May 15th is the early leader for honors as the turning point of the Astros season.
Nobody was expecting the Astros to contend for the playoffs this season. However that does not mean we don’t want to see them win. You want the games to competitive. If you are going to invest three hours into watching a game, it would be helpful for the Astros to have a chance at winning the game.
For the first month and a half of the season, that was often not the case. Aside from Oakland which has proved to be the Astros’ kryptonite, the Tigers have been a difficult opponent to say the least. That trend continued as the Astros lost the first two games in their series against the Tigers. Then on May 15th in the last game of the series, Houston jumped out to a lead and looked like they would at least salvage the series.
Well at least until the bases were loaded and Miguel Cabrera came to the plate with two outs and Detroit down by three runs. Brandon Barnes then made what can be called both a game and season changing catch.
Since then, it seems that the Astros have found their groove and the season has turned around. Suddenly it is like we have a totally different team, and the results speak for themselves.
For most of the early part of the season, the Astros were in flux. Players were being shuffled in and out of the lineup and the roster. Roles were not defined. The batting order was different. There was no consistency. The bullpen was downright scary at times. Simply put, Bo Porter looked lost and overwhelmed.
Rightfully so, fans were getting frustrated. Frustrated with the team, the results, the players, and mostly with Porter. But now that the Astros are winning, Porter should get some credit for the turnaround.
Starting with Barnes’ catch, the Astros are 10-7. Included in that, is a three game sweep at the hands of Oakland as well as a tough series loss to the Pirates. One loss was a ninth inning victory by the Pirates on a Jimmy Parades error, the other was a 1-0 defeat.
Astros fans really should be feeling good about their team in this last 17 game stretch. For as much as Porter was getting the blame and being criticized for the Astros dreadful start, he should get some credit for this recent turnaround. I’m not saying that this winning streak will continue, but the fact that it can should be celebrated.
In all honesty, the success of this season cannot be truly measured for the next three to five years. This season is the start of a new era and a new culture in Houston. The groundwork that is laid this season, with any luck, should be the stimulus for return to dominance for the Astros. And when we look back to 2013 as the dawn of a new era, we will look back to the catch Barnes made on May 15th.
So the question bears asking: what has changed?
The main thing here, is that the team is no longer in flux. Roles have been established, and players are successfully filling those roles. Of course the starting pitchers doing their jobs has a lot to do with this, but the bullpen is now an asset.
At least for the last few weeks, there has been some excitement surrounding the Astros. Despite the five game winning streak they take into Monday night’s game against the Angels, we know Astros are not making the playoffs this year.
But we knew that going into the season, and that is alright. What matters is the future. And now that future is starting to look a little better and brighter.