The Astros have rolled in the first two months of the 2017 season.
Through 48 games, the Houston Astros own the best record in baseball, becoming the first team to 30 wins with a record of 32-16.
A lot of the early success has come from success against opponents in the American League West. Eight games ahead of the second-place Texas Rangers, the Astros have won 17 of 23 games against division opponents this season.
However, the Astros are nearing the month of June in which 19 of 27 games will be against members of the AL West. With that, here are the top five players that Astros fans should watch out for in those critical matchups.
"Here comes the inevitable Sonny Gray-to-Astros rumors"
Once a proven ace for the Oakland A’s, Sonny Gray struggled a bit with consistency in 2016. In 22 starts, he finished with a 5.69 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP with only 94 strikeouts in 117 innings of work. His home run to fly ball percentage was at an all time high, with a whopping 17.5 percent of all fly balls leaving the yard.
However, despite his lack of success overall, Gray was very good in his only start against the Astros last season. On June 5th, Gray gave up one earned run, a Carlos Gomez solo shot, on five hits and one walk, striking out five in five innings of work.
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Return to form?
Gray seems to be becoming his former self on the mound in 2017. Through five starts, he has a 3.34 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP and a .216 opposing batting average. Also, his strikeout numbers are back up, with 28 strikeouts in 29.2 innings of work, striking out 23.3 percent of all batters faced, his highest since 2013.
Gray’s last start against the Miami Marlins was his best start in a very long time. He gave up one earned run on three hits and one walk, striking out 11 in seven innings of work.
His success, especially in his last four starts, has been the lack of balls leaving the ballpark. In his first start of the season against the Minnesota Twins, Gray had three of his five total hits given up leave the yard. Since that start, he has only given up one home run in his last 23.2 innings pitched. This will be difficult for a home run-happy Astros offense, which is tied with the A’s in second place in the AL with 68.
Although he has not pitched against them in 2017, Gray has pitched himself back into consideration of being a threat to the Astros offense.