Sports

Astros Start Strong: Four Thoughts

Alex Bregman looked like his old self in Anaheim this weekend.
Alex Bregman looked like his old self in Anaheim this weekend. Photo by Jack Gorman
We are just four games into a VERY long season, but there were already signs for hope for Astros fans after they took the opening series from the Angels in Anaheim 3-1. In all three phases of the game, the Astros looked in midseason form, even with skipper Dusty Baker giving guys days off to keep them healthy after the lockout-shortened spring training.

It was a good start for a team that doesn't have a home opener until 11 days into the season. As the West Coast trip continues, we have some thoughts about the opening series and what it might say about the season even at the risk of being the "on pace guy."

Alex Bregman looks like the guy we remember.

Some may have forgotten the Alex Bregman who tore through a ridiculous 2019 campaign hitting 41 homers and working his way into the MVP conversation. With COVID derailing 2020 and injuries limiting the Astros third baseman in 2021, some wondered if the Bregman we knew and loved — they guy who mashed and glared into the dugout camera — would be the same. If series one of 2022 is any indication, fans should no longer be concerned.

Bregman had two homers and six runs batted in despite playing in only three games (he got early season rest on Saturday). He, once again, looks comfortable at the plate and remains a stalwart defender at the hot corner. Bregman is is considered by many to be the lynch pin to this team's success. This weekend was a good start.

Carlos who?

OK, let's not get crazy. The departure of Carlos Correa, who got his first home run in Minnesota over the weekend, remains a sore spot, but the emergence of rookie Jeremy Peña definitely helps. The young short stop went 6-16 with a homer and two runs scored in his major league debut. His first home run came on Friday night while the national TV broadcasters were in the middle of an interview with his parents no less.

Peña has a very even demeanor both at the plate an in the field where he also excels. He will have his ups and downs this season, but out of the gate he looked phenomenal and helped take a little of the sting out of the loss of Correa.

Starting rotation looks great early.

Astros starters gave up a total of four runs in twenty-two-and-two-thirds innings over the weekend. Only Jake Odorizzi was pulled before completing a quality start. They also combined for 17 strikeouts and just four walks, three of those from Justin Verlander. Framber Valdez had a dazzling game one start giving up just two hits in six-and-two-thirds innings on the mound.

And while we are talking about pitching, it is worth noting that the bullpen, outside of Pedro Baez, gave up just three runs in fourteen-and-a-third innings with 15 strikeouts and just three walks.

The Astros remain the class of the division.

The Mariners were the only other AL West team to win a series this weekend, in their case against Correa and the very mediocre Twins. But, every team in the division has glaring weaknesses with the exception of the Astros. Even what might be perceived as the potential for concern — bullpen depth, bottom of the order hitting — is balanced against exceptional play in other spots. There is no reason to this the Astros won't remain the favorite in the West and, in all likelihood, the American League.

There is a long way to go, but plenty of good vibes to get the season started.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke