Riding High in June

The Astros have improved as the season has progressed. Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal
The Astros have improved as the season has progressed. Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal

By Will Martin

The sixth month of the year on the diamond is one where many things are at play. The weather heats up, seasons change, a nucleus of talent starts to mesh and gel as one and you will often see the fruits of one’s labor. Teams with obvious talent begin to rise to the top. Position players begin to get a better understanding of roles in a given situation. Individual efforts start to bring a nice team collective. You start to stand and take notice. You start to observe. You start asking questions and you begin to believe.

Coinciding with a current 4-11 slide by their competition in Arlington the Houston Astros come into play Monday with an 8-7 record.

Successful at completing a four game road sweep in Anaheim to start the month of June followed by a Missouri sweep that was so ‘Royally’ not in their favor. In less than three weeks time there has a been a ten game turnaround in the standings as the Oakland A’s have now taken the top spot in the West.

You can also thank the Astros for that as Houston would fall to 0-9 playing the Bay City Brawlers. As the Astros are now starting to win more frequently expect things to change when the A’s and Astros meet again July 22nd. After a horrific start, the Houston Astros exited Fathers Day with a 27-44 record and an 11-7 run since Memorial Day.

Monday night’s matchup with the White Sox gives Houston a chance at their first four game sweep at home since doing the same to the Phillies in September of 2009. This current series has also been interesting in that the Chisox have thrown four lefties at Bo Porter’s crew-Chris Sale, John Danks, Hector Santiago, and Jose Quintana-against Erik Bedard, Lucas Harrell, Dallas Keuchel, and Bud Norris.

Last time a team has thrown four straight southpaws in a series? The week of July 13th 1989 at Philadelphia. The Astros went 2-2 in that scenario. They try for a sweep on Monday.

North Of The Border
Erik Bedard, who was born in Ontario, reached his 200th career start in his last start (6/8 at KC), making him the 6th Canadian-born pitcher to reach 200 ML starts…the others are: Fergie Jenkins (594); Ryan Dempster (335); Kirk McCaskill (242); Jeff Francis (214); Reggie Cleveland (203).

Sweepless in Seattle
The Astros won in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night (6/12), rallying for six runs in the 9th for a 6-1 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field…in the 9th, a 2-run double by Chris Carter was the key blow, giving the Astros a 2-1 lead…Jose Altuve also added a 2-run single in the inning…RHP Paul Clemens (4-2) tossed 1.1 scoreless inn. in relief to earn the win…RHP Jordan Lyles had another fine outing, hurling 7.0 shutout innings with a career-high 10 K’s.

Moundly Month For Makeshift Memories
Astros starters have posted a 3.11 ERA (57ER/165.0IP) in 27 games since May 15, which ranks 2nd in the AL in that span behind the Oakland A’s 2.66. The quartet of Harrell, Bedard, Keuchel, and Norris continue to average a solid six innings per start or better. Over the past month, the Astros are 16-14 (since May 15)…additionally, they are are 11-7 in their 18 games since May 29, which is 2nd-best in the AL West in that span.

AL West Record Since 5/29
1. Oakland: 12-6 (.667)
2. Houston: 11-7 (.611)
3. Seattle: 9-9 (.500)
4. Los Angeles: 7-10 (.412)
5.Texas:    6-11 (.353)
Equally good to see are three straight one run victories on Chicago (2-1, 5-4, 3-2) as Houston improves to 10-11 in one run games.

Battery Powered
Jason Castro’s 10 HR are the most in a season by an Astros catcher since Mitch Melusky hit 14 in 2000 (club record is 17 by John Bateman-1966)…additionally, Castro’s 10 HR are the 3rd-highest total in franchise history by a Houston catcher prior to the All-Star Break.

Proud To be Your Bud
Bud Norris has posted a 2.18 ERA (8ER/33IP) in his last five starts…HOMEBOY: Norris is 3-2 in eight home starts with a 2.28 ERA (13ER/51.1IP)…since 2012, his 1.94 ERA at Minute Maid Park ranks 3rd in the Majors for lowest home ERA.
Lowest Home ERA – Since 2012
1. H. Iwakuma – 1.88
1. C. Kershaw – 1.88
3. B. Norris – 1.94
4. J. Verlander – 2.03

Draft Appellations
On June 6th The Astros selected Stanford University RHP Mark Appel with the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB First Year Player Draft…Appel, 21, went 10-4 with four CG’s and a 2.12 ERA (25ER/106.1IP) as a senior this season at Stanford with 130 K’s in his 106.1 IP…DRAFT RECAP: 31 of the 40 players selected by the Astros are college players…overall, HOU took16 pitchers, four catchers, seven infielders and five outfielders.

In closing (pun intended) Jose Veras in the last month has successfully closed out and saved 9 of his 14 finishes for the season. Not pressing as hard Veras is now getting more at home and at ease with his role as the final line of defense. The Astros finish out their homestand with three against the Milwaukee Brewers before making a trip to Wrigley Field and then home against the Cardinals and Angels to finish out June. 8-7 through Fathers Day and assured of their 1st double digit month on the win column.

I await the day after July 4th when Houston makes their first trip to Arlington for the Silver Boot continuation of play. Indeed, there is a reason why getting in tune, swoon, boon, loon, and cartoon all rhyme with June. It tends to be a month that gets a little animated.

Upcoming Schedule
6/18     vs Brewers    7:10 p.m.
6/19     vs Brewers    7:10 p.m.
6/20     vs Brewers    1:10 p.m.
6/21      @Cubs            1:20 p.m.
6/22      @Cubs           3:05 p.m.
6/23      @Cubs           1:20 p.m.