HOUSTON – Going from worst to first is not a novelty unheard of, but thanks to their 18-9 start, the Houston Astros are beginning to turn heads around baseball.
One year after finishing with 92 losses in their first year in the junior circuit, Houston currently sits nine games over .500, and atop the American League West thanks to a young and very talented lineup led by the diminutive second baseman Jose Altuve.
Altuve, a 5’5 dynamo from Venezuela, leads Houston in batting average (.348), runs batted in (19), on-base percentage (.397), hits (40) and slugging percentage (.496). While third baseman Luis Valbuena leads the team in home runs (7), clearly it is Altuve that is the proverbial straw to Houston’s hitting drink.
On the mound, it appears that a man named Dallas—as in starting pitcher—Dallas Keuchel is the ace of the ‘Stros as he leads them in ERA (0.80), strikeouts (30) and innings pitched (45.0). While Collin McHugh leads the team in wins (4), it is Keuchel that Houston turns to when they need a quality outing.
Can they keep it up?
27 games into a season is way too early to proclaim a young team such as the Astros a contender playing in a loaded division and with the in-state rival Texas Rangers re-acquiring Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles having one of the most formidable lineups in baseball with Albert Puljois and Mike Trout, the always formidable pitching of Sonny Gray and the Oakland A’s and “King” Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano up in Seattle, Houston will need to show that it can hang with the big boys.
While Houston’s head-turning start is encouraging, thanks to the division they play in, don’t expect it to last forever.