Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 6/20/12
Chris Snyder's bat looked like an axe as he slammed it into the ground. On the surface, this looked like an ordinary reaction of the strike-out victim. But, Snyder explained, he wasn't the victim. Astros pitcher Jordan Lyles was. Lyles gave up three hits in seven innings. It was the best outing of his career, and Snyder, his catcher, couldn't stand the thought of seeing it wasted. So when Snyder struck out in the seventh inning with the tying runner in scoring position, out came the axe. "That's not pressing," he said. "That's wanting to come through right there, when the guy I've been catching all game has been dealing." The Astros scored nine runs in the first game of their series with the Kansas City Royals this week. Then got shutout. Then lost 2-1 on Wednesday, blowing Lyles' outing. They lost the series 2-1. For both teams, it was one of those "cure for what ails you" series. Not that the Royals had been sick; they have won seven of their last nine games and are four games out of first place in their division. But when the Royals come to town you usually feel OK about your chances of taking a series. Likewise when you're visiting Houston. And, oh how the Astros needed a couple warm pulls off that old Royals elixir. The losses have started to gather again in bunches. Since last Friday they are 1-5. This month they're 6-12. This year they are 28-41, which makes the Astros considerably better than everybody thought they would be (the worst team). But after a promising start, they have started showing some signs of being what we thought they were. And they have started showing some signs of worrying about that. The hitting, which has been the team's strength, left them at the worst possible times this series. And so you wonder if they are pressing. You wonder if they can feel those good vibes from April fading away. You wonder if they feel they have to drive in the winning run on this day, when the wins and losses still matter, because who knows when they'll have that chance again? What if tomorrow never comes? A funk is what they call this. They call it that because it is mental. "Somebody's just gotta go up there and hit it," Chris Johnson. "We'll be out of this little funk we're in." Johnson said he didn't know if the Astros were pressing, though he acknowledged these things can be contagious. Snyder said he's seen funks a lot worse than this. Manager Brad Mills said Lyles pitched well enough for the Astros to win, and that's what stings about this one. The 22-year-old Lyles has not done that a lot. He is 3-12 with a 5.26 ERA in his major league career. The last two times he pitched he allowed five runs in 4 13 innings. He had a 6.19 ERA in the month of May. He had been looking for something to feel good about, and Wednesday he finally got it. Kind of. "I've been looking for an outing where I can turn that corner and not look back," Lyles said. "Hopefully this will be it." And yet, the team lost. This is where the Astros are now. They aren't good, but they're better than they should be. These are not the Astros of last year, floating in the middle of the ocean with no wind and no sail. You can see something happening here. In Jose Altuve, in Jed Lowrie and in Jordan Lyles. There is just enough happening to make it hurt when one thing happens and another thing doesn't. "One of these days," Lyles said, "we're going to put everything together."
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