Houston, we have a winning baseball team once again! But for how long will the Astros keep this up?
That is a fair question to ask if you remember the struggles of the first six or so weeks of the 2016 season. After all, the Astros often looked like a team that was lost among the lofty expectations heaped upon them.
But now the Astros appear to have new life as they continue to surge up the standings and finally achieve a winning record for the first time since starting the season 1-0 in New York back in April. Lance McCullers did just enough to keep the game close while Marwin Gonzalez once again proved how valuable he is to this team. His RBI triple was the lift the Astros needed to take down the Los Angeles Angels and earn the sweep at home. And what made Wednesday’s game even better was the fact that the win came against Matt Shoemaker, who has been one of the best pitchers in the American League since May.
However, it is time to head to Kansas City where the Royals await. This is perhaps a series that will determine how for real the Astros truly are in the American League.
Remember that time that the Astros and Royals played in Houston, and Kansas City took three out of four? Well, it is time to return the favor as the Astros head to Kauffman for three games.
For the first game, the Astros will send out Dallas Keuchel, who will surely be chomping at the bit to take on a team that has defeated Houston’s hopes more than once in the past calendar year. Sure, Keuchel has nine losses, but his peripheral statistics (3.78 FIP, 3.32 xFIP) have indicated that he has pitched better than his surface numbers. It would be great to see his first start against Kansas City in 2016 to not only be a victory but a building block in Keuchel’s redemption.
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The Royals will send out veteran starter Edinson Volquez, who will be making his first start against the Astros in 2016. Entering tonight’s contest, Volquez has seen his season be a mixed bag of results. A couple of really good starts here followed by not-so-good starts. That would partly explain the record and ERA, even though there are much better indicators of a pitcher’s true performance.
Another aspect of this game to pay attention to is the Astros offense. Believe it or not, Carlos Gomez has three home runs in 31 at-bats against Volquez and Colby Rasmus has a 1.143 OPS in 15 at-bats. Jose Altuve has three hits in seven at-bats. Three hits in ten at-bats for Luis Valbuena. So there is a history there to think about with certain Astros hitters.
This game will be tone-setter for the Astros as they embark on their latest road trip. If this team really wants to be considered a threat to make a run this summer, it must find a way to win somewhat consistently on the road. To be honest, they have begun to do just that. But against a team like Kansas City, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past. It is all about what happens now.
**Statistics provided by Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs and ESPN**