JOHN GRANATO

This roller coaster Astros season still has many twists and turns to come

Dallas Keuchel had a rough start to the season, but look at him now. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If you thought this was going to be a smooth ride this Astros season you couldn’t have been more wrong. What you thought you could count on has turned to mud and what you thought was an ugly duckling is really a beautiful swan. And it’s not over yet, There’s still a month left to this season. Who knows how it’ll end up but this is why you can never speak in absolutes at any point in a 162-game season.

This season started with unbelievable starting pitching, well, everyone but Dallas Keuchel. He got off to a miserable start. The rest of the rotation was straight fire. Remember when Justin Verlander was a lock to win the Cy Young? 16 starts in he was 9-2 with a 1.60 ERA and 15 of those 16 were quality starts. He led the league with 130 strikeouts.

Since then he’s had 12 starts with a 4-6 record and given up 34 runs for a 4.46 ERA. Only half of those have been quality starts but the most alarming part is the 18 home runs he’s given up over those 12 starts. You don’t hear nearly as much about the Cy Young these days but with Chris Sale’s injuries Verlander is definitely still in the hunt thanks to that fast start.

On the other end of that spectrum is Keuchel. At one point it looked like he was going to have a tough time making the postseason rotation. On June 10th he went 4 ⅓ and gave up 6 runs, 5 earned which ballooned his ERA to 4.45. He was 3-8 on the year on a team that was 17 games over .500. In a contract year it looked like this would be Dallas’ last season in Houston.

Something somewhere somehow changed after that start and he’s been the Astros best pitcher over the last two months. Since then he’s 7-2 with a 2.74 ERA. All but three of his 14 starts have been quality starts. He’s back to clearly being the Astros number two starter.

There was a time this season when J.D. Davis, Derek Fisher and Tyler White were prominent in this lineup. Two of those three have gone by the wayside while Tyler White has not only played his way into an everyday role, he’s become one of their best hitters. That’s not an understatement.

Early on I’d get tweets about White in the lineup, how pitiful it was and how he should go back to Fresno. I don’t get those anymore. While he has a smaller sample size than most of the the guys in the lineup, he’s been so good that if the playoffs started today you could make the argument that he should be the team’s cleanup hitter.

White leads the team in OPS and slugging. He’s second in on-base, batting average and home runs per at-bat. Only Gattis hits homers at a better rate but White destroys him in every other category which is why Gattis doesn’t see the field anymore. Remember when Gattis knocked in 30 runs in June in 98 at bats? He’s had about half that many at bats this month and at this rate probably even fewer in September.

Remember when Marwin was costing himself millions in a contract year? Not anymore. At the end of May he was floundering with a .612 OPS. This month it’s 1.049, second only to White who needed a ninth inning walk-off home run yesterday to pass him. Good stuff.

Remember when the bullpen was a mess and there was maybe one guy (Colin McHugh) you could count on? Not the case anymore. I know Osuna has his issues. He will blow some saves. You’ve got to live with that. But a 7th, 8th, 9th of Pressly, Rondon, Osuna or Pressly, Osuna, Rondon or McHugh, Pressly, Rondon or McCullers, Rondon, Osuna or Sipp, McHugh, Rondon or whatever combination A.J. chooses to use is actually not scary anymore. There will be hiccups - always are - but at least you don’t think that you have to use a starter in relief to get anyone out this postseason.

I know Carlos Correa looks bad right now. His average is below .250. He looks lost at the plate. He shouldn’t be hitting clean-up for anyone let alone one of the best teams in the majors, but let’s not jump off the Correa boat just yet. If there’s anything we’ve learned from this season it’s that you never know, you just never know.





 

 

 

Pitching woes continue for Houston

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: Twins 9, Astros 5

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After a disappointing series in Arlington to wrap up their recent road trip, the Astros were back at home to start a three-game series with the Twins on Monday night. Here's how the series opener went:

Final Score: Twins 9, Astros 5

Record: 13-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (2-2).

Losing pitcher: Brad Peacock (2-1).

Star of the game: Josh Reddick had a great night at the plate in the loss on Monday night, going 3 for 4 including an RBI single which at the time had Houston within two runs of the Twins.

Notes: For the third straight game, the Astros could not get out of the first inning without letting the opposing team take a lead. Brad Peacock got out to a rough start, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks in the top of the first, putting Minnesota up 2-0 before Houston could get to the plate. Former Astro Jason Castro extended the lead to 3-0 with a leadoff solo home run in the top of the second. The Astros got a run back in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single from Josh Reddick, and almost had another on a double by Tyler White, but the Twins were able to gun down Reddick at home plate to end the inning and keep it a two-run game at 3-1.

Peacock's three-run night was done after five innings, and Josh James took over in the top of the sixth, but he'd allow four runs to score to break the game open at 7-1 in favor of the Twins. Michael Brantley took one run back in the bottom of the inning, launching a solo home run to make it 7-2, then Houston was able to get two runners on in the bottom of the seventh to set up Carlos Correa for a huge three-run home run to make it a 7-5 game. Chris Devenski took over on the mound in the top of the eighth and would allow a two-out two-run home run to the Twins to put them back ahead by four runs at 9-5. The Astros would be unable to get any closer than that, getting no runs in the eighth or ninth to drop the first game of the series.

Up Next: Game two of the series will get underway at the same time on Tuesday night, with first pitch at 7:10 PM. Houston will send out Wade Miley (1-2, 3.32 ERA) who will go up against Michael Pineda (2-1, 5.30 ERA) for the Twins.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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