The Astros’ biggest fault in the past few years was delaying a necessary rebuild. They put hopes on the Biggio/Bagwell core for too long past its sell date, and then stumbled for a few more years thinking that the likes of Carlos Lee was someone around whom you built a team. In light of that, you knew eventually that things were going to crash hard and a total to-the-foundation tear-down was gonna happen and it was gonna be ugly.
Well, it’s happening. The Astros have lost 23 of 25 games and they’ve been outscored by 75 runs in that time. It’s Astrospocalypse. And, not surprisingly, that total disaster has carried over to the box office and TV ratings too:
Home attendance, as measured by tickets sold, is averaging less than 20,000 for the last 11 home games since mid-June. At this rate, season attendance will be the worst ever at Minute Maid and the team’s lowest total since the post-strike season of 1995 … Through Tuesday, Astros games on Fox Sports Net Houston had an average Nielsen rating of 1.2 percent (about 26,000 of the market’s 2.1 million TV households), down 25 percent from 2011 and down 71 percent from the 4.1 rating during the World Series run in 2005.
It’ll get better. It has to. But in the meantime, ugly city.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.