Houston, we have no problems. After pitching carried the team in a thrilling series against Baltimore, the Astros bats sounded off for a spectacular 40 runs in three games to sweep the Twins in Minnesota. That kind of balance portends big things for this club: If one part of the team falters, another will be along to pick it up.
Take Monday’s series opener at Target Field. Brad Peacock struggled in his second start of the season, yielding four runs in an abbreviated 4 2/3 inning outing. The typically stout bullpen offered no relief – rookie Jordan Jankowski coughed up four runs of his own, handing the Twins a comfortable 8-2 lead heading into the late innings. But consider the sequence the Astros bats strung together in the top half of inning number eight: Walk, hit by pitch, single, single, pop out, single, single, force out, single, double, single, walk, home run, line out. The result? Eleven runs on the board and one of the more improbable comebacks in recent baseball history. (The ‘Stros tacked on three more in the ninth for a 16-8 victory.)
On Tuesday, Mike Fiers spun six solid innings of two-run ball. But he drew a tough card: Promising Minnesota youngster Jose Berrios and his otherworldly curveball. Not an issue for the Houston offense – they roughed up Berrios for four runs in five innings, and came away with a 7-2 win and the security of another series victory. Second baseman Jose Altuve, bidding for his fourth consecutive All-Star nod, chipped in four hits and two runs batted in.
Houston scored early and often on Wednesday, jumping out to a 6-4 lead before adding another six in the top of the seventh inning. The game featured the season debut of Astros prospect David Paulino, who acquitted himself quite well – through four innings, Paulino yielded two earned runs, but he struck out eight batters while walking just one. Of course, he had the full power of the Astros’ bats at his back. George Springer and Evan Gattis slugged four hits a piece, and combined for three home runs. Carlos Correa chipped in three hits and a homer of his own in the 17-6 victory.
The ‘Stros will ride their stunning display of force into a crucial three-game tilt against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Even though 12 games separate the teams in the AL West standings, the rivalry between these clubs has never been more fierce.
Dallas Keuchel faces Rangers ace Yu Darvish tonight in what promises to be a high-energy game one. The Astros took three of four from the Rangers at home in May; look for Texas to try to return the favor in this installment of the Lone Star Series.
The Astros have crushed opponents all year, cruising to a breathtaking 38-16 record through the first third of the season. When’s the last time a team displayed such early dominance? Just last year, actually. The team in question was none other than the Chicago Cubs. And we all know how that turned out.
Employees of the Month
Major League Baseball handed out its monthly accolades this week. Earning the nod for the American League’s best player in May was shortstop Carlos Correa, who hit .386/.457/.673 with seven home runs and 26 runs batted in. The league didn’t have to look very far to find its best pitcher – Lance McCullers Jr took home the AL’s pitching prize after twirling 36 1/3 dominant innings in May. McCullers earned a perfect 4-0 record for the month, and he kept his ERA at a measly 0.99.
‘Stros Impress In Press
A flurry of national articles sang the Astros’ praises this week, with multiple writers pegging the ‘Stros for a strong finish in 2017 – and continued success beyond this year. When all’s said and done, don’t be surprised if the Astros push 100 wins this year. And if you’re coming to Houston this summer, get your game tickets early – the bandwagon’s only getting more crowded.