Gamblers will understand if the Houston Astros pack up as quickly as possible and beat it out of town. Home has been anything but a comfort to the defending World Series champions, who have lost 10 of their last 11 games at Minute Maid Park.
The streak dates back to July 15 when they lost 6-3 to the lowly Detroit Tigers. The Astros were -400 favorites, with former Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander, who was traded to Houston last year, on the mound. He was rocked, giving up four home runs to his old teammates.
That defeat started a catastrophic stretch of home games, where the Astros probably couldn’t wait to get out of Houston. During the streak the team was 9-4 on the road. They also had a stretch this season where they went 10-0 away from home.
“You feel like nothing’s going your way and you’re a little snake-bitten,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re going to have to do more, obviously, and it’s a challenge for me and our coaching staff to get more out of these guys to have a little bit more fun, a little bit more life. This is a very, very tough game and we’re getting beat up, mentally and physically.”
Houston Gamblers Keep Striking Out
It didn’t get any better for the Astros at Minute Maid Park two weeks later. The team hosted division rival Texas, who are in last place, 21 games behind Houston, and promptly got swept by the cellar dwellers.
It wasn’t even that they got beat, it was how they were beat. The Rangers played like the first-place team, and dominated Houston, outscoring them 22-8 in the three games.
Bettors looking for what they thought was easy money were just as stunned as the players were. Houston was favored -270, -320, and -220. Those who wagered on the Rangers saw a nice payday for half a week’s work. The team was a +230, +260, and +190. A $100 bet each game would have netted a $680 profit.
Streak Marks in the Standings
The home losing streak of nine games is the most since the team played in the Astrodome in 1966, and it was affecting not only player’s psyches, but their position in the standings.
Before the streak the team had a five-game lead in the American League West. A month later and the lead has been whittled down to two games. The team was an overwhelming -500 to win the division. They are also the second pick behind Boston to win the World Series. They are at 4/1, while the Red Sox are 15/4.
The team chasing them, the Oakland Athletics, have gone 18-7 during the same stretch and host the Astros Friday for three games. A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie said there is still a lot of baseball to be played.
“It’s not late enough in the season to really scoreboard watch,” Lowrie said. “We know where we are, but we can’t be worrying too much about the standings.”
Conversely, the Astros are quickly approaching crisis mode. They did win Wednesday at home, their first victory there since July 14. Pitcher Garrit Cole got the decision in the 12-1 win over the Rockies.
“We’ve been grinding pretty hard,” Cole said. “It’s no secret it’s been not the easiest thing to deal with. The fact that the pitching and the defense and the offense showed up and had a complete game is encouraging. Hopefully, we can build on that.”