A week ago, the Astros were reeling. This week, they’re soaring. Houston rattled off victories in six of seven games to salvage a home stand that started out on a sour note. The heroic effort – including three straight wins to sweep the Baltimore Orioles out of town over Memorial Day weekend – helped soothe the sting of a frustrating series against Cleveland.
Pitching set the tone early against the Orioles, with Joe Musgrove delivering a captivating performance in the series opener on Friday. The sophomore righty has struggled with inconsistency this year, but you wouldn’t have known that by watching him toy with the Orioles’ offense. Musgrove stifled Baltimore’s boppers, holding the lineup to just four hits while striking out six over seven innings. Solo home runs by centerfielder Jake Marisnick and DH Carlos Beltrán provided the only offense the Astros needed in their 2-0 victory.
Saturday’s contest saw the return of staff ace Dallas Keuchel and veteran backstop Brian McCann from the disabled list. Keuchel pitched to vintage form, fanning eight men and allowing one run over six dominant frames. Meanwhile, McCann drew two walks to prove that even a trip to the DL can’t affect his patient eye at the plate. The ‘Stros jumped on Baltimore starter Wade Miley for two runs in the first inning, and tacked on two more in the fourth in the form of a long home run by George Springer. That was plenty of run support for the bullpen, which handily nailed down the 5-2 win.
Game three featured some fireworks. Starter Lance McCullers Jr. found himself in early trouble, allowing three runs (two earned) in his first two innings of work. The Astros bats, unfazed, broke out for six runs in the bottom of the second to deliver McCullers Jr. his sixth win of the year.
Following Sunday’s game, the ‘Stros packed their bags and headed north to take on the Minnesota Twins. If game one was any indication, they brought a little magic along for the ride. Down 8-2 after seven complete innings, the visiting Astros’ offense exploded for eleven runs in the eighth and three more in the top of the ninth. The result? A spectacular 16-8 victory that will go down as one of the most improbable games of this – or any – season.
The ‘Stros will look to keep their streak alive tonight, when Mike Fiers squares off against Minnesota youngster Jose Berrios in game two.
Banished to the ‘Pen – But Not For Long
2017 hasn’t been kind to veteran righty Mike Fiers – and he’d be the first to tell you so. The struggling hurler was temporarily removed from the Astros starting rotation last week, in the hopes that he could find his form pitching out of the ‘pen. He never got the chance. Fiers was reinserted into the starting rotation after a spate of injuries befell Houston’s other starters. He takes the hill tonight in place of Charlie Morton, who succumbed to a lat strain during his last start. A strong performance would go a long way towards cementing Fiers’ future in the Houston starting five.
Superstar shortstop Carlos Correa was born in Puerto Rico and plays his home games at Minute Maid Park. But there’s something about the cool Minnesota air that seems to agree with him. Correa is batting .432 lifetime against the Twins, with five home runs and five doubles among his 19 total hits. He’ll try to add to those gaudy numbers tonight – he’s batting cleanup in game two.
Two weeks ago, it was Dallas Keuchel. Then it was Charlie Morton’s turn. Today, Joe Musgrove became the latest Astros starter to hit the DL. That string of bad luck has created an opening in the Astros’ starting rotation, and the club called up top prospect David Paulino to fill the void. The 23-year-old righty turned in a brilliant 2016 season, culminating in a brief call-up with the big league club. While he’s struggled in AAA this year, there’s no denying his promise – MLB.com ranked Paulino the #48 prospect in all of baseball prior to the start of the season. He gets the start Wednesday night in game three.