What can be said about the Astros after four games? The pitching has been excellent. George Springer is a hell of a leadoff hitter. The defense has been good. The team has been resilient, particularly Wednesday night when Springer hit a homer in the 13th inning for the come-from-behind win. And the team has a 3-1 record, the best in the division.
It can also be said that, so far, there are a lot of similarities to last year’s Houston Astros team. The prime one being that the only way the Astros can score runs is by the way of the long ball. But get a man on base and the Astros are hopeless. The team has just three hits in 23 at-bats with runners on.
Yet the Astros are winning. Springer and Marwin Gonzalez have been providing about the only offense. Jose Altuve and Carlos Beltran have yet to do much of anything — both are batting below .200. There also have yet to be many contributions from Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Yulieski Gurriel.
But don’t concentrate so much on those negatives. The Astros did open the season against the Seattle Mariners, the team that many observers have picked as the team to challenge the Astros for the American League West title this season. So starting the season by winning three of four (and knowing it could easily have been a four-game sweep) from a division competitor is a great way to get things started. The team is also off to a better start than last year — remember that 1-3 start to the season that turned into a 3-7 start on the way to a 7-17 record in April. There’s no indication that the Astros are going to repeat that start.
The big, big thing to remember is this: Most of these players the Astros are starting have proven track records of putting up big numbers on offense, so getting down on the team's batting after just four games makes no sense. Nobody likes seeing players slump to open the season. But anyone worried about this offense is obviously not somebody who has ever watched Altuve and Correa play baseball. They might not be hitting the ball right now, but just give it a few weeks and their numbers will start to return to normal, which perhaps means the Astros offense will start to pick up and score a few more runs per game.
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“We're three and one,” Correa told the media after last night’s game. “There’s no need to panic. We're going to get back on track and be able to produce.”
The starting staff seemed to take a bit of a hit last night, though, when Collin McHugh, who was making a rehab start in Fresno, was pulled just one inning into a planned three-frame outing. McHugh, who’s been dealing with right shoulder tendinitis, threw 26 pitches in his start, giving up three hits and three runs. He apparently threw some warmup pitches before the start of the second inning before calling for the trainer and leaving the game, so it appears he’s still dealing with an injury. McHugh has been a major part of the Astros rotation the past several seasons, and the Astros are once again depending on him to be one of the top three starters. So one hopes he has not suffered a major injury setback.
But McHugh’s status aside, there are absolutely no complaints about the rotation so far. Dallas Keuchel looked like the rotation ace Cy Young winner he is on Opening Day. Lance McCullers dominated on Tuesday night, and Charlie Morton looked surprisingly good on Wednesday. Slide a healthy McHugh into the rotation with a healthy Keuchel and a healthy McCullers and the Astros might not need to put up that many runs to win.
So where do the Astros really stand after this opening series? It’s simple, the team’s in first place. George Springer is hitting home runs. The pitching is excellent. And the Texas Rangers have yet to win a game. Sure, the Astros aren’t going to have a perfect season, but this is really a good start to the season.