While the 2018 season is still ongoing, a pair of Astros’ starters have already made their mark with the franchise.
The Astros look to build off a much-needed win in Oakland as they trek into the Pacific Northwest to challenge the Mariners. Similar to the preceding series, their three-game set against Seattle will be crucial to their postseason aspirations. Gerrit Cole gets the nod to start the first game of the series, and he has chance to place himself among good company in Astros’ history.
Observation #1: Remember the strikeouts
Depending on the outcome of Monday’s game in Seattle, Cole may have a chance to join the top-ten in strikeouts during a single season by an Astros’ starting pitcher. With 219 strikeouts in 159 2/3 innings, the age-27 starter is currently in eleventh place for a single season in club history. He only trails tenth-place, which is teammate Justin Verlander, by four strikeouts. Here is the current leaderboard.
Table 1. Single season strikeout leaders in Colt .45’s/Astros history
1979 J.R. Richard – 313 strikeouts
1986 Mike Scott – 306 strikeouts
1978 J.R. Richard – 303 strikeouts
1987 Nolan Ryan – 270 strikeouts
1982 Nolan Ryan – 245 strikeouts
1969 Don Wilson – 235 strikeouts
1987 Mike Scott – 233 strikeouts
1969 Larry Dierker – 232 strikeouts
1988 Nolan Ryan – 228 strikeouts
2018 Justin Verlander – 223 strikeouts
Unsurprisingly, we find a few famous Astros’ pitchers on the leaderboard. Verlander has already joined the list, and now Cole has a good chance to do so later on Monday night. Alas, Verlander will likely be bumped from the top-ten until his next start, in which he only needs six to surpass Ryan’s total in 1988. There is a terrific chance that both pitchers may place themselves high among the top-ten list by a single season in club history. Cole also looks to add to his major league high of seven times that he has struck out at least eleven batters in a game on Monday.
Observation #2: Home runs saved the day
As you’d likely know by now, the Astros won Sunday over the A’s to the score of 9-4. Oakland relied upon the home run ball to generate their offense. In terms of Houston’s offense, it was a much-needed performance by a unit that has more-or-less struggled in recent weeks. It was quite a crucial win. Like Oakland, the Astros’ showing at the plate was primarily driven by home runs. Five home runs, to be exact.
Sunday’s game was the second time this season that the Astros have hit five home runs in season, which is a season-high during a game. The only other time that Houston has hit five home runs this season came not even a week ago against the Rockies on August 15th. Hopefully this latest outburst is the start of something positive for a lineup that needs consistency.
Observation #3: The home run slide in 2018
Part of the Astros’ offensive success last year was due to the home run. In 2017, the lineup had a total of 238 home runs, which was the second-highest total in the majors last season. That season was the second-highest total in club history, trailing only the 2000 Astros by eleven home runs.
That said, the 2018 Astros are currently eighth in home runs with 161 total. That’s not bad, especially when you consider the extended stretches of time missed by Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer. Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis lead the team with 24 home runs each while Marwin Gonzalez has rebounded in recent weeks to have 11 home runs on the season. If the lineup can come back to nearly full strength, I’d expect that the home run total will spike in August and September.