Houston’s Astros on a Roll: Come-From-Behind Club Wins Fourth Straight
Forget the 5-9 overall record; the Houston Astros are on fire, having won four straight and five of their last six games after a dismal start to the season.
People may have called me crazy when the season was first beginning and I made on-air statements about how the Astros would contend this year in the National League Central.
Though those same people may still think I’m crazy for having such faith in a club that seems to yearly disappoint, I truly believe Houston’s baseball team has begun turning things around in the right direction.
So, call me insane for remaining optimistic, but I believe the Houston Astros can and will be back in the race for the NL Central by mid-May.
What has it taken for the slow-starting, suddenly surging ‘Stros to get back in the swing of things?
Amazingly, Lance Berkman’s bat has been fairly quiet since his return—but maybe his presence alone has uplifted this squad, because since Puma has rejoined the club, Houston has rattled off two straight wins (with the team taking four in a row overall).
Clutch hitting, pinch-hit RBIs, the speedy legs of Michal Bourn, and premier pitching are all major factors in the Astros' current streak.
Narrowing that list down to five, let’s take a quick look at how Houston’s baseball team is beginning to make some major noise in the majors...
1. Pitching, Pitching, Pitching
From starting pitching to middle-inning relief to setup and closer roles, the Astros are maintaining a remarkable rotation and bullpen presence as the 2010 MLB Season moves into week No. 3.
In fact, heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Florida Marlins, Houston’s starting pitching had garnered a 2.77 ERA over their past six games.
More of the same arrived on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, although fans were left on edge when starter Bud Norris gave up four runs in the fifth as Florida took a brief 4-1 lead.
By the time the Astros had taken a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, Brandon Lyon pitched another 1-2-3 eighth (after doing so on Tuesday night as well) before Matt Lindstrom notched his fourth straight save over four consecutive games.
If pitching trends such as these remain intact throughout this home stand and heading into the team’s next road trip, there’s no doubt that Houston will be right back in the NL Central mix in no time.
2. Pinch-Hitting RBI Machines
Houston’s pinch-hitters are making new skipper Brad Mills look like a genius with their clutch RBI over the past few games.
Geoff Blum’s pinch-hit, two-RBI, go-ahead triple in the seventh inning on Wednesday night was a thing of beauty, and it finally appears as though the Astros are going to take control of their own destiny in phenomenal come-from-behind fashion.
In a season that lasts over 160 games, it’s still very early in the year and plenty of time for Houston to not only get back on track, but to take control of the NL Central as well.
Watch out, MLB opponents: The Astros are beginning to click on all cylinders and are out to prove to doubters that they can and will contend in 2010.
3. Michael Bourn: At the Plate, on the Bases, in the Outfield
It would be unfair and unwise to overlook the play of Michal Bourn as he aims to back up an extremely successful 2009 campaign.
Thus far in 2010, Bourn is a main reason the Astros are on their current streak—with a combination of his bullet speed on the basepaths, persistent patience at the plate, and lightning-quick legs in center field.
Both offensively as well as defensively, Houston would be in a heap of trouble without their speedy All-Star outfielder.
Statistically speaking, Bourn is batting .311 this season with four stolen bases (stats recorded prior to Wednesday evening’s game against Florida).
4. Clutch Hits With Runners on Base
Guys like Hunter Pence, Kaz Matsui, and Carlos Lee (just to name a few) are finally beginning to swing the bat like Major League Baseball players.
Since returning to Minute Maid Park, Matsui has stolen the show in terms of turning things around at the plate—using both his extreme quickness and knowledgeable hitting to lay down bunts and rack up RBI.
On Tuesday night, Matsui’s sacrifice fly broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth (prior to pinch hitter Jason Michaels truly delivering with a two-run bomb to the boxes), and his single in the seventh inning on Wednesday night led to Geoff Blum’s eventual game-winning, pinch-hit triple to give Houston the lead for good.
If Matsui and his teammates can continue playing at their current pace, the Astros will be back at .500 and swinging for contention by the end of this month.
5. Brad Mills’ Optimism, Clubhouse Chemistry
I may be referred to as the "Forever Optimist" by both my wife and writers alike, but first-year Astros skipper Brad Mills may soon be battling me for that title.
With Mills’ forever optimistic attitude, which has resulted in extraordinary clubhouse chemistry, the Houston Astros are on a roll.
Atmosphere in the clubhouse and dugout has always been essential to Houston’s success, and ownership has proven to be aiming to turn things around with the hiring of Mills as the team’s new manage—putting a “forever optimist” at the helm of the franchise.
A damn good call in my opinion, and a smart one too, as Mills and the never-give-up Astros aim for win No. 5 and counting when they host the Marlins on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park...
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at email@example.com