Strikeouts prove to be problem for Astros vs. Tribe

Heart of order struggles to make hard contact against excellent Carrasco

Strikeouts prove to be problem for Astros vs. Tribe

HOUSTON -- On many nights, the Astros' lineup has the potential to be all or nothing, feast or famine, home runs or strikeouts. It was the strikeouts that ruled the day Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.

In losing, 2-0, to the Indians in the second game of the season, the Astros struck out 13 times -- 10 times against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco -- with most of the swinging and missing coming in the heart of the batting order. Luis Valbuena, hitting third, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and cleanup hitter Evan Gattis went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

"The middle of the order, they handled us pretty well," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "When those happen on the other side, we feel pretty good about it -- when we handle the middle of their order. So when we pile them up a little bit in a row, that obviously is not ideal.

Carrasco's 10th strikeout

"Again, I'm not sure those guys feel very comfortable over on the other side that they can't execute pitches and get away with it. I think we'll be fine. I understand it's part of the game. It's something we always have to address and monitor, but we almost struck out double digits of their hitters as well. It speaks both to pitching and offensive adjustments."

The Astros, who set a Major League record with 1,535 strikeouts in 2013, managed only four hits, including three singles, and are hitting .161 with two runs scored through two games. It's certainly no reason to sound the alarm bells this early in the season.

"As a whole, I think everybody had good at-bats, but we didn't have end results," first baseman Chris Carter said.

Hinch credited the pitching the Astros have faced in the first two games of the season. They beat reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in Monday's season opener, scratching out a pair of runs, and Carrasco was one of the most dominant starters in the AL over the last two months of last season. He threw 6 1/3 scoreless on Wednesday.

"Obviously, adjustments need to be made and we're going to score runs," Hinch said. "Facing these two guys was a good test. We've hung in there a little bit. Our pitching staff has done a great job of keeping us a bloop and a blast of being right back in it, so our morale has been fine. Clearly, these last two games we haven't had a lot of action on the bases and not a lot of hits to show for it. It's two games. It's early. We don't want to make too much out of it, but we have certainly faced some tough pitching."

Four of the nine hitters who are in the Astros' lineup were among the top 20 in the Majors in strikeout percentage a year ago (minimum 300 plate appearances): George Springer, 33 percent (seventh), Colby Rasmus, 33 percent (ninth), Carter, 31.8 percent (14th) and Jason Castro, 29.5 percent (19th).

"It's all about getting good pitches to hit," Hinch said. "The judgment on results is always going to be difficult in this league, especially against the elite pitchers. Having a plan, going up there executing your plan, getting good pitches to hit, put the barrel on it … sometimes you do that, sometimes you don't. You have to have confidence in yourself with the plan you put in place."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.