Don't look now but the Astros have a new energy, pep in their step and they're winning games. Before it's too late, let's note that just past midway through the month of September, the Stros have a winning record... for the month, that is.
Houston Chronicle beat writer Zachary Levine pointed out after Sunday's game that it took 54 games through July and August for the Stros to win eight. That's what we call progress around here. Not that the box score results of these games mean much for the club, but the eye test and what they are actually doing out there is big in evaluating where to go from here.
It's like what football coaches tell their players in the midst of a blowout: We might not be in the game, but what are we going to put on tape? The Phillies came to town hoping for a cakewalk against the league's worst team, which would've helped Philly in its slim playoff hopes. The Astros are playing for pride (and maybe even Tony DeFrancesco, but more on that in a later post).
Let's take a look at the Astros' 3-1 series win against the Phillies over the weekend, shall we?
The Astros started with ending Philly's seven-game winning streak -- the one that probably had them thinking it could easily turn into an 11-game winning streak by the time they left Minute Maid Park for good on Sunday.
Jed Lowrie turned out to be the hero at the end of that game but pay attention to the impact Matt Dominguez's RBI count is having on games this month. Since he and Fernando Martinez hit back-to-back solo home runs in a loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 31, Dominguez has failed to get record a hit in just five of the 13 games he's played in.
But he only has RBIs in the three of those games, each one coming off three-run homers. From this, the conclusion is that when Matt Dominguez brings in runs, he brings in three. And when Dominguez brings in three runs, the Astros win. That's what happened on Thursday, even though Lowrie coming up big as a pinch-hitter and not too far removed from his injury was big for Houston.
As expected, the Phillies responded to that series opening loss with a 12-6 win on Friday. This was the highlight of the weekend for Philly and it seems like a distant memory now, since the Astros shut them out the very next night behind rookie Dallas Keuchel and a crew of relievers.
It's worth noting that Keuchel became the first Astros pitcher to toss five shutout innings with recording a single strikeout since Chris Sampson in 2006. That's a contact pitcher if we've ever seen such. This was also the Keuchel's second win of his young career, and the first since that complete game against the Indians June 23, in what was just his second big league start.
Carlos Corporan and Scott Moore homered for Houston on Sunday. And then there was the four-run seventh inning that gave the Stros enough of a cushion to withstand Domonic Brown's RBI double in the eighth. Jordan Lyles wasn't exactly brilliant, giving up four runs on five hits with four walks and six strikeouts in five innings, but the run production was there, a rarity to understate it.