HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros have been here previously this season, and their reluctance to panic now that adversity has yielded unfavorable results reflects their championship DNA.
Just when it appeared the Astros were trending in a positive direction despite their numerous injuries, the Seattle Mariners arrived at Minute Maid Park and claimed a four-game sweep that further shrunk Houston's rapidly dwindling lead in the American League West.
Just under three weeks ago, the Astros (73-46) led the division by six games. They entered their off day on Monday only 2 1/2 games ahead of the Oakland Athletics and four games up on Seattle after the Mariners rallied for a 4-3, extra-inning victory in the series finale on Sunday.
Even with shortstop Carlos Correa returning from a six-week stint on the disabled list last Friday, the Astros still feature too many holes in their injury-riddled lineup. Second baseman Jose Altuve (right knee), outfielder George Springer (left thumb) and catcher Brian McCann (right knee) remain out, and outfielder Jake Marisnick (left groin) joined them on the DL last weekend after finding his swing and producing the offense to match his exceptional defense.
Yet despite climbing as high as 31 games above .500 three times this season, the Astros have slumped before. They lost five of six games to close last month, dropped 7 of 10 games before their season-best 12-game winning streak in June, and endured a lengthy scoreless drought while suffering consecutive shutout losses to the New York Yankees to open the month of May.
Their lineup won't be whole any time soon, and their divisional opponents have ramped up the pressure, yet the Astros continue to do an excellent job of compartmentalizing trying moments.
"It's a bad weekend," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It feels like a really bad weekend. Which is all it is. We get a day off (Monday), we come back with a new series on Tuesday. We see these guys over in Seattle in about a week. But we'll be fine. This is not something we can't overcome. This is four games that was a bad weekend."
The Astros will host the Colorado Rockies (63-55) for a two-game, interleague series starting Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Right-hander Justin Verlander (11-7, 2.50 ERA), fresh off the worst appearance in his 30 starts with the Astros, will get the ball. He allowed six runs in two innings before getting ejected in the series opener against Seattle last Thursday. He's 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four career starts against Colorado.
Right-hander German Marquez (9-9, 4.69) will start for the Rockies. He owns a 3.09 ERA on the road, ninth among qualified National League pitchers. This will mark his first career outing against Houston, which split a two-game set with Colorado in July.
Colorado All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado missed a second consecutive start on Sunday with right shoulder soreness, which caused him to depart in the fifth inning last Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rockies managed to win the final two games of that series without Arenado, both in walk-off fashion, and are 1 1/2 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
Arenado, who pinch-hit in the eighth inning of the Rockies' 4-3 victory on Sunday, is expected to play Tuesday, perhaps as the designated hitter.
"It hurt when I tried to baby it," Arenado said of the shoulder during pregame throwing tests, "but when I really let it go it wasn't that bad."