Those Streaking ‘Stros!

The Astros have turned things around lately with good pitching and a lot of hustle. Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal
The Astros have turned things around with good pitching and hustle. Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal

By Will Martin

Having never had children but hearing often about the feelings a proud Mom or Dad gets when their child or family does collectively well at something. Seeing the lessons taught now being given back in a true sign of respect and faith being rewarded.

It has also been said that in sports as in life you sometimes go with a hunch, a gut feeling, an instinctual rush of inspiration that, if correct, you come out looking like an Einsteinian genius.

If wrong, you will fall flat on your face and have to hear about for some time.

I had a hunch feeling about this Astros team in 2013. The same applies for Bo Porter and GM Jeffrey Luhnow.

Connecting two pedigrees from programs like the Cardinals and Nationals to partake in a new journey in a new league many wondered aloud about this ‘direction’ to be taken after 52 years in one league.

This past week in Major League Baseball saw the New York Yankees lose 7 of 8. It also wasn’t a good week for the Texas Rangers who at one point dropped three games in a 36 hour timetable. For two months many of you chided this writer as to when ‘the new kids’ would start to do something’.

Ladies and Gentlemen how about those Houston Astros? They just had a four game sweep over the Angels, 7-3 against them in the season while 5-16 against the rest of the A.L. West (0-9 against the Athletics), riding a six game winning sweep-longest in the majors.

That is playing at a clip of .625 after a dreadful beginning.  Bo Porter is proving himself to be a master motivator as he learns along the way. While Ron Washington has preached, ‘Pitching and Defense’ since 2007, 2013 in Houston has been, ‘Starting pitching and the longball’.

Using Saturday nights win as an example (a 2-0 win over the Halos) Bud Norris went a solid 6 innings. In three starts against the team from Anaheim Norris is a perfect 3-0 with an ERA of 0.43! Not since 1992 and Roger Clemens has a pitcher been able to make that claim.

Team ERA in the last 16 games is an exceptional 3.53. Starting pitchers ERA is at 3.56. That’s 5th best in the majors for this time frame. 11 of the games by two runs or less. Converting on 6 of 7 save opportunities is 1s in the A.L. In addition after a homerless streak of 33 games to begin 2013 Matt Dominguez has belted 8 in his last 19 games since May 11th-4th among players in that time span.

Also, for the first time since Hunter Pence in August of 2010 an Astro won Player Of The Week Honors. Speaking on behalf of Catcher Jason Castro. The week of May 20th-26th Jason Castro has posted a .429 (18×42) batting average with four doubles, four homers, seven RBI, a .500 OBP and a .810 slugging percentage over his last 12 games since May 18. Castro also the first Astros catcher to get that award since Craig Biggio did the honors in April of 1990.

Dallas Keuchel, Jordan Lyles, Bud Norris, Erik Bedard, and Lucas Harrell appear to be getting in a nice groove as starters going into the 6th or 7th inning of starts before the set up men (Paul Clemens, Brad Peacock, Wesley Wright, Travis Blackley) take down the next 6 outs making way for the closer Jose Veras. After a couple of hard luck losses in the 9th of games Veras is starting to trust his stuff and reap the rewards.

After taking two straight at home from the Rockies Houston came to Anaheim and have simply outplayed the higher payroll of Moreno’s Men. Chris Carter with 11 homers and 31 ribbies followed closely by the burgeoning prowess of Matt Dominguez. Took me back to a conversation I had with Chris back in April.

Ronny Cedeno is beginning to make a claim for the shortstop position, having started four straight and providing some great defense next to Jose Altuve.

Jose Altuve continues to be the great story in Houston. While playing the position, Altuve ranks first among all MLB second basemen in 3+ hit games (7), tied for third in hits (62), fifth in batting average (.301), seventh in on-base percentage (.342) and eighth in RBI (21)…defensively, Altuve has turned more double plays than any other MLB second baseman with 48.

Bo Porter, you’re about to sweep the Angels (we hope) four straight. Did you see this coming?

“We’re playing really good ball,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “Right now we’re winning those break points and it’s causing us to win the ballgame. I think guys are really locking in to the situations and executing at the times in which we really need them to execute.”

To say nothing about closing out and winning a 1 run game. A bugaboo in 2013 early on. Jose Veras was gassed so enter Hector Ambriz.

“It’s always good to win one-run ballgames,” Porter said. “It was nail-biting time there. I thought Ambriz did a great job. I tried to do everything I could to stay away from him, our bullpen has been getting taxed, but once Peacock gave up that two-run homer, we knew we couldn’t stay away from him and he did a tremendous job coming in there to close that game out.”

Lastly Bo, what’s the one thing about this current five game streak that has you happiest?

“It’s contagious,” Porter said. “When you’re in that five-man rotation and you see the guys in front of you go out and continue to put the team in position to win, you want to do the same.”

Here here! While the Astros finish up clipping the wings from those things heavenward there shall be a bird of a different plumage making a visit to Houston starting June 4th. I speak of the Baltimore Orioles. Then it’s off to Kansas City for three.

Current record stands at 20-37. When the Astros do not homer in a game they are 2-20. When they do go yard they are 16-17. Bo Porter’s mantra of ‘Pitching and the Long Ball’ is beginning to take shape. Win or lose this ballclub will compete to the end, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

The Texas Rangers of 2007 began badly before playing some good ball the second half of the season. My pre season prediction of 74 wins now very attainable provided the Astros maintain .500 ball or better.

And like that proud parent, I am proud of these kids. I believe in them…I believe in Bo.

Upcoming Schedule
6/5    Orioles      7:10pm
6/6    Orioles      1:10pm
6/7   @Royals    7:10pm
6/8    @Royals   6:15pm
6/9    @Royals   1:10pm