By Will Martin
Since July 9 the Houston Astros have settled into fourth place in the American League West.
After a 51-111 season one year ago it’s safe to say whatever you do in the new year the only way for a young club to go is up.
A ten game road trip that began in Boston (where winning had never happened prior to this year at Fenway) for four, three in New York and three in Cleveland culminated in a 5-5 record.
With 31 games to go, the Astros sit at 55-76 with a good chance at hitting 70 wins for the season.
Better still the idea of not losing 100 games has a lot of people looking ahead to bigger and better days.
Chris Carter has had a heck of a run. Last Monday he was voted AL Player Of The Week while swatting eight homers and collecting 19 RBI’s in a 17 game stretch while hitting .284 in that time frame.
Last Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium Carter blasted a three run homer off reliever David Robertson on a 3-0 count to break up a 4-4 tie and give Houston a 7-4 victory.
The Home Run was the 30th on the season for Chris Carter.
“I was just trying to hit it and put it in play,” said Carter. “My first four at-bats, I didn’t do anything.” His first four plate appearances resulted in strikeouts.
“Again, this guy could change the game on one swing,” manager Bo Porter said. “And he changed the game tonight with one swing. He got the green light, 3-0, and he didn’t miss that ball.”
“Obviously, Chris had his struggles early, and you look at the success which he’s had over the last six or seven weeks, I think that is the player that he has the capability of being,” Porter said. “Now I think it’s just a matter of him finishing the season strong and being consistent the way he’s been consistent.”
While Houston took two of three from the Yankees, it took a 3-0 complete game win from Brandon McCarthy to offset a complete game loss taken by Dallas Keuchel in the finale last Thursday.
Last Friday night in Cleveland the Astros were only able to gather up three hits. Locked in a 1-1 deadlock after 8 innings they erupted for four runs in the 9th courtesy of a Dexter Fowler stolen base and three run blast by Jon Singleton for a 5-1 victory.
Going into yesterday’s play at Cleveland, Jose Altuve continued to chase history, currently sitting first in hits (176), batting average (.333), and stolen bases (46). The last ballplayer to have this distinction was Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.
Brett Oberholtzer made his shortest outing of the season on August 19 when he got yanked after allowing four runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. In what proved to be his shortest outing since April 30 it ended a string of 11 straight games Obie had gone six innings or more.
A two-run homer by Brian McCann and two-run double by Martin Prado the Astros undoing before the heroics of Chris Carter.
“I thought I threw the ball pretty well through the first five,” Oberholtzer said. “The home run to McCann, yeah, I mean, 2-2 hanging slider out over the plate which I got him on in the [second] inning with the strikeout — but, yeah, I think that [pitch in the fourth] was a mistake, and you know in the sixth they put up a good battle. You know they are the Yankees, and they made me work to throw some strikes, and Prado came up big with the 3-2 pitch to drive in two.”
Collin McHugh took the aspirin Saturday night in Cleveland. Having won his last two starts and possessing a 1.76 era in his last five starts. This night he allowed two runs on eight hits in five plus innings.
“The fastball command wasn’t great today and they had eight lefties in the lineup so I knew I’d be cutter-heavy going into it,” McHugh said. “Ideally, you’d like to have a better mix of pitches and I didn’t really have my curveball. You battle with what you got, and that’s what I had to do.”
Early on he was staked to a 2-0 lead on a two out single Jose Altuve which scored Jake Marisnick and Robbie Grossman on an errant throw by right fielder Chris Dickerson. That was the 100th error of the season. By far the league lead for futility.
RBI singles by Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn tied things up until the 9th frame when Bo Porter put the ball into Jake Buchanan’s hands.
Jose Ramirez singled in Tyler Holt for a 3-2 Indian’s victory Saturday as the Astros were held to three hits for a second straight night.
Sunday Brett Oberholtzer would fall short to Trevor Bauer. It should also be noted that since August 9 the Cleveland Indians have an ERA of 1.71 in 13 games.
Obie again went a solid 6 2/3 innings with six strikeouts without a walk. Trailing 3-1 with the bases loaded in the 9th it was up to Dexter Fowler to tie things up. Cody Allen collected the save in his third straight save appearance.
Hence a 5-5 road trip.
“I’m really proud of our group,” Porter said. “These guys battled extremely hard, and to come out of this here road trip 5-5 — with an opportunity we could have very well been 6-4 — then you look at the way they battle the last half-inning there, those are some impressive, impressive at-bats in the ninth inning against a really tough closer.”
The Oakland Athletics come to Houston for three. Scott Feldman, subject of possible trade rumors, is slated to take the mound Monday night in Houston.
8/25 vs A’s 7:10 p.m.
8/26 vs A’s 7:10 p.m.
8/27 vs A’s 7:10 p.m.
8/28 vs Rangers 7:10 p.m.
8/29 vs Rangers 7:10 p.m.
8/30 vs Rangers 6:10 p.m.
8/31 vs Rangers 1:10 p.m.