This is going to dent the ol’ run differential. The Astros entered the night having allowed 51 more runs than they have scored, among the worst in baseball along with the Blue Jays and Marlins. The Astros are comfortably in first place in that department after getting pummeled by the Detroit Tigers 17-2 tonight, bumping that run differential to -66.
The Tigers banged out 21 hits, including three home runs (two by Miguel Cabrera), and walked five times, scoring in eight of nine innings. Five of those eight innings were multi-run innings. Astros starter Lucas Harrell was on the hook for eight runs in 4.1 innings, reliever Jose Cisnero allowed six runs in 2.2 innings, and Paul Clemens allowed three runs (two earned) in two innings.
Meanwhile, the Astros were only able to push across one run on a Carlos Corporan solo home run in the seventh. Tigers starter Max Scherzer was otherwise on point all night, allowing three hits in total while striking out eight and walking two in eight innings of work. Al Alburquerque surrendered a run in garbage time in the ninth inning.
Surprisingly, tonight wasn’t even the Astros’ worst game of the season, pitching-wise. They surrendered 19 runs to the Indians on April 19 in a 19-6 loss.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.