Not even facing the National League’s worst team seems like it can help the Houston Astros right now.
The Astros try to avoid matching the longest losing streak in franchise history when they conclude their three-game home set with the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night.
Cincinnati (21-33) owns the worst record in the NL, but Houston (21-31) is closing in on that dubious distinction after dropping the first two games of this series. Wednesday night’s 4-3 defeat was the 10th in a row for the Astros - their longest skid since dropping a franchise-record 11 straight from Aug. 17-28, 1995.
Poor hitting has been the biggest reason for the Astros’ latest slump. Houston has scored only 20 total runs in the 10 defeats, while batting .216 overall and .193 with runners in scoring position.
“I don’t ever remember it being quite this bad,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “This is getting borderline stupid, too. We stung the ball really well and got nothing for it. Guys went to the plate and just didn’t get anything.”
The Astros will try to get their offense back on track against struggling Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo (2-5, 4.01 ERA). In each of his last two starts, Arroyo has given up four runs in the first inning while letting the opposition bat around.
The right-hander walked five batters and hit another while throwing a whopping 82 pitches in the two opening frames, demonstrating a puzzling lack of command for a pitcher who had yielded three earned runs or fewer in his previous eight starts.
“I don’t know,” catcher David Ross said as he tried to explain why Arroyo is scuffling. “I wish I had the answers. He ‘s not getting the pitches he wants over for strikes. He’s getting behind in the count, and when he does get ahead, he’s not putting guys away.
“It’s one of those things where you turn around and you don’t really know what happened.”
Arroyo has pitched well in two starts against Houston this season, going 1-0 while allowing only three runs and eight hits over 14 innings. He earned the win at Minute Maid Park on May 1, when he yielded one run and three hits over seven innings of Cincinnati’s 11-2 victory.
The Astros also send a slumping pitcher to the mound in Woody Williams (1-7, 5.65). The 40-year-old right-hander and Houston native signed with the team last fall, but his return to his hometown has not gone well.
Williams has received three or fewer runs of support in 10 of his 11 outings, but that is not entirely to blame for his poor record. He has allowed opponents to bat .293 against him this season, and is 0-2 with a 7.31 ERA and five home runs allowed over his last three outings.
On Friday, Williams lasted only five innings and gave up four runs in a 13-3 loss at Arizona.
Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. has had great success against Williams, hitting .382 (13-for-34) with five homers, eight walks and a .500 on-base percentage versus the right-hander.
Griffey went 1-for-4 with an RBI double Wednesday, snapping a stretch of four games without driving in a run.