Houston Astros Prepare for Rangers and Red Sox

Jose Altuve has been red hot for the Houston Astros and is going to this year's All-Star game. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
Jose Altuve has been hot for the Houston Astros and is heading to the All-Star game. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

By Will Martin

When leaving Houston one week ago (seeing the Astros a mere out away from a three game sweep of the defending A.L. Central Champion Tigers) as the Houston Astros improved to 36-47 I was guardedly optimistic at the talent these eyes witnessed.

Figure that the 36 win mark was not reached until July 31st of 2013. No matter how this season ends it will be an improvement of some sort.

With a week left in the midseason before the All-Star break everything is coming up roses for Houston and Bo Porter, right?

Did anyone get the license plate of the buzz saws that denied Houston victory this past week?

A perfect 0-7.

So bad that even the Texas Rangers at 1-6 had a better week then Bo Porter’s group did.

Guess who the Astros go to play beginning July 7th?

In a way it kind of makes sense. After July 20th all the thoughts of local sports fans will be on the Cowboys and Texans with training camps, all high schools, colleges and all that. It’s a Texas thing!

No one ever said cellar-dwelling would be fun, however…

Let’s accentuate the positives if at all possible.

Jose Altuve (no surprise here), the ultimate team player was voted into the 2014 All-Star Game in Minnesota as an Astros rep come July 15th. In typical team first fashion Jose was quick to be magnanimous upon hearing the news.

“It feels really good,” Altuve said. “First of all, I want to thank all the players, and I want to thank all the fans that voted for me, too. But this is really important: One thing I have to say is it wouldn’t happen without my teammates and my coaching staff. I don’t want to mention all those names, but I want to thank all the guys that are in the room. They’re doing everything for me and trying to support me.”

A tenacious and consistent lead-off hitter all season leading the A.L. in Batting average (.337), hits (122-1 short of the team mark set by Bob Watson before the All-Star break), stolen bases (38 which leads the A.L.) .

In the event Jose Altuve can maintain the lead in all three of those categories for one more week it will mark only the second time since Ichiro Suzuki did the trick in 2003 with the Seattle Mariners. Altuve in all probability will shatter the Astros stolen base mark if he can remain healthy. Ten more swipes and the record is his.

Having spent a weekend watching Altuve doing his thing suffice to say when he gets on base he just makes things happen a la Mickey Rivers or even a Rickey Henderson back in their day.

There’s a good chance that next week another Astro will be representing from the mound. A pitcher with a record of 8-5, three complete games and a 3.06 era. I speak of Dallas Keuchel and yes I am on his bandwagon.

Keuchel also has nothing but positives about his leadoff spark plug.

“He’s the most consistent hitter I’ve pretty much ever seen,” Keuchel said. “He deserves nothing but the credit he’s getting. In my case, the last couple of outings haven’t been as good as I would have liked, and it’s just the game of baseball. The first half I put up, I gave the team a good shot to win every fifth day.”

And what a difference a year makes, right Bo Porter?

“From last season, he felt like he left a lot to be desired on the field, and [he made the] commitment to his profession and his career and getting himself in the best shape of his life and showing up in Houston in January determined to be the best player he can be,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “As his manager, I feel completely honored. It brings joy to your heart when you see someone work as hard as Jose has worked and to be rewarded.”

This indeed was a week to forget for the Houston Astros who were outscored by a 57-18 count in Seattle and Anaheim. The old bugaboo of the bullpen was costly in Anaheim as leads were lost late. A walk-off by Mike Trout on July 4th resulted in a 7-6 loss while the halos put up an eight spot in the 7th inning on July 5 to negate a quality start for Scott Feldman and Chris Carter grand slam, losing 11-5.

Sunday Garrett Richards was dealing for seven plus innings as he improved to 10-2 while Collin McHugh struggled with a finger injury and fell to 4-8. Two errors by Houston aided the Angels as they completed a four game sweep of with a 6-1 victory July 6.

It was on July 6 that the first All-Star Game was played at Comiskey Park in 1933. An idea created by local writer Arch Ward.

The Astro bats have gone cold. A season high seven game skid as they come to Arlington with a 36-54 record.

“We didn’t play well,” manager Bo Porter said. “At the same time, the Angels played real well. We didn’t help ourselves if you look at the number of strikeouts and the way we played these last four games. They pretty much took it to us in every aspect of the game.”

George Springer has put up some nice numbers since his May 2 call up. 17 homers and 46 rbi’s. However the strikeout total is a cause for concern in his first season. The Astros whiffed 12 times on July 6. Jonathan Singleton also connecting with air.

“When it’s all said and done, George Springer and Jonathan Singleton are going to be quality, quality players at the Major League level,” Porter said. “We’re asking them to do something at this stage of their career they’re probably not ready for. But it’s the situation we’re in as an organization.

“We don’t have other veteran guys surrounding them, but it’s the cards they’re being dealt. At the end of the day, they’ll be better for it, but right now it’s a tough slate for two young guys to be asked to do what it is we’re asking them to do. But it’s the situation that we’re in.”

Starting the week in Seattle McHugh, Jarred Cosart, and Brad Peacock fell victim to little run production in losses at Safeco Field 10-4, 13-2, and 5-2. Brett Oberholtzer also came up a bit short in the opener with the Angels also losing 5-2.

The Houston Astros now comes to Arlington for a three game cellar dwelling series. If they can sweep the cellar can be shared by two teams if only for a moment. Rangers with a 1-7 week sit at 38-50 versus 36-54.

Congratulation to Jose Altuve and (we believe) Dallas Keuchel in becoming the first two Astros in an All-Star game since 2009. Altuve with the rare distinction of making the midsummer classic on both leagues!

Upcoming Schedule
7/7   @Rangers    7:05 p.m.
7/8   @Rangers    7:05 p.m.
7/9   @Rangers    7:05 p.m.
7/11 vs Red Sox    7:10 p.m.
7/12 vs Red Sox    3:10 p.m.
7/13 vs Red Sox    1:10 p.m.