Houston Astros Aiming For First Series Win of 2010 at Wrigley
Thankfully, and amazingly, the Houston Astros picked up win No. 1 of the season in their final game of the St. Louis series on the road.
Two days later, those same Astros defeated the Chicago Cubs 4-3 to force their very first rubber game of the season with this afternoon’s match-up at Wrigley Field.
That puts Houston’s overall record at 2-9 through 11 games, with high hopes of putting together the team’s first win-streak of the year with lefty Wandy Rodriguez taking the hill in today’s matinee showdown with Chicago.
Let’s now take a look at five factors and contributions to Houston garnering their second win of the season, beginning with the impressive breakout offensive performances by center fielder Michael Bourn and catcher J.R. Towles…
1. Starting Pitching Remains Near-Superb
Unfortunately, Roy Oswalt (2.37) and Bud Norris (3.52) are the only two starters with wins to show they’re worthy of what their ERA’s show.
But that doesn’t mean the other guys in Houston’s rotation, including Wandy Rodriguez (6.10), Brett Myers (3.46) and Felipe Paulino (7.36), aren’t deserving of victories as well.
The Astros' bats remained sleepy through the first two series of the 2010 season, but thankfully the offense has made a turn in the right direction since embarking on the team’s first road trip of the year.
Houston’s overall pitching ERA: 4.88 (currently 10th in the National League).
2. Houston’s Bats Are Finally Coming Alive
In taking wins in two out of their last three games, Houston’s once-stagnant offense has come alive since the Astros hit the road for their first trip away from Minute Maid this season.
So far, the change in scenery has paid positive dividends for a team aiming to pick up their first series victory of the 2010 season.
Houston aims to run away with the rubber game this afternoon at Wrigley Field when slumping Carlos Lee and company hit the field in what will hopefully be a continuing turnaround for an offense that lacked any pop whatsoever when the season first began.
Bright spots have remained throughout these dark times for the Astros and their fans, though...with Jeff Keppinger (.355) and Michael Bourn (.351) hitting well above .300 through their first 10 games of 2010.
In addition, Houston catcher J.R. Towles broke out of a slump with a 3-for-4 performance (along with two RBI) in Saturday’s 4-3 Astros win over the Chicago Cubs.
3. Astros Bullpen Has Kept Opponents At Bay
Houston’s bullpen has faired well lately, keeping opponents batters at bay with their team in the lead (regardless of a shaky outing in the Astros 4-3 win when Roy Oswalt left the game without having given up a single run).
Chris Sampson picked up his third hold of the season on Saturday while Matt Lindstrom garnered his first save of the season while currently holding a 4.50 ERA through four games (and four innings pitched) with his new club.
Sampson, meanwhile, holds a sparkling 1.17 ERA this season for the Astros.
4. Solid Overall Defense and Minimal Errors
As a team, the Astros own just 10 errors (with rookie shortstop Tommy Manzella picking up an unfortunate three of those 10 this season).
Houston has also turned a National League-leading 16 double-plays (in and of itself proving the team has one of the best defensive infields in the majors) in 2010 and holds a .976 fielding percentage.
5. Brains and Patience by Skipper Brad Mills
New manager Brad Mills has to be excited about the way his club has been playing over the past few games.
And those pair of wins they’ve picked up along the way have to help the cause as well... with skipper Mills continuing to wear a smile and remains confident in his team despite Houston’s 2-9 start to the season.
But due to Mills’ experience on the bench, his knowledge of the game, and his incredible relationship with the players under his guidance, this team is heading in the right direction.
Hopefully, for all parties involved, the Astros will pick up their first back-to-back wins of 2010 and will head into their upcoming home-stand having won three of their past four games.
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org