In Search of… Relief

Will Josh Fields step up as the Astros new closer? Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison
Will Josh Fields step up as the Astros new closer? Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison

By Will Martin

Coming into the month of August a few objectives for the kids in H-town were successfully met as the trade deadline came and went. Bud Norris became an Oriole in exchange for outfielder L.J. Hoes, left handed pitcher Josh Hader and a competitive balance pick in 2014. Opening Day starter Justin Maxwell was dealt to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for righty hurler Kyle Smith. On July 29th closer Jose Veras was dealt to the Tigers in a trade for Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later.

As 2013 will be a season of cellar dwelling and establishing the future of tomorrow with the players of today the talent pool down Houston way is endless and plentiful while Jeff Luhnow and Bo Porter were able to pare down the payroll to a little over 13 million dollars.

Recently Carlos Pena was released by the Astros. Wherever he winds up he will be a welcomed clubhouse presence. (With Nelson Cruz about to go away for the rest of 2013 the Rangers might want to bring Pena back).

Finishing out a dreadful 2-10 road trip on the heels of a July that was a dreadful 6-18, 6-22 if you include the four games just completed in Baltimore and Minnesota. The first ever visit to Target Field in Astros history.

This is going to sound like a broken record but it still holds true. Starting pitching has continued to hold true to form for a solid 6-7 innings. The issue now, especially with Jose Veras gone, is a bullpen by committee that is able to close out and finish what they started. One stat that drives me batty is a 2-9 record in one run games since July 1st.

If Houston only played their games on Wednesday you could start planning a playoff parade in October. With the Astros 11-0 whitewashing of the Orioles on July 31st, Houston improved their season record on “hump day” to 11-6. Let’s not even discuss Sundays…3-16!

Starting Pitching Looking Great

Rookie RHP Jarred Cosart has posted an 0.96 ERA (3ER/28IP) in his 1st four ML starts/apps…as a result, Cosart is just the second pitcher since earned runs became official (1912 in NL, 1913 in AL) to go 6+ innings and allow zero or one earned run in each of his first four ML starts…the first was RHP Wayne Simpson of the 1970 Reds, who had an 0.58 ERA (2ER/31IP) in his first four starts.

Despite the 3-2 defeat in Minnesota on Sunday, Brad Peacock became the second Astro hurler to have a ten strikeout performance as he joined hard luck lefty Erik Bedard who turned the trick against the Mariners back on July 20th.

Houston’s ERA among the starters in the last seven games sits at 3.07. Robbie Grossman has hit in seven straight games at .480 (12 for 25) with a HR, 3 BB, 2 SB and a 1.315 OPS…his .480 (12 for 25) avg. since 7/28 ranks second in the AL in that span (min. 20 AB). Grossman has been equal to the challenge since his call-up on July 27th to the big leagues.

This week beginning tonight the Astros begin a seven game homestand against the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. Swept four straight in Boston back in June and manhandled by their Texas brethren to the tune of 2-7 record wise it could be said that ‘A 2-11 is in progress’ this week at Minute Maid Park.

The final fifty games or so could prove to be a time to play spoiler amongst the kids. With the departures of Norris, Maxwell, and Pena, Houston has the youngest staff in baseball. OF Chris Carter and 3B Matt Dominguez lead the way offensively with 52 and 55 RBI’s respectively.

Jose Altuve became the youngest Astro to reach 60 doubles and 60 stolen bases in 304 games. Four multi-steal games in 2013 and 28 for the season leads all Astros and places him third in the A.L. Previous record setter was Cesar Cedeno going 60/60 in 319 games. Still leading all of Major League Baseball with 88 double plays turned.

It also appears that the shortstop position is Jonathan Villar’s to lose as Ronny Cedeno no longer fits into the long term game plans of Bo Porter and was released at the end of July. Despite the 36-74 record in 2013 the news gets better down on the farm.

Sitting all alone in 1st place in the Pacific Coast League, the Red Hawks of Oklahoma City currently ride a ten game win streak after a 24-5 thrashing of Colorado Springs. Overall in the minors the Houston Astros sport the best overall record at 366-270 (.575) followed closely by the Texas Rangers 334-261 (.560) and San Francisco Giants 330-260 (.559).

The road ahead looks very promising. For the here and now the issue is getting some relief and comfort from the new league growing pains. It happens all the time. To a productive final 50 games for the good people in the land of Porterville.

Upcoming Schedule
8/5    Red Sox     7:10 PM
8/6    Red Sox     7:10 PM
8/7    Red Sox    7:10 PM
8/9    Rangers    7:10 PM
8/10  Rangers    6:10 PM
8/11   Rangers     1:10 PM
8/12   Rangers     1:10 PM