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2021 Astros: Early Season Woes

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The 2021 Astros started the season off on the right, winning their first five of six games all on the road, but since then, the Astros have lost their five of six games at home and currently have a record of 6-6, and are a game and a half back in the division behind the first-place Seattle Mariners.

2021 Astros: Pitching Woes

There was much debate before the season on how well this rotation and bullpen would fare, and after twelve games, it is clear that something is not right. Veterans Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr opened the season with wins but have struggled in their previous outings. Greinke currently has a record of 1-1, with a 4.08 ERA (team leader) and ten strikeouts.

In defense of McCullers Jr, his last outing was rough, but that was due to him experiencing symptoms after he received the COVID-19 vaccination. McCullers Jr was only to 3.2 innings after giving up six runs to the Detroit Tigers in his last outing. McCullers Jr does lead the team with sixteen strikeouts.

Jose Urquidy has been effective in each of his previous two starts. Jake Odorizzi had a rough outing in his Astros debut against the Tigers, going 3.1 innings, giving up five earned runs while managing to strike out four batters. Odorizzi had been spending time at the Alternative Training Site preparing for his first start of the season. So, there might have still been some rust after getting the late start to spring training.

The rotation will work itself out over time, but the real issue right now is the bullpen. As it currently sits, the Astros bullpen ranks tenth in league with a 3.60 ERA through twelve games. Brandon Bielak has been the saving grace in the bullpen so far, with a 2.25 ERA in the three appearances this season. On the other hand, Joe Smith has been inconsistent in the six games that he has appeared in. After opting out last season, Smith was supposed to be the anchor in this bullpen, but so far, Smith has given up eight hits, five runs in 3.1 innings, and has 13.50 ERA. Not the numbers the team is accustomed to seeing from the veteran reliever.

As it currently sits, the Astros pitching as a team ranks number sixteen in the league with a 4.52 ERA, which is not bad but is still not good. It is still early in the season for things to get turned around, but if, for some reason, if the Astros cannot get the bullpen figured out, it’s going to be a long and grueling season.

2021 Astros: Offense Has Gone Cold

Much like the pitching, the offense started hot. Scoring runs at an alarming rate, which was, again, on the road. Since returning home, the bats have gone cold, but the team has a .268 batting average which ranks the team fourth in the league, sixth in run scores with 64, and fourth in home runs with 19. Still impressive, but with this lineup, we should see more runs scored.

Yuli Gurriel has been the constant positive in this lineup. Gurriel ranks first on the team through twelve games with a slash line .429/.595/1.142 in fifty-three plate appearances this season. What makes this most impressive is that Gurriel has been drawing a lot of walks at eleven. This means he’s more selective at the plate, which is allowing him to get on base. Something we did not see much of last season.

2021 Astros: Final Thoughts

The Astros are historically a team that tends to start slow to begin a season, so when the Astros got off that hot start, they had many skeptics scratching their heads in amazement. The Astros will get it going; it is just going to take some time. It is April, so it is not time to push the panic button quite yet. If the team continues to struggle, expect to see some roster changes or shake-ups by Dusty Baker, but until then, don’t push the panic button.

This week, the Astros head back on the road to face the Seattle Mariners for three games, Colorado Rockies for two games before returning home next week to face the Los Angeles Angels. Due to health and safety protocols, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia will not travel with the team on the current road trip.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Jeff "Rip" Griffin is a current MLB writer covering the Houston Astros. Rip is also the host of The Rip Griffin Show on Apple Podcasts. Rip holds a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology, focusing in Sports Management from the University of Houston - Victoria.