Written By: Michael Beard
The Houston Astros were on the cusp of going to the World Series last year before disaster struck in a fateful eighth inning against the eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. Off of that statement alone, one would think this year’s Astros would be on a mission to avenge their loss and get to the World Series. But to this point, that team we all saw last year, is no where to be found. From the pitching to the hitting, we are seeing what seems to be the 2014 Astros again.
They have rising stars on the field to the likes of George Springer and Carlos Correa that are playing as expected. There are also players that have proven themselves on a big league level like Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomes that just aren’t getting the job done right now. And now Gomes is headed to to the DL with bruised ribs. Jose Altuve has been a bright spot for the Astros batting .340, hitting nine homeruns, swiping 15 bags, and driving in 23 RBI’s. However, there is a whole lot of swing and miss throughout this lineup so far this year. Manager A.J. Hinch and hitting coach Dave Hudgens have their work cut out for them if they look to regain the hitting they were expecting this year. So far they are ranked 14th out of 15 teams in the AL batting just .233 as a team. But that is just half of the equation.
The pitching has been an issue thus far as well. 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel (20-8 2.48 ERA) has been far from his form of last year. He has already lost his fifth game of this year posting a 2-5 record with a 5.58 ERA to boot. The starting pitching staff as a whole has a 5.48 ERA in 238.7 innings pitched. This is not counting Lance McCullers only outing getting rocked in 4.2 innings. He gave up seven hits, five earned runs, and three walks to give him a 9.64 ERA. The back of the bullpen hasn’t been helping the cause unfortunately either. The Astros traded the Phillies for their closer Ken Giles but he lost those duties to veteran Luke Gregerson and still hasn’t found his form of 2015. Last year Giles was lights out for the Phils going 6-3 with 15 Saves and 1.80 ERA in 70.0 IP, but so far this year he is 0-2 and has an astounding 7.20 ERA. Gregerson was nearly perfect in April going 4-4 in saves with an ERA of 2.00 but has come back down to earth in May going 4 for 6 in saves and an ERA of 5.87. Gregerson is veteran reliever that pitched well last year going 7-3 with a 3.20 ERA and 31 saves. There are plenty of questions surrounding the pitching staff right now, but pitching coach Brent Strom is confident they will turn it around.
This is a team that has seen victory and they believe they will again this year. It’s early in the season and there is plenty of baseball left to be played. The Astros showed what they are made of last year by going 86-76 to earn a Wild Card spot. They then went into New York and beat the Yankees in their own house. Looking at the Astros on paper at the beginning of the season, everyone had high expectations. Those expectations are still there if you ask the Astros locker room. Thankfully, baseball is an out of sight out of mind kind of sport and the players in Houston know what needs to be done. Get back to the fundamentals and go have fun. They are only seven games back in the AL West to this point. This is a team capable of putting together wins and can changing the mentality of the locker room. So I guess the big the question is, will they do it…