thing, and try to make some offensive adjustments. The playoffs, [are] about advanced scouting and exposing weaknesses, if they get you to crack a little bit outside of your game plan then they’ve got you. We haven’t stayed in our game plan quite well enough to make adjustments.”
Five games into the ALCS, it’s pretty clear: The Astros offense has cracked. They’ve now got two days to put it back together and very little room for error.
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