By Will Martin
From this date forward each weekly update now will be compared to how the Astros fared at given date last year-their first in the American League.
Another winning week has brought Houston to within eight games of .500 at 28-36 after a 4-3 week in the midst of a five game road trip that finished out in Minnesota on a winning note taking two of three. Houston now heads out to Arizona for a quick two game set before coming home to play the Tampa Bay Rays then back on the road again.
Playing on the road has not fazed the Astros of late. How about a 7-1 record in their last eight games? Prior to getting shut out 8-0 on June 7th the Astros enjoyed their first six game win streak on the road since May 29th-June 3rd 2013. June 8th was a clinic on going deep and passing out the grey poupon as there were two grand salamis spanked by Chris Carter and new kid Jon Singleton in a season best/season high 14-5 blowout of the Twinkies.
Friday night’s win at Target Field was their first win ever in that ballpark. The last time an Astro team won in the land of 10,000 lakes was back on 6/21/09. The two grand slams in one game was only the second time that has occurred in Astros history. The last time that luxury was enjoyed you have to go all the way back to July 30, 1969. Two moonshots ten days after landing on the moon!
With the series win over in Minnesota, Houston now has taken five of their last eight matchups against their opponents. 4-2-1 in their last seven. Add to that two splits with the Mariners and Orioles. In wishing Jeffrey Luhnow a Happy Birthday on June 8 it should be noted how Houston loves to play on Sunday. In the last nine games played on the seventh day the Astros are 7-2.
Bo Porter still impressed with the way his ballclub of late has won 11 of 15 and was quick to provide credit to the other guys after a rare 8-0 shutout loss which featured some untimely errors by the infield.
“It was one of those days where back-to-back guys struggled to command the strike zone and [had] a lot of deep counts,” Porter said. “Give Minnesota credit; they took pitch after pitch after pitch and put themselves in some good hitting counts — and, again, defensively we didn’t help ourselves by allowing them to extend innings.”
Of concern for Houston has been the struggles of Scott Feldman. 1-3 with a 7.41 ERA in four previous starts and dealing with that one big inning.
“All around, just a frustrating inning,” Feldman said. “It’s stuff I’ve been through before. It’s one of those frustrating times for me, personally. The team’s been playing great, but obviously I dug us a hole today by going short and burned a couple of guys in the ‘pen. Hopefully, I can get through this quick and get it on track for the next one.”
“He was physically fine,” Porter said. “I think he was more upset with himself not making the pitches he wanted to make. But, like I told him when I came back in, ‘I’m not going to let you crank 50 pitches in one inning.’ That’s way too many pitches, and I would rather him be able to make his next start and continue to pitch on than risk injury at that point.”
Did the errors affect your ability to throw strikes?
“When something like that happens, I’ve got to pick the team up — and it just didn’t happen today,” Feldman said. “We’ve been playing really well as a team, and if we can keep continuing in that trend for the next month [and] the rest of the season, I think we’ll be alright.”
(Feldman aside) since May 11 Houston remains one of the hottest teams in all of MLB with a 17-11 record. An even 22-22 since April 21 while Dallas Keuchel continues to be a road warrior as his record improves to 7-2, 6-0 on the road. Only two other Astro hurlers have started this well in a season on the road. Darryl Kile 1996 and Wandy Rodriguez in 2006.
The pitching of Houston for the last 30 days has also been spot on. A team ERA of 3.10 since May 11. Part of that success falls directly on the shoulders of Chad Qualls. Since April 21 Qualls has made 16 appearances without allowing a run-a span of 14.2 innings-with a record of 1-0 and a perfect five-for-five in save opportunities.
With 69 homers on the season Houston enjoys a record of 23-14 when homering in a game. When Houston has a multi-homer game the Astros rank second in the American League with 21.
Rudy Owens got the call-up from Oklahoma City while Paul Clemens got sent back down.
Look for Jose Altuve to make the All-Star team next month as he continues to lead the A.L. in hits (84) and stolen bases (21) and is currently tied for first in doubles while committing only 1 error in 301 total chances for a fielding percentage of .997.
As for reinforcements Houston did a nice balancing act of drafting beginning with the #31 pick of 17-year old lefthander Brady Aiken from Cathedral Catholic High School in California. In the course of three days the Astros picked 20 pitchers and 20 position players to bolster the farm talent. Names that might resonate in the future include Derek Fisher, JD Davis, AJ Reed, and Jacob Nix-also a buddy of Aiken’s.
“We definitely like to get some high-upside high school kids in the Draft,” scouting director Mike Elias said. “Jacob Nix, our fifth-round pick, definitely represents that.”
Any names that ring of possessing a power bat?
“J.D. Davis was one of our favorite players in the Draft this year,” Elias said. “We love his swing. He’s got a lot of raw power.”
Dean Deetz and Ben Smith were later round picks. In all you have to be impressed with the balance of talent.
“We weren’t counting, but that’s good to know here,” Elias said. “I was very pleased with the mixture of pitchers and hitters, and the different positions we were able to get.”
A solid week of play. 2013 saw only 51 victories. There’s a very good chance the Astros match that mark by the All-Star break. As of June 8th the record reads 28-36. Happy Birthday Jeffrey Luhnow. You’re only three and half games from escaping the cellar. Things continue to look up for this organization.
6/9 @Diamondbacks 8:40 p.m.
6/10 @Diamondbacks 2:40 p.m.
6/11 vs Diamondbacks 7:10 p.m.
6/12 vs Diamondbacks 7:10 p.m.
6/13 vs Rays 7:10 p.m.
6/14 vs Rays 3:10 p.m.
6/15 vs Rays 1:10 p.m.