The Astros: Off To A Rough Start, Shockingly

That's three games down for the Astros, 159 to go. And at 1-2, the Astros are already in last place. The Astros were outscored 17-11 in those three games as the high-powered Astros lineup was, for the most part, shut down the by the superior Cubs pitching.


Richard Justice says not to worry. That things are fine. Especially with the offense. But I'm not as excited by the Astros offense as Justice. Of the team's 11 runs, six came by way of home run. Of course, it took six home runs to get those six runs as, for the most part, the Astros' high-octane offense had trouble getting men on base, and when the guys got on base, they had trouble staying on base. That's right; these guys still have trouble with running the bases. And when they actually had guys in scoring position, the hitters were impotent, going four-for-17.


So if you're a fan of home runs, then yeah, the Astros offense this season looks promising. But winning teams do more than just hit home runs. Take the Chicago Cubs, for instance. The Cubs defeated the Astros 11-6 on Wednesday night, getting to starter Brian Moehler for seven runs in one and two-thirds innings. Then they got to his reliever, Russ Ortiz, for three runs in three innings. But out of those 10 runs, the Cubs hit just one home run. For the Astros to win games, and for me to become impressed by the offense, they've got to learn to manufacture runs on a consistent basis (the Astros Tuesday night win is a perfect example of manufacturing wins).


The Astros starting pitching was surprisingly good - not counting Brian Moehler. Roy Oswalt got burned by two Chicago homers Opening Night, but he kept the team in the game, and if the offense could have manufactured something off of Astros-killer Carlos Zambrano, the team might have won. And Wandy Rodriguez shocked the hell out of me on Tuesday. Then again, Rodriguez has several games a year like the one he had on Tuesday. And it makes everyone think he's really gotten his act together until he reverts to form for his next start.


But we're only three games into the season. And while I think the team is bad, and I've yet to see anything that will make me think otherwise, it's still going to take some time to know how bad, or good, the team really is. However, the Astros' next 10 games are against their NL Central rivals. If they're really bad, they could sink far down in the standings way early in the season.


Tony La Russa should out-manage Cecil Cooper pretty easily as the Astros take on the Cards this weekend. This could be the difference, as talentwise the two clubs are pretty even. Then the Astros have three games against the Pirates. The Astros should be able to win the series with the Pirates as the Astros actually have more talent than the Pirates. But the Astros always have more talent the Pirates, and always it seems as if the Pirates find ways to beat the Astros. And I think the Astros will be lucky to get two of four games from the Reds as I think the Reds will be the surprise team of the NL this season.


Mike Hampton gets his first start of the season tonight when he goes up against St. Louis' Joel Pineiro. A national TV audience gets to witness the Astros on Saturday afternoon as Roy Oswalt (0-1, 3.86) goes up against Adam Wainwright (0-0, 3.38).  And the series ends with Wandy Rodriguez (0-0, 1.50) matching up against Kyle Lohse (1-0, 2.57).

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