5 important stats that speak volumes about the Astros

Ryan Pressly leads the team with a 1.69 ERA. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Last week the Astros swept the Orioles and split a series with the Detroit Tigers 2-2.

While in Baltimore, Houston out scored the orange birds by a combined margin of 26-3. The largest run differential of the season against any opponent. The Astros have a +142 run differential this season, the best in baseball by far.

Houston was riding an 11-game winning streak before the start of Saturday's doubleheader against the Tigers. Detroit won the first game 3-1 snapping the streak.

Even though their streak ended, the Astros still remain in first place in the American League with a 48-30 record.

Houston's winning ways have come on the heels of great offensive numbers, starting pitchers improving, a much better bullpen, and stellar play from a couple of potential All-Stars.

Seven Astros advanced to the second phase of the MLB All-Star voting process on Sunday.

Houston's entire starting infield (Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman) finished in the top three of their respective positions, along with designated hitter Yordan Alvarez and catcher Martin Maldonado.

Michael Brantley advanced as well, but outfielder Kyle Tucker just missed the cut finishing 10th in fan voting among outfielders in the American League.

Starting pitching has been improving as the season progresses. Jake Odorizzi, Zack Greinke, Jose Urquidy and Lance McCullers all earned wins this week. Houston has been using a 6-man rotation with the aforementioned pitchers and both Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez to round out the rotation. This configuration could work well for the Astros moving forward.

After getting off to a rocky start, the Astros bullpen has been steadily improving over their last couple of games. Over their last 27 games, Houston has the best bullpen ERA at 2.63. Ryan Pressly leads the team with a 1.69 ERA and has become one of the most reliable closers in the league with 12 saves.

Myles Straw has show the most improvement over the last two months. On May 1st, Straw had a .213 batting average and was more or less just trying to prove he belongs on this roster. Now the center fielder has a .270 batting average with 2 home runs and has improved substantially as an outfielder.

Up Next: Houston starts a short three game home stand against the Baltimore Orioles, before a 4-game road trip to Cleveland to face the Indians during 4th of July weekend.

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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