The Astros played the New York Yankees Sunday night in front of a national TV audience on ESPN. Most of the viewers likely tuned in to watch the Jeter ceremonies. But what they instead saw was the Astros destroy the Yankees by a 10-7 score. The Yankees were behind 6-0 after the first inning, and the game was pretty much out of reach after that (and how much fun was it watching Carlos Beltran pass Jeter on the career doubles list with the baseball world tuned into watch the Jeter celebration).
The Astros have been kind of a side story in Houston so far as the season has conflicted with a Rockets play-off run and the Texans drafting a legitimate quarterback. But what Houstonians (and baseball fans nationally) have missed is the best team in baseball, one that is, essentially, destroying every team in its path, much like the Yankees who lost three of four games to the Astros this weekend.
The Houston Astros have the best record in baseball at 26-12. The team is running away with the AL West, leading the Rangers, the closest competitor by 7.5 games. The Astros were supposed to contest for the playoffs this season, but there doesn’t really seem to be any contesting involved.
Two of the key contributors to the team this season has been outfielder Josh Reddick and starting pitcher Charlie Morton. Reddick (after last night’s game) has the team’s highest batting average, second highest slugging percentage, and the third highest OPS on the team. He is on pace for a 20 home run season, which is his career average. Morton meanwhile has perhaps turned into the surprise pitching pickup of the off-season. He’s second on the team with 54 strike outs (he struck out 10 Yankees last night) and he is second with five wins.
So now it’s time for a mea culpa. I was not too happy with the Reddick signing this offseason. I watched a lot of games the Oakland A’s played, and Reddick is an easy guy to cheer for. He’s one of those full effort on every play type guys, that kind of player who will run into a wall to make a catch. He also tends to be injury prone, and has been a streaky hitter. So when the Astros inked him to a four-year deal worth $52 million, one kind of had to ask just what the Astros were thinking.
Reddick’s been healthy — he’s played in the second most games of any other Astros this season — and his bat has been consistent. And the pitchers must love it when balls are hit to an outfield featuring George Springer, Josh Reddick, and Jake Marisnick (check out this Reddick catch. Or this one).
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However corny it seems, who can’t help but be fan of Reddick’s wrestling belt giveaway after each game to the player of the game. This is something that Reddick went out and did on his own. It might seem stupid that highly paid professionals play harder for a belt, it does seem to be an excellent fit into the whole Club Astro vibe. And it also seems reminiscent of the old Pittsburgh Pirates family thing back in the late-1970s where Willie Stargell passed out stars to place on game caps of the guys who had good games.
Charlie Morton is in his 10th season as a major leader, and after last night, his career record is only 51-73 (he is 5-2 this season). His career high for strikeouts in a season is 126, which is a number he should hit around the end of June if he continues at this pace. I was a bit disappointed, though, with the Astros signing him to a two-year $14 million contract this offseason because his career numbers are not that good, and like Reddick, he has dealt with injury issues. But as with Reddick, it appears that I am wrong, and I am very happy to be wrong.
This season is seeming almost too easy. At this point there do not appear to be any teams in the AL West that can compete with the Astros. That makes it rather difficult to conceive of a scenario where the Astros are not in the postseason. Sure the season is still early. But damn, isn’t this a fun team to watch?