By Will Martin
It wasn’t until September 13, 2013 that the Houston Astros reached the 51 win mark in their inaugural season in the American League amidst a sea of youth, new management, and a slew of playoff bound teams to finish out September.
A losing streak that reached 15 games when the year ended. The 2013 Astros finished 51-111. Forgettable but yet a start.
August 15, 2014 the Astros had to go extras to finally secure a win at Fenway Park-their first-by a score of 5-3. Tony Sipp getting the win one after Scott Feldman had a hard luck loss on Thursday after being staked to a 4-0 lead in Boston only to get pummeled 9-4.
Old time Ranger fans will remember a similar fate when Feldman had a start in Boston 08/08/08 and the Beantowners put up a ten spot in one inning of an absolute blowout.
In case you wonder the Astros are now (including Sunday’s game) 6-17 lifetime against the BoSox. Last month Boston took two of three in a visit to Minute Maid Park. Boston was the last ballpark the Houston franchise known as the Astros/Colt 45s had not won a game.
Saturday night at Fenway Park was your typical slugfest as Jose Altuve, Chris Carter, Dexter Fowler, Marwin Gonzalez, and Jason Castro each had multi-hit games. What was a 6-3 lead after five innings became reduced to a 10-7 juggernaut won by Boston.
After Sunday’s finale in Boston, Houston enjoyed having Monday off before continuing a ten game road trip in the Bronx with the Yankees followed by a visit to Lake Erie and the Cleveland Indians for three. Their longest road trip of the season.
Collin McHugh (5-9) got the starting nod Sunday at Fenway. As this goes to print McHugh has been absolute money in the month of August with an ERA of 1.40. That’s fifth best in the American League. McHugh also ranks seventh in the month for strikeouts per game (9.57 per 9 innings) and currently ranking fifth for opponents batting average when he takes the mound (.205). Ahead of Collin for that distinction are Danny Duffy (.202), Chris Sale (.199), Garrett Richards and Felix Hernandez (.195).
Backed by another strong start by Collin McHugh (six innings 1-run 7 hits 4 walks 6 strikeouts) homers by Jose Altuve (6), Dexter Fowler (7), and Jon Singleton (11) the Astros rolled to an 8-1 victory over the Red Sox and a split of their four game set.
Having now exceeded 2013 with the magical mark of 52 wins. Houston has avoided the cellar since July 9, 2014.
With his four hits (one a grand slam) August 17, Jose Altuve now sits at 173 for the season. His numbers continue to amaze and create eye rolls. Altuve all alone with the hits lead, stolen bases (46), multiple hit games (53) and batting average (.340). In chasing a hits record for the Astros, Jose just needs to surpass 210 hits to shatter the standard set forth by Craig Biggio in 1998. Currently Altuve is on pace to reach 223 hits.
The grand slam hit by Altuve made possible after an overturned call/challenge on a double play call in the second inning.
Chris Carter continues to swing a hot bat. Since July 1 his 16 homers and 39 RBI’s leads the AL. Currently at 29 dingers his next will make him the first Astro to crank out 30 since Carlos Lee (32) and Lance Berkman (34) in 2007. Carter also sits first in Slugging Percentage (.713) and OPS (On base plus slugging pct-1.083).
Dallas Keuchel recently recorded his 15th quality start of 2014. In addition he became the first hurler since Randy Johnson (1998) to record four complete games.
With 38 games left to go in 2014 if this team just goes 19-19 its a 70 win season, an 18 game improvement, they’ll avoid 100 losses for the first time since 2010. 2015 this ballclub will still be one of the younger groups in all of baseball-currently at 26.9 years of age.
In closing, don’t adjust your TV sets if you saw something weird on NESN Sunday. A longtime coach and scout within the Houston organization passed away on August 12. Gordy Mackenzie joined the Houston family as a minor league instructor from 1999-2001. He took up scouting from 2004-2008 before getting involved with the Gulf Coast League.
On August 15 all of the Astros minor league affiliates also wore their socks high to honor Mackenzie’s memory.
Looking ahead to September there is a possibility we could see a return to the mound for Matt Albers and Jesse Crain. This would be beneficial as Jeff Luhnow gets to ponder whether their options are picked up or if they can get value for them via a trade in the offseason.
“He (Albers) was great at the beginning of the year, and we just haven’t seen anything since then,” Luhnow said. “It’s important for him to have a big month of September, not only for our option, but also in case we decline it and he can prove he’s healthy for other teams.”
Might we see a minor league assignment for Matt or Jesse before they play for Coach Porter?
“We’re running into a little bit of a time constraint,” Luhnow said. “I would like to get him out in front of hitters, whether we’ll do that in a simulated game at Minute Maid Park or on the road with a Minor League affiliate. It’s important he faces live action fairly soon, and I’m hopeful that’s coming.”
Crain appears to be closer by comparison.
“I had a conversation with him (Jesse) right before we left to come on this road trip and he said he had one of his best throwing sessions so far this year, and that’s a good sign,” Luhnow said. “He’s got to get over the last hump, and hopefully it will happen. It would be nice to have those two guys in the bullpen in September to help us win some games. I’m sure they want to do that as well so they can establish something going into next year.”
8/19 @Yankees 6:05 p.m.
8/20 @Yankees 6:05 p.m.
8/21 @Yankees 12:05 p.m.
8/22 @Indians 6:05 p.m.
8/23 @Indians 6:05 p.m.
8/24 @Indians 12:05 p.m.