The home stand didn’t start the way it was supposed to for the Astros. After an 0-3 start thanks to the Indians, as well as Keuchel and McCann both going to the DL, things seemed to be going in the wrong direction for the ball-club. But as this sport goes, a season can change overnight, with just one pitch or hit at any point in the season.
Coming into the Orioles series, it was known Keuchel and McCann would return from the DL, and the backend of the series would feature the 1-2 punch of Keuchel and McCullers. They didn’t disappoint, as Keuchel is now 8-0 on the young season and McCullers ran his record up to 6-1. The men are in cruise control, and don’t show any signs of slowing down.
Marwin Gonzalez continues to earn time, as he is seeing the ball really well. There has even been talk about him possibly getting an All-Star nod, and with his production, I don’t think it's out of the question. He has 38 hits, 11 HR’s, and is hitting .311. If he keeps it up he will join Correa and Altuve, who are both hitting over .300.
One thing the Astros need to be concerned about is Charlie Morton, who was just sent to the DL. His durability has been an issue over the years, but the Astros were willing to look past that when they signed him. The rotation rates on his pitches are tops in the majors, and this year he has done very well.
Here are his numbers so far: 5-3 record, 4.06 ERA, 10.14 K/9, 3.59 BB/9 and a 51.3 percent ground-ball rate in 57.2 innings.
According to a report by Brian McTaggart, Charlie Morton has no timetable for a return, as the Astros recalled Jordan Jankowski to take his place for now. Brad Peacock will be joined with the man he just recently ousted in the back end of the rotation.
Even with their best start in club history 52 games into the season, the 36-16 Astros still have needs to address. Pitching is the most important. Do the Astros go out and get Cole, Archer, or Quintana? Do the Astros get LHP Brad Hand from San Diego, or look for more back end rotation depth? When does McHugh return? Do they give Francis Martes a look at starter?
The issues addressed with the pitching seem to be one of the only hiccups regarding the Astros, who are steamrolling towards the playoffs. But is it too early to look ahead? Is it too early to say the Astros have this thing in the bag?
Of course it is… NOT! It’s never too early unless it’s game 2 of the season. This year’s Astros team has the most complete lineup in franchise history. Plug this lineup behind the pitching staff of the ’05 Astros, and there is no way the White Sox win the series. This team is resilient, and even a “slumping” Springer came alive this series. He is now hitting .425 with RISP and 2 outs, yet he is far from the only clutch performer on the roster.
Altuve got multiple hits in back-to-back games, and the rest of the crew is hitting the ball really well. The Astros are second in total homers behind the Nationals, as they have mashed 72 on the year.
Now the Astros are facing the Minnesota Twins who are tops in the AL Central, and then on to Texas and Kansas City..
In Arlington, the Astros will have Keuchel and McCullers both, always a great duo to trot out against an in-state division rival. The Astros should go 7-3 on this road trip, winning all three series. Even if they split 5-5, they will be the first team in the league to 40 wins.
This year has a different ring to it, and for the first time in a while, I don’t think I’m just being delusional.