It hasn’t been long since the Astros were en route to another 110-loss season. Bungled plays, base running miscues, no clutch hitting and a team generally playing with no passion. You remember your frustration.
That was back in April, and it seems like another time and another place. Far away. Since finishing April 9-19, the Astros are 19-17, including 17-10 since May 11.
So what’s the difference? It’s easy to point to George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and perhaps even Jon Singleton in the past few games. But, looking a little deeper, here are some of the game-changers for the Astros in recent weeks.
Bo Porter settles on a lineup. Finally.
- On May 13, Porter moved Springer back into the two-hole between Jose Altuve and Dexter Fowler. The Astros responded with a 12-5 run. When Singleton arrived on June 3, Springer moved to #3 behind Fowler and Altuve. Since then: 4-2. In recent weeks, Porter’s lineup adjustments have seemed more strategic and reasonable than experimental. Indeed, Altuve, Springer, Singleton at 2-3-4 may be the future of the team for the rest of the decade.
- Almost single-handedly Qualls has calmed the bullpen. While others may have broken or bent, the 35-year-old Qualls has been a steady road block. He hasn’t allowed a run in 16 appearances since April 21. The team started the season with a closer-by-committee group, but Qualls has stepped up to claim the role. His 22 Ks and 3 BBs (two of those intentional) and 2.18 ERA speak volumes.
- When is the last time you can remember the Astros having six different starters with ERAs under 5? And two of those pitchers (Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh) with sub-3 ERAs? Houston starters have posted a 3.92 ERA for the season and lead the AL with fewest HRs allowed (32). Despite Scott Feldman‘s up-and-down year, Astros’ starters have made us forget Lucas Harrell. Oh yeah, since May 11, the entire pitching staff has posted a 3.10 ERA.
Okay, so he did help, by George!
- You can’t talk about a turnaround with mentioning Springer’s contributions. It did take him a few weeks to hit his stride, but late start notwithstanding, Springer has clearly been a spark plug for the offense. As I mentioned recently, the addition of Singleton gives the Astros an effective 2/3 of a lineup. Springer leads several offensive categories and he’s forced his way into the Rookie of the Year conversation.
Your turn, what changed from April to May?
And, in case you hadn’t noticed:
- Springer leads the team in HRs (12) and RBI (35).
- Springer is on pace for 30 HRs and 88 RBI.
- Keuchel leads team in wins (7) and Ks (70).
- Keuchel on pace for 18 wins and 178 Ks.
- Astros are on pace for 71 wins (despite 9-19 April).
- If Houston plays .500 the rest of the way, they’d finish 77-85, a 26-game improvement.
- Astros’ starting pitchers have allowed fewer HRs (32) than any other AL team.
- Altuve is closing in on his 500th hit (490 starting Monday) and 100th SB (98). If he maintains his current pace, he could crack the Astros’ all-time top ten in SB leaders as early as next season.
- Fowler leads the team in walks (40), not to mention a .430 OBP since May 1. Chris Carter and Springer (22) are next.