Can Houston finish May as strong as they've started?

A look ahead at the rest of May for the Astros

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

After the four-game sweep of the Rangers in Houston this past weekend, that puts Houston on a five-game winning streak and also has them 8-3 so far in the month of May. Can they continue to win series at this rate and keep extending their devision lead all the way to the end of the month?

Looking at the schedule the rest of this month, the Astros have a few easily-winnable matchups and then a few tougher matchups that could give them some trouble. Let's take a look at what's coming up as we draw nearer to the halfway point in the season:

Verlander returns to Detroit

Starting tonight, the Astros will be in Detroit for a three-game series against the Tigers. Detroit is two games below .500 and third place in the AL Central sitting 6.5 games behind the division-leading Twins. The Astros went 5-1 against the Tigers in 2018, sweeping the three-game series in Detroit. The one game they lost? At home in Houston with Verlander on the mound for the first time against his old team. In that game, JV went six innings during which he allowed five earned runs. To his credit, he faced them again later in the season, in Detroit, and got the win with seven innings of two-run baseball.

Verlander will be on the mound in the final game of the series on Wednesday, and I would fully expect he'll be prepared to lead the Astros towards a series sweep since it's entirely possible Houston makes easy work of Detroit in this series and continues dominating at the plate against the Tigers.

Six games with Boston 

After the series with the Tigers, Houston will get a day off in Boston before a weekend series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Those three games will be the first of six over a ten-game span in an anticipated rematch of last year's ALCS. Boston had a really rough start to the year but are 8-2 over their last ten and have been, like the Astros, dominating their opponents with strong offense.

One of the intriguing matchups in this weekend's series, if the currently projected starters pitch, is Chris Sale vs. Corbin Martin. Martin was great in his debut on Mother's Day, and if given a longer pitch count to work with in his second start could have a juicy matchup with Boston's bats. After that series, next weekend the Red Sox will come to Houston for a weekend series to complete the season series. if the Astros can take four or more of those games, that would be a good confidence booster for a potential matchup in the playoffs in October.

White Sox kick off a long home stand 

Sandwiched between the six games with Boston is a four-game series with the White Sox in Houston that starts a week from today. This should be one of the more winnable series left this month, with the White Sox sitting seven games back in their division and three games below .500. This series should also hopefully bring the return of Jose Altuve off of the injured list, which should be a nice boost to the team to push them past Chicago in the series.

One reason the Astros should find a way to win most if not all of these four games is that the White Sox have the second worst team ERA in the MLB at 5.32, so the Astros should feast on that pitching staff in Minute Maid Park, with or without Altuve at full strength.

Matchup with the surging Cubs before Houston travels West 

The Astros and Cubs will kick off a three-game set starting on Memorial Day here in Houston. The Cubs are right up there with the Astros as one of the top teams in the league right now, leading their division ten games above .500 at 24-14. This will be an interesting matchup since it will be the only three times these teams play this year, and with it being in Houston, will mean the Cubs will get to add a DH to their lineup. This series is farther away and hard to predict, but the Astros should be given the edge since they've been smashing at home.

After that series, the Astros will head to the west coast for a six-game trip to take on two AL-West foes starting with a series in Oakland that starts on May 31st. That trip will be important for the Astros who, hopefully, will have maintained or extended their current 6.5 game division lead.


With May being just the second full month of baseball, we still have a lot of baseball yet to play in this season. However, if Houston can come out of May with a lot of momentum and a large division lead, they can set themselves up for a strong and manageable rest of the season.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Texans vs. Vikings could have fans in attendance. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Houston Texans say it's time that fans were allowed to cheer on the home team at NRG Stadium. On Thursday, the team announced extensive safety protocols that would put 15,000 fans in the stands for the Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 4.

While the Texans are awaiting permission from city and county officials to host a limited number of fans - socially distant and wearing masks – no plans have been announced how much tickets will cost, and who'll have the opportunity to buy them.

You have to love the free enterprise system: hundreds of tickets for the Oct. 4 game already are on sale on secondary market websites. Lower bowl tickets are going for $800 and up. If you don't mind sitting in the nose bleeds, tickets can be had for around $250.

So the question becomes, if you had the chance, would you attend the Texans game in early October? The tickets are big bucks, and there is a whammy – COVID-19. While the rate of COVID-19 infections is on the decline in Houston, the virus remains a major factor in our daily lives, and there's no guarantee that the pandemic won't spike here again.

Here's the rub, at least for me. Of all the sports we have in Houston, a Texans game might be lowest on my wish list of attending in person. Television does NFL games the best. There are dozens of cameras, so when a receiver catches a pass on the sidelines, we get several views, in slow motion even, to see if the receiver's feet were in bounds. We can almost feel the crunch of a quarterback sack. We get highlights of other games. You don't have to sit next to a face painter like David Puddy.

The NFL is a made-for-TV production. Which is, I suspect, part of the reason the Texans rarely open the roof at NRG Stadium. With the roof closed, the field becomes a controlled TV studio, with no worries of weather pranks.

Television doesn't do basketball or baseball nearly as well. Conversely, the experience of attending those games is terrific fun. What beats eating a couple of dogs at an Astros game? Is there even a traditional food at NFL or NBA games?

The Texans promise that strict safety rules will be enforced. And I believe them. Fans will be scattered over the 67,000-seat stadium. I'm not sure how much of a home field advantage that will be. Most of the crowd noise will come from pre-recorded tapes.

Here's one worry. Sure fans will sit apart and socially distanced. But what will happen when the game is over? Will fans file out in orderly, non-contagious single file? I flew Southwest a few weeks ago. The airline makes a big deal – we don't sell the middle seat. Passengers kept their distance during the flight. When the landed, you know how it is, everybody got up and piled into the aisle, shoulder to shoulder for several minutes.

What will happen if some goofball takes off his/her mask during the Texans game? Will there be enough security to handle each case?

Baseball is planning to have some fans attend post-season games at Minute Maid Park next month. UH Cougars, the Dynamo and Dash are playing in front of small crowds. It remains to be seen how safe – or how risky – allowing fans at sports events will be.

Will parents let their kids attend? Is waiting for a vaccine the smart play? If President Trump is right, that could be only a matter of weeks away. If scientists and doctors are right, nestle in for pandemic life another year. Even if scientists do come up with a vaccine, how many Americans will roll up their sleeve? Some believe, in the case of COVID-19, the cure may be worse than the disease. Not me, the moment Dr. Fauci says the vaccine is safe and effective, I'm sprinting to CVS.

The thinnest of silver linings, if ever there was a year worth sitting out, 2020 has been it for Houston sports fans. The Astros are scratching to stay above .500 (their present position), Jose Altuve hasn't had an extra base hit or RBI in almost a month, and Justin Verlander is throwing bullpens on his way to recovery. The Rockets are searching for a new coach, and possibly another team willing to take Russell Westbrook in a trade. The Texans season could go either way, we'll know if a few short weeks.

Why the rush to fill stadiums? The NBA is thriving in a bubble. Why not baseball and football? There's a fine line between safe and sorry.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo already has safety plans for next year, including masks and distancing. That will be interesting. Good luck controlling crowds pushing and shoving for corn dogs and funnel cakes.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome