The first half of the 2017 baseball season is in the books – and it was one for the books. In splitting a four-game seesaw series against the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Houston Astros secured their sixtieth win of the first half. Only five other teams in the Wild Card era have matched that accomplishment.
The Blue Jays made it tough. They took the first game of the series on the strength of a five-run fifth inning. Rarely lacking for offense, the Jays strung together a sequence of quality at-bats against Houston all-star Lance McCullers Jr., ultimately tagging the young righty for five earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings. The offense fought tooth and nail, with Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman each collecting three hits, but Roberto Osuna and the Toronto bullpen held the ‘Stros in check and secured the series-opening win with ease.
The Astros came out swinging in game two, jumping out to a commanding 9-0 lead after only three innings, by which point George Springer and Carlos Correa each had already collected three hits. That was more than enough support for Charlie Morton, who pitched brilliantly in his return from the disabled list. Morton allowed just one earned run in six innings of work, scattering four hits and striking out three. Houston won by a final score of 12-2.
Toronto took its revenge in game three, riding the electric arm of Marcus Stroman to a 7-2 win. Mike Fiers absorbed the loss for the ‘Stros, pitching six innings and allowing three earned runs. Chris Devenski followed, and allowed four earned runs in an uncharacteristic outing.
On Sunday, the Houston bats made sure that the team finished the first half in style. Five Astros starters finished with two or more hits, and Carlos Correa contributed 5 runs batted in to a spectacular 19-1 drubbing. The offensive explosion propelled Houston to their sixtieth win of the season.
The historic win was surely a gratifying finish for a phenomenal first-half club, but Houston has some company atop MLB – the Los Angeles Dodgers rode a ridiculous hot streak to their own gaudy first-half record. In fact, at 61-29 the Dodgers have recorded one more victory than the ‘Stros, albeit in one more game. There’s a long way to go ’til October, but analysts and casual fans alike are already dreaming of a showdown between these behemoths.
When the American League All-Star rosters were unveiled last week, one notable absence raised a few eyebrows – ace reliever Chris Devenski didn’t make the cut, despite dominant first-half numbers. But every year, a certain number of players are added to the roster after the initial announcement, to compensate for injury or unavailability. Devenski made the cut last week, giving the Astros a whopping six All-Star representatives. Devo is able to participate in part because teammate Dallas Keuchel is still rehabbing from injury, and is thus unavailable to pitch in Tuesday’s game.
A Glimpse Of The Future
The 2017 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game took place on Sunday afternoon, allowing some of the best prospects in the game to play in front of a national audience. The Astros contingent did not disappoint. Talented outfielders Derek Fisher and Kyle Tucker started in left and right field, respectively, and each contributed RBI doubles for Team USA.
Keuchel, McHugh Progressing
Ailing Houston starters Dallas Keuchel and Colin McHugh are nearing their returns from the disabled list. The Astros’ starting rotation has been bitten by the injury bug this year, but it figures to get a substantial boost in the second half. Keuchel and McHugh could go a long way towards helping Houston maintain – or even surpass – their torrid first-half pace.