These Aren’t Last Year’s Houston Astros
By Jason Burke
When one reflects on seasons past in Houston, what comes to mind? Of course, there are the losses. Then there’s the bullpen, which was always near the league’s worst. Both of these have been improved upon for the 2015 model, but the one main factor that most Houston Astros fans are most excited about? This team has fight.
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The Astros showed that fight once again after last night’s thrilling come-from-behind win in Anaheim, taking the first game of a four game series with the Halos 3-2. Having two hits to their name entering the top of the ninth, the ‘Stros rallied against closer Huston Street to score three runs on four hits and a walk. The icing on the cake was Preston Tucker, making his major league debut, tying the game with a base hit through the right side of the infield. Everyone in the lineup is contributing, which makes the Houston Astros a very dangerous team.
Last Monday in San Diego, Jed Lowrie, who had been one of the season’s early team leaders, was injured sliding into home in what became Houston’s fourth win in a row. How did the team respond? By rattling off another six consecutive victories. In Tuesday night’s game, George Springer was injured, and will subsequently miss a little time, but the team, fully replenished with Tucker in tow, responded with a resounding victory in Anaheim last night.
The Astros have seven come-from-behind wins already this season, which encapsulates the difference between this year’s team and previous versions. With the team down late, showing little to no fight, it’s impossible to turn off your television set these days.
With Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh spaced out in the rotation, it’s hard to imagine any sort of prolonged losing streak for the Astros moving forward. Thus far they’ve lost back-to-back games once, and saw a three game losing streak to start the week after being swept by Texas. Those are the two losing streaks the team has this year. By the sixth game of the season last year, this feat had already been accomplished.
Adding to their two aces, the team has an excellent mix of speed and defense, two more attributes that don’t go into slumps. While their power bats get most of the acclaim, and for good reason, it’s the solid defensive play, and their MLB best 36 stolen bases that are the real engine of the offense. The more I watch this team, the more I want to believe that this could be the year. The goal of a .500 winning percentage is so last month. Now, we’re in the playoff hunt. Jeff Luhnow has already done a great job of assembling this team, so I’m weary to say that he needs to make a flurry of moves, which would cost talent, but some minor tweaks will be inevitable.
The Astros have options this year, with their minor league talent maturing, and proven veterans being added to the squad. If someone isn’t cutting it, they could be on the next bus out of town.
In closing, here are some statistics that I found intriguing: The Houston Astros are 13-1 when scoring first…Have outscored their opponents 38-15 in the final two innings…team is 5-0 when Evan Gattis or Colby Rasmus homers, and 4-0 when George Springer homers…4-0 when Marwin Gonzalez starts at first and 3-0 when Jonathan Villar starts at third.