Let's discuss the top 5 reasons for the Astros' recent success

Kyle Tucker has improved tremendously at the plate. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros finished the week with a 5-2 record and back-to-back series victories over the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays.

As it currently stands, Houston has a 33-26 record, one game behind the Oakland A's for first place in the American League West.

The Astros recent success can be attributed to both starting pitching and great offensive stretches by certain players.

Zack Greinke is showcasing he is still a legitimate ace for this pitching staff. On Friday he tossed his first complete game since April 19, 2017 and seems to be settling into a nice groove as the season progresses. The veteran pitcher has a 6-2 record with a 3.38 ERA and has only given up two runs in back-to-back starts, as he continues to prove he is one of the best pitchers in the league. With Greinke at the top of this rotation, Houston has a pitcher they can rely on to go at least six or more innings in every start.

After starting his season with a 0-3 record, Astros' pitcher Luis Garcia has earned a victory in his last five starts. Garcia has a 1.82 ERA during that span and has proven he fits right into this rotation. On Sunday, he pitched six innings of work for his third consecutive start and lowered his ERA to 2.75 for the season. Garcia was a spot starter filling in for Framber Valdez and Jake Odorizzi when they were on the injured list. Little did the Astros know that this spot starter would turn into one of their most formidable pitchers of the year.

Chas McCormick has hit safely in seven of his last eight starts, batting .250 (7-for-28) with three extra-base hits and six RBIs over that span. The fourth outfielder has played well in the absence of Michael Brantley and has proven he can be a contributing factor for the Astros in the field and at the plate as well.

Kyle Tucker and Myles Straw have improved tremendously at the plate. Tucker is batting .354 (35-for-99) with seven doubles, a triple, six homers and 21 RBIs in his last 25 games. He has drastically improved after starting the month of May with a .173 batting average and leads the team with 11 homer runs. Straw has steadily been increasing his average as well. On May 1st, he was hitting .213, but now has a .242 average. The Astros already have a stout lineup with Jose Atluve, Carlos Correa, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel. If they can get great production from both Tucker and Straw on a consistent basis, the sky is the limit for this offense.

Injury bug

Aledmys Diaz was hit by a pitch that subsequently fractured his hand. He will miss 6-8 weeks according to reports, but the move comes when Michael Brantley is set to return to the Astros on Tuesday, June 8th. Brantley's bat returning to the lineup will help the Astros tremendously and could further emphasize just how potent this offense could be. Before the veteran outfielder went on the 10-day injured list, he had a .305 batting average with three home runs and 15 RBIs. Slotting him back into the second spot in the Astros batting order will do nothing but enhance this already tremendous offense.

Up Next: The Astros head to Boston to play their final series of the season against the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Framber Valdez, Jake Odorizzi, and Zack Greinke should take the mound for the Astros this series.

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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