Starting pitching fuels Astros’ strong month
Remember that catch Brandon Barnes made with his back against the wall in Detroit on May 15? The Tigers had the bases loaded and were trailing by two runs in the bottom of the ninth when reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera launched what appeared to be a walk-off grand slam off the bat. That was until Barnes tracked it down in deep right-center field to secure a 7-5 win.
That snapped a six-game losing streak and improved the Astros to 10-30 at roughly the one-quarter point of the season, which meant they were on pace for 120-plus losses. When Barnes caught Cabrera’s ball, the Astros celebrated and exchanged high-fives like they’ve done after every win, but you got the feeling that win meant something more. And a month later, that’s now clear.
That win over the Tigers began a stretch when the Astros have gone 16-14 — a solid month of baseball from a team many thought would be the worst of all-time. They key has been starting pitching, with Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Jordan Lyles, Erik Bedard and Dallas Keuchel combining to post a 3.03 ERA in those 30 games, as the Astros carry a 26-44 record into Monday night’s game against the White Sox.
If you remember, the Astros went 15-15 in their final 30 games last year, with interim manager Tony DeFrancesco pushing every button he could to get the most of an expanded roster. The Astros exploited every match-up on a nightly basis with their deep bullpen and managed to finish strong, though you certainly can’t fooled by performances in September.
This time, it’s different. Norris, though on the trading blocking, and Harrell, Lyles and Keuchel could be key pieces to the future, as long with hitters Brandon Barnes, Matt Dominguez, Jason Castro and Jose Altuve. They’ve all done their part at one time or another at the plate.
And now the kids are knocking on the door. Top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart and top hitting prospect Jonathan Singleton are both at Triple-A and could be in Houston later this summer, and we all know about the talent at Double-A. We could start to see some of these guys in the next few months, but for now the Major League club is performing better than most had imagined.