Who are the real Astros?
Have you checked the National League standings lately? All 16 teams are bunched up within four games of each other after three weeks. The Pirates got off to a hot start but have lost six in a row, and the Astros lost their first eight and have won eight out of 10. Water finds its level.
So what about the Astros? They played three strong teams with good pitching out of the chute and were swept by San Francisco and Philadelphia and lost two out of three at St. Louis. Then they took two out of three from an enigmatic Cubs team, before returning home to win two of three from a good Florida team and sweeping the terrible Pirates.
Florida ran a couple of good arms at the Astros in Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson, but the Astros pitching staff was able to hold down one of the best hitting teams in the NL.
The Astros open a three-game series Tuesday against the Reds, who are also struggling and playing below expectations. Houston has played six in a row at home and has 10 of its next 14 at Minute Maid Park, and it needs to take advantage of playing weaker teams at home. So far, the Astros have done just that.
Even so, the jury is out on this team. Beginning in mid-May, the Astros played 22 out of 33 on the road, with trips to St. Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Milwuakee, Colorado and Yankees on the schedule. By then, we should know. We should know if Astros are going to be contenders or also-rans in the NL Central.
If the starting pitching continues to hold up and the offense keeps improving — Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee still have a long way to go — maybe this little team will do something after all. But after three weeks, it’s hard to get a grasp on the real Astros.