By Will Martin
Seven down and three to go before a well deserved day off shall be enjoyed by our neighbors to the south. If every day were Sunday on the calendar you could start printing playoff tickets come October. Especially if the Houston Astros were to play in the Emerald City. Of the five teams the Astros have a winning record on the road the Emerald City makes for the best destination.
With a complete game 4-1 win over the Mariners on May 25 Houston now enjoys a 12-7 record when playing in Seattle. For the second time in three appearances Dallas Keuchel throws a complete game, allowing an unearned run. George Springer homered for the third straight game while Mark Krauss hammered out a 2-run homer to give Dallas Keuchel his sixth win against two losses. The Astros are now 7-3 when Keuchel pitches. In the last four games Dallas Keuchel has appeared in he has a record of 4-0 with an ERA of 1.05.
With his four hit performance Keuchel lowered his ERA to 2.55 on the season. Is Dallas doing anything differently to facilitate this turnaround?
“The last time I faced these guys [April 21], I came out in the seventh and walked three guys in a row,” Keuchel said. “I had that on my mind the whole time, and I just wanted to attack the zone. I was aggressive early and threw a lot of two-seams, and the last inning I threw a couple of cutters to some of the lefties that had never seen a cutter before during the game. They didn’t hit enough of the ball.”
Coming one day after a 9-4 blowout with a two homer game by George Springer with Brett Oberholtzer finally getting a win against six losses Bo Porter was more than happy with the split.
“The last two games have been great,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “Any time you play a four-game series, you want to win the series, but if you can get away with a split, especially on the road, that’s always huge.”
George Springer with his output since the May 2 call up has gone yard seven times in the month of May to match Matt Dominguez for the home run lead. Dominguez, Jose Altuve, and Marc Krauss all had two hit games on Sunday as the Astros figured out a way to defeat Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1).
What has Dallas Keuchel shown Marc Krauss of late?
“I think when Dallas is out there, one run is plenty, especially with the way he’s been throwing lately,” Krauss said. “Having a couple of extra doesn’t hurt, especially for him and how he attacks the zone. He didn’t have to be afraid of maybe giving up a home run to tie it up. I think that kind of gave him that extra push maybe. He’s been lights out. He’s been everything you can ask for and more lately.”
Jose Altuve continues to play at a torrid pace having reached base in 15 of 16 games. In doing so this is allowing on deck hitter George Springer to see some good pitches.
“It’s one of those things where obviously Altuve is swinging the bat extremely well,” Bo Porter said. “He’s one of the best base stealers in the game, which puts a lot of pressure on the other team. Pick your poison. George is a really good fastball hitter. If you want to spin him, Altuve is probably going to steal the base, or if you bounce them, he’s going to advance to the next base. And if you throw fastballs, George is going to put a good swing on it and hit it hard somewhere.”
The win for Brett Oberholtzer was his first since a September 1 shutout of Seattle in 2013. A stretch of going 0-10 sent Oberholtzer down to the minors to regroup.
“What helped me best by going down there, it’s a slower game,” he said. “It’s the Minor Leagues. For me, it’s a good opportunity just to step back and reevaluate myself and get myself corrected … really get my mental state of mind back and know who I am and what I do best and try to establish that again in the big leagues.”
In allowing only two earned runs in six innings along with eight strikeouts Oberholtzer has now gone 15 games without allowing more than four runs in any start. By far the best start in a career by a lefty Astros hurler.
Obie did a great job attacking the strike zone,” Porter said. “That’s one of the things that we talked to him about when we sent him down. Not only attacking the strike zone, but he did a good job of pitching in, which had plagued him. In his first stint up here this year, he had gotten away from his effectiveness on the inner third of the plate, and he got that back today and really attacked both sides of the plate.”
With the split of a four game set in Seattle, the Houston Astros enjoyed a 3-4 week after 2-1 and 3-1 setbacks in Anaheim and Seattle wrapped around two solid performances by Dallas Keuchel to begin the road trip. Their travels now take them to Kansas City for three before an off day and then a return home to take on the Baltimore Orioles beginning Friday.
Jose Altuve continues to be a human vacuum cleaner at second base having gone 85 games without an error, amounting to 409 chances which is a new franchise record per the Elias Sports Bureau. Altuve surpassed the previous record set by Jose Landestoy in 1980 when Jose went 78 games error free from May 22 through October 1, 1980.
For that matter Jose Altuve ranks first in Total Chances (251), Assists (150) and Fielding Percentage (1.000). Dexter Fowler with his .430 On Base Percentage has reached base safely in 21 of 22 games in May, tied with Carlos Santana with walks in May with 19.
Equally noteworthy of a turnaround: Since May 11 the Houston bullpen has been the best in all of baseball with an ERA of 1.39. Only five earned runs allowed in 32. 1 innings thrown, 38 strikeouts and an opponents batting average of .190.
True Firestarters: The Houston Astros starting pitching staff since May 5 has posted an ERA of 3.66 in a stretch of 19 games with 12 quality starts in that time frame. What this all amounts to is an overall record of 19-32. 5-10 in 1-run games, 2-7 in two run games and only 11.5 games out of first place as the A.L. West tightens despite the cellar status. Expect more of the same as we head into June.
5/27 @Royals 7:10 p.m.
5/28 @Royals 1:10 p.m.
5/29 vs Orioles 7:10 p.m.
5/30 vs Orioles 7:10 p.m.
5/31 vs Orioles 3:10 p.m.
6/1 vs Orioles 1:10 p.m.