This season's Opening Day for the Astros
This season's Opening Day for the Astros
Photo by Marco Torres

While You Weren't Watching, the Houston Astros Took Over First Place

Look, I know that there are seemingly more important sporting events occurring in Houston besides an early season Houston Astros game. There's that whole NFL draft thing where a mediocre team strives to remain solidly mired in the mediocrity that it has found so comforting (and profitable) since its founding. Then there's the basketball team that fired its social media director (and won a playoff series for the first time since dinosaurs roamed the earth).

But gather round and listen up. Forget about the Texans. Forget about the Rockets. It's time to start paying some attention to the Houston Astros because the Houston Astros are winning baseball games. After last night's 3-2 10th-inning win over the Seattle Mariners the Astros are 15-7 on the season. They've won seven straight games. And they are in first place in the AL West.

Let's repeat that: the Astros are in first place. Did you hear me? The Houston Astros are in first place!

I realize that Houstonians are a bunch of front-running fans who only jump on the bandwagon when it's fashionable to do so -- except for the Texans who, despite having accomplished absolutely nothing in the history of the franchise inexplicably continue to sell out every game. But there's no more fashionable thing to do than jump on the bandwagon before everybody else jumps on it, otherwise, you risk becoming a poser, kind of like those fans who appear from out of nowhere and who know nobody on the team but for Dwight Howard, James Harden, J.J. Watt, or Andre Johnson (shhhh, nobody tell them he's now a Colt).

Now since you haven't been watching the Astros, you're probably wondering now why you should start paying attention. So how about this: the team's in first place! What more do you need? The ultimate way to be a front-running fan is to show up for games when the team's in first place. Then there's this, the Astros are a really fun team to watch play baseball right now. I've said some harsh things about the Astros -- I still think the Evan Gattis trade was a nonsensical disaster -- but the team is fun, and it is playing some really good baseball. They're just back from a West Coast road trip that saw them go 8-1, sweeping the Oakland A's and San Diego Padres while taking two of three from the Mariners. The Astros are 10-2 on the road so far this season, which is the team's best 12 game road stretch to open a season in team history. And as April ends, the team's record is 15-7 with the second place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trailing by four games.

The Astros have won 11 of the past 12 games and scored 49 runs over the past six games. Jose Altuve's had a multiple-hit game for the past eight games. Altuve, George Springer, and Jake Marisnick are all tied for the AL stolen base lead with eight. The pitching staff has the best team ERA in the American League. Dallas Keuchel won all five of his April starts with an ERA of 0.73, the best mark to start the season since Randy Niemann's 0.75 ERA over his first five starts in 1979. And the starting outfield of Springer, Marisnick, and Colby Rasmus get to everything hit in the vast green open spaces.

Yes, the Astros are only a month into a very long season. And yes shortstop Jed Lowrie, who has been carrying the offense for much of the season, is injured and out until the All Star break while the team brain trust tries once again to sell the fans and the majors on Jonathan Villar and Marwin Gonzalez as starting players instead of calling up Carlos Corea from AA Corpus Christi. Yes, Evan Gattis, Chris Carter, and George Springer are all hovering around the Mendoza Line.

I don't think this is going to last the entire season. I'm sure that come the All Star break the Astros will have dropped to third or fourth place. But damn it, I'm going to enjoy what this team's currently doing because this team is winning baseball games, and winning baseball games isn't something the Astros have done very often in the past several years.

So put aside the Texans and cast away the Rockets. There's something important happening down at Minute Maid Park. The Houston Astros are in first place. And in the world of sports, isn't that the most important thing of all?

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