Thanks to back-to-back sweeps at Minute Maid Park, the Astros find themselves with a bit of momentum in mid-April.
The first seven games of the season for the Astros were simply a disappointment. For some odd reason, the club has never seemingly performed well in Tropicana Field in Tampa while the series in Arlington was a bunch of strange. A 2-5 start was their reward.
The Astros needed a strong home stand to keep up with the red-hot Mariners. I know, it felt weird to write that sentence, but it is true. But the home stand was no easy task, especially as the two opponents — A’s and Yankees — won a combined 197 games in 2018. Six games between two teams that are contending for a spot in the postseason alongside the Astros is no easy task, even if it takes place at home.
The best case scenario in my mind was a 4-2 home stand. On optimistic days, I was even thinking 5-1 if certain things broke the right way. Thankfully, I was wrong. A 6-0 home stand, back-to-back sweeps, actually happened. The first time since 2004 when the Astros swept at least two consecutive three-game home series. Let’s take a look at three players who really made their mark in this series.
Trending up: Jose Altuve
How can one write about the latest home stand and not mention Altuve? No, seriously, I don’t know how one can do that. Through all six games, Altuve had a .417/.464/.958 slash line with four home runs and seven RBI. He was the catalyst for the Astros lineup this past week and helped lead the club to a six-game win streak when it needed it. The power that was missing in the second half last season has started to return. The wonders of playing on two healthy knees, right?
Trending up: Aledmys Diaz
Remember when Diaz was heavily criticized during the season’s opening week? Yeah, it is funny how we, as fans, have short memories. Although he only appeared in four games during this home stand with just nine plate appearances, the former Blue Jay made an impact in this series. Specifically, his first home run as an Astro last Sunday against the A’s that gave Houston an early 5-2 lead. He also recorded three other hits and walk without striking out. Not to mention that he covered first base while Yuli Gurriel played at third base during Alex Bregman‘s absence from the series finale against New York. Although the playing time was limited, Diaz made an notable impact during the home stand.
Trending up: Ryan Pressly
For as well as Roberto Osuna has pitched this season, the Astros’ best reliever may very well be Pressly. During the latest home stand, the former Twin limited opposing hitters to a .167 batting average and two hits over 3 1/3 innings. He also stepped up in a noticeable way when he pitched 1 1/3 innings during the series finale against the Yankees. Following New York’s comeback to get within one run in the eighth inning, manager AJ Hinch elected to use Pressly with a runner on third base and two outs with Gary Sanchez up to bat. The result? A strikeout to get the Astros out of trouble. He then pitched the ninth inning, picking up his first save of the season while surrendering only a single to Aaron Judge.