Astros Falter in August
After rising to the level of semi-respectability at the end of July, things fell apart for the Houston Astros in August. The team compiled a record of 12-16 to fall well off the pace being set by the Division leading St. Louis Cardinals.
The Astros were deficient in all phases of the game in August. They scored an average of 4.0 runs per game while allowing 5.2. The teamâ€™s On Base Percentage in August was .297, the lowest in the major leagues. The team ERA was 5.06, ahead of only the Brewers and Pirates in the National League.
Carlos Lee and Michael Bourn batted over .300 in August but most of the other regulars were below .240. Lance Berkman batted .292 for the month but failed to hit a home run.
The lack of depth in the pitching staff continued to hurt the team. Although he is having his worst season as an Astro, Roy Oswalt is a reliable starting pitcher, as is Wandy Rodriguez, who for this year, at least, has taken over as the staff ace. Brian Moehler usually pitches well enough to keep the team in the game and LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Valverde are strong at the back end of the bullpen. The rest of the staff gave up runs in big bunches in August.
The Clubâ€™s pitching problems provided an opportunity for rookies to gain some experience. Top prospect, Bud Norris, turned in 2 strong performances but was torched in his last 3 starts. Itâ€™s clear that he needs better command and a more reliable off-speed pitch to succeed in the majors. Felipe Paulino has a great arm but also needs better command. Yorman Bazardo and Wilton Lopez were brought up from the minors and both were hit hard. A bright spot was side-arming reliever, Sammy Gervacio, who was effective in a limited role.
The Cardinals are on their way to winning the Central Division and the Wild Card will come from one of the other Divisions. The best the Astros can hope for is another of their customary strong finishes which could allow them to overtake the Brewers and Cubs for second place in the Division. With a record of 63-68 at the end of August, a more likely scenario is that they will finish with a losing record for only the third time in the last eighteen years.