Houston Astros: Five Positives Heading Back Home
I was originally going to title this piece, “Five Reasons Houston Astros Fans Should Be Happy Right Now,” but during that momentary lapse of reason, I guess I forgot that the team is still 3-9 (regardless of playing well lately).
However, there are reasons to be optimistic, and we’re now going to quickly count down five positives, as Houston heads back to Minute Maid Park for their April 20 series opener against the Florida Marlins.
Brett Myers, boasting an impressive 3.46 ERA, will take the hill on Tuesday as Houston aims to begin their homestand on the winning track.
If the Astros can continue playing the way they have over the past four games, they may very well be headed toward a third straight victory.
Without further adieu, here are five whys to begin the wave, and remain hopeful for the future as an Astros fan.
1. Winners Of Three Of Last Four Games (And Lance Berkman Is Back)
With a series finale road victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, and battling back to take the rubber game and the series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Houston’s Astros have now won three of their last four games.
By far the most impressive of those three wins came on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley, with the Astros trailing 2-0 heading into the eighth inning before rallying for a come-from-behind victory in the top of the 10th inning.
Also keep in mind that Lance Berkman, who has missed the first 12 games of the season after undergoing knee surgery, is slated to make his 2010 debut Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
If Berkman can bring some missing power to a lineup thirsting for a burst of energy, the Astros will likely begin this homestand the way they hope and plan: with a major win to keep the streak alive.
2. Chris Sampson And His Stellar 1.17 ERA (Bullpen Holding Leads)
Thus far, through 7.2 innings pitched, reliever Chris Sampson has garnered a sparkling 1.17 ERA, along with 12 strikeouts and three holds.
Tim Byrdak has also pitched well coming out of the pen for Houston, currently holding a 1-0 record with a 2.84 ERA in over 6.1 innings pitched.
If the Astros bullpen can continue to produce similar results to what they tasted over their prior road series, a third straight victory seems imminent.
3. Michael Bourn, His Speed, And His .333 AVG (Bats Finally Heating Up)
Michal Bourn is continuing to prove to doubters that last year was far from a fluke—and he’s doing a damn good job of showing improvement, as amazing as that may sound.
Bourn is currently batting .333 on a team that has struggled mightily at the plate this season; the speedy center fielder also has three doubles, and a stolen base in 2010.
Not to overlook the remarkable offensive outburst by second baseman Jeff Keppinger, who is batting .371 this season with four doubles and five RBI.
Astros pitchers have also faired well with the bat this season, with Felipe Paulino (.500), Bud Norris (.333), Wandy Rodriguez (.333) and Brett Myers (.250) all getting at least one hit for Houston’s starting rotation.
4. Matt Lindstrom And His Back-To-Back Saves (Astros Closing Out Games)
Houston fans, along with skipper Brad Mills and his coaching staff, have to be happy about what they’ve seen from closer Matt Lindstrom lately.
Lindstrom, who has picked up back-to-back saves in the Astros last two victories, currently has a 3.60 ERA with eight strikeouts.
If Lindstrom can continue to dominate opposing batters the way he has thus far this year, he will not only cement himself as the team’s closer, he’ll also make the Astros legitimate contenders in a very long MLB season.
5. Starting Pitching Solid, Continues To Improve (Astros Rotation: 4.28 ERA)
Houston’s starting five may hold a mediocre 4.28 ERA thus far this season, but that’s still pretty darn good for a 3-9 team.
However, when breaking down individual ERA's—Roy Oswald (2.37), Wandy Rodriguez (4.67), Brett Myers (3.46), Bud Norris (3.52), and Felipe Paulino (7.36)—it’s easy to see that the Astros' rotation is indeed looking pretty solid to begin the 2010 season.
If Houston’s starters can continue to improve, and if this team can manage to begin picking up some much needed wins at home, the Astros will be back at the .500 mark by the month’s end…
Denton Ramsey can be reached at email@example.com.