ASTROS OUTLOOK

Breaking down 4 Houston Astros that are heating up in May

Breaking down 4 Houston Astros that are heating up in May
Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez are swinging the bat well for Houston. Composite image by Jack Brame.

After completing a sweep of their division rival Seattle Mariners, the Astros are only 2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels for first place in the American League West.

Similar to last season, Houston’s bats got off to a slow start during the month of April, with only Michael Brantley hitting consistently above .270.

Once the calendar flipped from April to May, their offense has awoken and multiple players are ending their offensive woes.

King Tuck awakens

Kyle Tucker for the second consecutive year started off the season slow at the plate, and at one point had an abysmal .087 batting average on April 22nd.

The 25-year-old outfielder has since found himself out of this hole, and is hitting .455/.500/.727 over his last seven games. Tucker is also tied for second on the team in RBI with Yordan Alvarez, who also got off to a slow start this season.

Air Yordan is now boarding

Similarly to Tucker, Alvarez was hitting below .200 until the Astros went to Arlington and beat the Rangers in three of four games.

Since the conclusion of that series, the 24-year-old native Cuban is hitting .333/.448/.833 with four home runs and eight RBI during that span.

Tucker and Alvarez were two of the main reasons Houston had the best offense in baseball last year, and now that these two are hitting like they did during the 2021 season, there is no limit to how far this offense can take the Astros this year.

It's not just the hitters who are improving at the right time, as two veteran pitchers are finding their strides as well.

JV is still dealing

Justin Verlander’s start to the 2022 season has been nothing short of spectacular.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in late 2020 and missing the entire 2021 season, the former Cy-Young award winner looks as if he hasn’t missed a beat during his time away from the game.

Through five starts this season, the 39-year-old has a 3-1 record and a 1.93 ERA. His fastball is hitting the mid 90’s as in years past, and is putting away batters with his slider and curveball with ease.

Verlander has not given up more than three runs in any of his starts and has the 6th lowest ERA in the American League.

“It's just one start at a time," Verlander said. “This game will bring you down in a hurry so you can't be complacent. But I would say it’s better to get off to a good start than a bad one, but I've just got to keep working."

If JV continues to pitch like this, the Astros staff will be in good hands every time their ace is on the mound.

Don’t discount Jake

Jake Odorizzi had the worst start by any Astros pitcher two weeks ago when he was pulled after allowing 6 runs in 2/3 of an inning.

His two starts since that outing were much better, and it seems as though the veteran pitcher has much more confidence on the mound. The 32-year-old pitched through 6.2 innings on Monday (his longest outing as an Astro) and didn’t allow any runs to score.

“It’s just good to be able to have success, go execute a game plan, give the team a chance to win," Odorizzi said.

The Astros are 8-2 over their last ten games, in large part due to their offensive resurgence and stellar starting pitching performances as of late.

Assuming the Astros can have consistent performances at the plate and on the mound, there is reason to believe Houston will be vying for their 6th consecutive postseason appearance.

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Welcome back, Justin! Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander will make his season debut Friday night at the Washington Nationals.

Houston manager Joe Espada made the announcement Wednesday.

“Getting him back is huge because it brings a level of confidence to our team, a boost of confidence that we’re going to get someone who’s been an MVP, a Cy Young (winner) on the mound,” Espada said. “It's (good) for the morale and to get stuff started and moving in the right direction.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner opened the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder. He made two rehabilitation starts, the first for Triple-A Sugar Land on April 7 before Saturday’s start for Double-A Corpus Christi.

Espada wouldn't say how many pitches the 41-year-old would be limited to but said they'll keep an eye on his workload.

“We've got to be careful how hard we push him early,” Espada said. “I know he’s going to want to go and stay out there and give us an opportunity to win, but we've got to be cautious of how hard we push him early in the season.”

Verlander wasn’t thrilled with the results in his rehabilitation starts, but he said Monday that those games were valuable in getting him prepared to come off the IL.

He allowed seven hits and six runs — five earned — in four innings against Frisco on Saturday. He struck out three, walked one and threw 51 of 77 pitches for strikes.

Verlander allowed six earned runs and struck out six while pitching into the fourth inning for Sugar Land on April 7.

The Astros have gotten off to a tough start with Verlander and fellow starters Framber Valdez and José Urquidy on the injured list. They enter Wednesday's games last in the AL West with a 6-13 record.

Espada hopes Verlander can be the boost the team needs to get on track.

“It’s good to get him back in the rotation,” Espada said. “With what he means to this club just to get him back on track, getting some innings from him (to) build our rotation with the pieces that we need to move forward is exciting.”

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