May 5, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros manager Brad Mills (2) talks to an umpire against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. The Astros defeated the Cardinals 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE
Has this past week been an aberration of can the Astros keep this form up?
Don't look now but the houston #astros have won FIVE straight games. Yes, those houston #astros.
Don't look now but I'm still a jackass. Moving on. It's Jose Altuve's birthday today, and he is 22, good enough for the second youngest player in the NL behind Bryce Harper. If and when Jordan Lyles is recalled he will fit in between the two.
He and Jed Lowrie are proving to be one of the best up the middle combinations in the majors. At the moment Lowrie is providing it all, average, on-base skills, and power, leading the team in home runs, on-base and SLG%. As good as his start has been, he needs to prove that he can grind out 140 games a season without going down with an injury. His previous best is 88 last season.
5. Wandy Rodriguez, LHP, Astros - Off to a good start, the veteran will be in demand by the trading deadline. The Astros are going to make the best deal possible for him, and that will be in late July when teams are desperate for a bona fide starter.
Currently only four teams have a better run differential than the Astros. Texas is +49, the Cardinals +55, Baltimore are at +31 and the Braves are at +22. The Blue Jays have the same as Houston at +21. This is comforting as I feel the rotation as a whole still has not really clicked in considering we are officially a sixth of the way into the season.
Apart from Rodriguez, the rest have sort of bumbled along. Kyle Weiland is gone, for a considerable amount of time after shoulder surgery, Bud Norris has ambled through his first five starts until picking it up against the Redbirds last night, while Lucas Harrell and J.A. Happ are sort of where you expect them to be. Except Harrell's 4.0 K/9 is worrisome and I fear the fifth-starter's spot could be a sore for the team.
Right now it is that 131 runs that we have scored that has got us in that position. That's as many as the Yankees currently have, far more than a lot of teams. J.D. Martinez has cooled off in the last week and Chris Johnson has picked up the slack. Perhaps when he similarly starts to slump other quarters of the lineup, such as catcher take the share of the burden.
Hopefully the ballclub can keep it all together and continue to hover around that .500 mark. A lot of this will be down to the job Brad Mills does in 2012. Praised in 2010 for the job he did, he took quite the pounding last season for a lot of calls, especially with the lineup. Already the team has had some setbacks with a ton of close losses and two very painful extra-innings losses against the Miami Marlins, but now that breaks are falling their way, they are taking advantage of them.
What is Mills' effect on this ballclub. Do we give him too much credit when when things go bad and not enough credit when things go right? Once the players are on the field it is up to them. Whether Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie are playing in the correct spots in the lineup is a debate that will undoubtedly rumble on for some time,
Meanwhile down at the minors, the standout player of the season so far continues to be Lexington Legends starting pitcher Nick Tropeano, who dealt another seven scoreless innings last night, fanning eight, picking up 10 groundouts to one flyout. He now has 41 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. It will only be a matter of time before he is called up, either to Lancaster or Corpus Christi.