ASTROS REPORT

Here's how the Astros put together an impressive 6-game winning streak

Astros Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker
What a week for Houston! Composite image by Jack Brame.
3 reasons the Houston Astros newest lineup is raising eyebrows

After sweeping the Rangers in a four game series, The Astros have secured their longest winning streak of the season.

Houston has won 6 consecutive games and have earned wins in 9 of their last 11 contests.

Their recent success has come on the heels of stellar hitting performances by the top 5 hitters in their lineup and a recent resurgence in power from one outfielder as well.

The Astros ended last week winning 2 of 3 against the Toronto Blue Jays and looked to face off against their division rivals the Los Angeles Angels for a three-game series.

Monday's game with the Halos was the worst game of the week, as the Astros took their lone loss of the series.

Houston did not have an answer for Jared Walsh as he connected on a solo home run and matched a career high with four hits to lead the Angels to a 5-4 victory over the Astros.

Tuesday night's game proved to be a very anticipated matchup as it showcased Lance McCullers vs. Shohei Ohtani.

Both pitchers gave strong performances on the mound and combined for 19 strikeouts.

Neither Ohtani nor McCullers qualified for the win, as both pitchers gave up solo shots and left the game at 1-1.

Once Ohtani left the game, the Astros were able to take advantage of the Angels bullpen to win the contest.

Outfielder Michael Brantley hit an RBI single to score Jose Altuve and send Aledmys Díaz to third. Thus giving the Astros their first lead of the game 2-1.

Yordan Alvarez grounded into a fielder's choice which put Brantley at third and Diaz was thrown out at home.

This set up one of the Astros' hottest hitters Yuli Gurriel. He took Angels' pitcher Alex Claudio deep to secure the Astros a 5-1 victory.

The rubber match of the series proved to be the best game for the Astros' bats as they blasted a season-high five home runs.

Altuve and Gurriel both homered in the first inning to give the Astros a quick 3-0 lead.

Houston starter José Urquidy allowed two hits and struck out four in 3 2/3 innings before leaving with posterior shoulder discomfort.

Brandon Bielak picked up where Urquidy left off and threw a season-high 3 1/3 innings in relief and gave up just one run.

Kyle Tucker added a little bit of insurance as he hit a two-run shot in the 6th inning to give the Astros a 5-0 lead.

Yordon Alvarez and rookie Chas McCormick both hit homers in the bottom of the 8th to give the Astros a 9-1 victory.

"Guys are getting good pitches to hit and keeping pitchers in the stretch," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Hitting's contagious and just keep them coming."

After winning two consecutive series in a row, the Astros looked to continue this momentum against their in-state rivals, the Texas Rangers.

Thursday's game was a nail-biter as it took extra innings for Houston to come away victorious.

Texas took an early 2-0 lead before Jose Altuve hit a three-run double to put the Astros on top 3-2.

Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo tied the game at 3 with an RBI groundout in the 3rd inning. The game remained tied going into extra innings.

In the bottom of the 10th the Astros loaded the bases but were unable to score a run.

A similar situation happened in the bottom of the 11th as Chas McCormick came to the plate with all three ducks on the pond.

He was facing Brett Martin, when a 1-2 pitch got away from the catcher Jose Trevino. The passed ball led to Myles Straw scoring from third base to win the game.

"I was ready, especially with two strikes there," Straw said. "I had a feeling they would bounce a breaking ball, so I stayed ready and sure enough, I saw it kind of get away a little bit. I was going to be overaggressive there with two strikes. Even if it was a little bit closer than that, I was probably going to go."

The second game of the series took place Friday night and was the best game for two Astros players in quite some time.

Catcher Martin Maldonado hit a homer and drove in three runs to help the Astros win 10-4, their best offensive output of the week.

Pitcher Zack Greinke had one of his best games of the season as he threw seven innings, gave up three runs and received his 3rd win of the season.

Game number three on Saturday was much closer, as Texas put up their best fight of the series.

The Astros got off to a quick start against Texas pitcher Dane Dunning. They scored four runs capped off by a Carlos Correa two-run homer to give Houston a 4-1 lead.

Kyle Tucker continued his torrid home run pace as he hit a two-run shot to give the Astros a 6-1 lead.

Tucker has now tied his career high for homers in a season at 9 and leads the team in this category as well.

The Rangers almost made a comeback behind an 8th inning three-run homer by Joey Gallo and Andy Ibanez driving in an additional run to cut the deficit to one at 6-5.

This would be as far as Texas would get, as Ryan Pressly earned his 7th save of the year in the top of the 9th inning to secure an Astros victory.

Houston looked for their 2nd four-game sweep of the season (their first being in Oakland to start the year).

Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa drove in the first two runs of the game to give the Astros a 2-0 lead.

Lance McCullers took the mound and threw six scoreless innings.

This is his 5th consecutive game in which McCullers has thrown more than five innings in a start.

Andre Scrubb came into the game after McCullers and gave up a two-run homer to Rangers outfielder David Dahl to tie the game 2-2.

Shortly after, the Astros took the lead in the bottom of the 8th behind a sacrifice fly from Gurriel and singles from both Chas McCormick and Myles Straw to give the Astros a 6-2 lead.

Enoli Paredes made his return from the injured list to close out the game.

The Astros have now won six games in a row and four Astros players are hitting over .300 six weeks into the season. (Altuve, Alvarez, Bregman and Gurriel).

Kyle Tucker has increased his batting average from .192 on Monday to .225 by Sunday.

UP NEXT: The Astros look to continue their winning ways as they start a six-game road trip Tuesday, May 18th against the Oakland A's for three games then three games in Arlington against the Texas Rangers.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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