Astros Look For Series Sweep Against Cubs
By Alec Brown
After last night's 7-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs, the Astros have reached a season-high four games over .500. The Astros have only one sweep this season, on the road in Atlanta.
Tonight they will go for their second sweep at 8:10 against the Cubs.
Rookie J.P. France will take the ball for Houston in his Minute Maid Park debut. France has been nothing short of sensational since being called up, completing 11.2 innings and allowing only one run on six hits, striking out eight. Yes, it's a small sample size, but France has brought stability to a rotation that desparately needed it in the face of crippling injuries.
The Astros have won six of their last seven games. An interesting lineup tweak has played a key role in fueling this winning streak.
Kyle Tucker began hitting cleanup on May 10th against the Angels. The Astros have scored 28 runs across the six games since the adjustment, averaging 4.66 runs per game, which is nearly half a run higher than they were scoring on the season.
José Abreu dropped to fifth in the order as a result. Abreu's .532 OPS and 47 OPS+ are worst on the team amongst qualified hitters. Even Martín Maldonado carries a higher OPS and OPS+. While the Astros current winning ways are nice, they will likely score even more if Abreu continues moving down the order and other bats get the chance to drive in more runs.
The Astros bullpen has allowed only six runs across the stretch as well. Starters have provided some decent depth and the relievers have for the most part done their jobs. Ryan Pressly gave up two runs on a home run from Shohei Ohtani on a great pitch, Rafael Montero gave up two runs on some soft contact and Matt Gage gave up a two-run home run last night in a game that was out of reach, but for the most part, Houston's bullpen has been great in this stretch.
If the Astros are to make another run deep into October, their bullpen will be a huge reason why.
It's only six games across a 162-game stretch, but the Astros of the last week are beginning to look like the Astros we know and love.