Houston Astros: A Month Of Solid Pitching And Winning!

Jose Altuve has been the spark plug for the Houston Astros offense in May. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
Jose Altuve has been the spark plug for the Houston Astros offense in May. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison

By Will Martin

Not since July 27-August 3 of  2010 has there been a discussion about a winning record in a given month in Houston. As May came to an end the Astros enjoyed a 15-14 record for the month. Best record since a 14-13 record in September of 2010.

Not since 2010 have the Houston Astros enjoyed a seven game win streak. This last week that dynamic was also enjoyed. Slice up the fun any way you want for the team and the good people of H-town. Everything is turning up rosy and successful for the cellar dwelling team that now flirts with .500 for the first time since 2010 after 24-32.

We might even be talking about an eight game win streak if not for a momentary lapse in walks by Player Of The Week Dallas Keuchel (6-3) May 31. In suffering his first loss since May 3 Keuchel walked in two batters in a 4-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Former Ranger Nelson Cruz blasted his 20th homer and collected his 52nd ribby in the win.

“It was an unfortunate chain of events, kind of lost feel,” Keuchel said. “Other than that, I felt great. I cost the team, pretty much. I just didn’t have the feel. When that happens, give them credit for laying off some pitches. That’s a good team. I was fortunate enough to even get out of there with even three runs.”

In his previous four starts Keuchel allowed but one walk.

“He lost his command, but it looked like he kind of lost the attack in which we are accustomed to seeing,” Astros skipper Bo Porter said. “It was more change-ups and sinkers, and that’s very uncharacteristic of Dallas to lose his command like that and walk three guys in a row.”

Prior to that, a week of wins made for a very fun atmosphere in the clubhouse with the players and coaching staff. Consider that since May 11 the Astros have won 13 of 19 ballgames. Third best in the American League and best record in the A.L. West.

For the sake of comparison the Astros did not get their 24th win of the season until June 14th last year. The starting pitching has impressed me from July of 2013 onward . Since May 5th pitching for Houston has been rock solid with a collective ERA of 2.53. Hence that 13-6 mark I alluded to earlier. Best ERA in the A.L. in that time frame!

Brett Oberholzer got his second straight win on May 30 in the Civil Rights Game when Houston rallied for a pair of 7th inning runs highlighted by a two out double by Jonathan Villar for a 2-1 victory.

“For them to be the two offensive heroes tonight, it definitely feels good, and I’m pretty sure they feel good about it as well,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “They’ve been working extremely hard, and to be able to come through for the team tonight — especially with two outs, after a poor baserunning decision — to pick the team up, that’s what teamwork is all about.”

In the crowd of over 38,000 Friday night were Frank Robinson, Jim Brown, Berry Gordy. There was a video tribute to the late Maya Angelou. George Foreman threw out the first pitch. The Orioles and Astros wore uniforms in remembrance of the Houston Eagles and Baltimore Elite Giants.

Since May 3 starting Astro pitching has provided 17 of 25 quality starts and an ERA of 3.03.

Player Of The Month?
George Springer needed 20 games before getting his first home run as a starter. In the last week Springer would crack seven homers in seven games in becoming only the second rookie ballplayer to accomplish such a feat. Rudy York was the first as a Detroit Tiger in August of 1937. Morgan Ensberg in 2006 had a seven homer run in six games. Since his first dinger on May 8 George Springer has been hitting at a .299 clip with ten homer and 25 rbis. This kid is a beast in the making for possible rookie of the year in addition to A.L. Player Of The Month.

1-2-3 Lock Box!
With the starting lineup of 1.Jose Altuve 2. George Springer 3. Dexter Fowler in a given game Houston has gone 12-3 with 77 runs in 15 games or roughly 5.13 runs a game. Dexter Fowler has reached base safely in 27 of 28 games in May with a league leading 24 walks. At leadoff Altuve is batting a league best .341 with a league leading 77 hits, 23 multi hit games, and even leads with 20 stolen bases. Jose Altuve is also a tough man to whiff, having struck out once every 13 at bats.

In recapping the week that was the Astros closed out a lengthy road trip with a split in Seattle before going to Kansas City and completing a three game road sweep by scores of 9-2, 3-0, and 9-3. Add two victories over Baltimore on May 29 and 30, 3-1 and 2-1 to only be 9.5 games out of first place in the West albeit in fifth. Collin McHugh even had a solid outing in Missouri.

Some love also needs to be given to Chad Qualls as he recorded a four out save May 3o, his fifth to continue a bullpen trend since May 11 where Qualls has not allowed a run in 14 appearances and the bullpen ERA in 17 games has been 1.17. Truly night and day in comparison to what kept happening in 2013!

“You come to the field expecting to win,” Qualls said. “It helps we’ve been playing good baseball. Our starters have obviously been throwing deep into the game and keep us in the game, and that’s where it all begins. If they keep going deep in the game, our offense will come around. Lately we’ve won a few games by scoring a lot of runs, and we’ve also won the close ones.”

Indeed this has been a fun team to watch. Now the rest of the American League is about to start taking notice.

Upcoming Schedule
6/3   vs Angels     7:10 p.m.
6/4   vs Angels     7:10 p.m.
6/5   vs Angels     6:10 p.m.
6/6   @Twins        7:10 p.m.
6/7   @Twins        1:10 p.m.
6/8   @Twins        1:10 p.m.