The rest of the American League is officially on notice. The Houston Astros, owners of the best record in the Junior Circuit at 19-10, throttled the Texas Rangers three games to one to cap off a raucous home stand at Minute Maid Park.
Although a series victory over the cellar-dwelling Rangers may seem unsurprising, consider it something of a moral victory. Prior to this series, the Astros had won only 10 of the previous 38 contests in the Lone Star Series.
How’d they do it? Chiefly by hitting the snot out of the baseball. For the series, the ‘Stros bopped 42 hits (including 8 home runs) and pushed 28 runs across home plate. Star shortstop Carlos Correa entered the four-game set batting a paltry .233 and left with a much more respectable AVG/OBP/SLG line of .265/.339/.422. Look for his potent bat to continue its awakening in the weeks ahead.
Things were less rosy on the mound, as Houston pitchers combined to allow 20 Rangers runs. But don’t expect a staff that includes Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, and sensational sophomore Chris Devenski to stay down for long.
Bragging rights in tow, Houston is heading west for a pivotal three-game tilt against the second-place Angels. Reigning MLB Pitcher of the Month Dallas Keuchel toes the rubber in game one, and he’ll toss the first pitch just after 9:00 Central tonight.
You’d expect a team that boasts noted sluggers George Springer, Carlos Beltrán, Brian McCann, and Carlos Correa to deposit its share of balls into the outfield seats. But it’s utility man Marwin Gonzalez atop the Astros home run leaderboard. Gonzalez slugged his ninth of the season to the right-centerfield bullpen last night – expect manager A.J. Hinch to continue riding his hottest bat.
New Kid On The Block
Cuban import Yuli Gurriel is making his presence known to AL pitchers. The 32-year-old first baseman carries a .311 batting average into Anaheim. Not a bad early return on last season’s five-year investment.
A Look Ahead
The Astros return home for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it interleague series against the Atlanta Braves May 9-10. Later in the month, they play host to Cleveland, Detroit, and Baltimore for a ten-game stretch between the 19th and 28th. Fan giveaways include a natty Astros Fedora on the 19th, a glow-in-the-dark Lance McCullers gnome on the 20th, and an Astros beach towel on the 26th. Be sure to arrive early – each is available only to the first 10,000 fans through the gates.