Welcome to the stretch run! The Astros are in first place, 14 games above .500 (matching their best spread of the season) and on pace for a 90-win season.
Greetings friends, it’s the Free Blog Weekend!
Here are a few notes to start the weekend after a day off, just to get the conversation started.
- The Astros lead the majors in home runs and are first in the AL in stolen bases.
- Dallas Keuchel (15-6) and Collin McHugh (14-7) have combined for 29 wins, the most by any two teammates in the majors this season. The last time the Astros had two pitchers with at least 13 wins each in the same season was in 2006 with Roy Oswalt (15-8) and Andy Pettitte (14-13).
- Nine players have hit double-digit home runs, tying a franchise record (2000). Houston has an opportunity to set the franchise record this season as Marwin Gonzalez (9) and Hank Conger (8) are also close with 34 games to go.
- Talk about quality! Keuchel has gone at least six-or-more innings in 37 consecutive starts, which is an Astros’ record. That streak goes back to July 25, 2014 and it’s the longest by a pitcher since Justin Verlander put together 63 straight starts spanning parts of three seasons (2010-12).
- If you’re thinking this club is home run happy, guess again. The Astros have posted 174 home runs, putting them on pace for 220. The franchise record is 249 home runs, set by that 2000 club.
Playoff roster decisions.
When the playoffs roll around — yes, we’re assuming the Astros will be in the mix — A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow will have some decisions. If the rotation sets up well, Houston could use only three starters, especially in early series. That might mean that Keuchel and Scott Kazmir might sandwich McHugh. Mike Fiers and Scott Feldman, both of whom have pitched well of late, might be relegated to the bullpen along with Lance McCullers and/or Vince Velasquez.
The big question may come when deciding how many pitchers to carry on the roster. Who gets left off? Or do the Astros go with a 10-man bullpen? Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Tony Sipp and Will Harris are all locks for the playoff roster. Chad Qualls should be there as well, considering his post season experience. Oliver Perez could be expendable, though to lefties in a playoff game might be an advantage.
It’s also possible that the Astros could leave someone like Chris Carter off an early roster if necessary, especially if the rotation gets messed up down the stretch and doesn’t line up well.
Let’s play a little either/or on this Friday.
- Astros’ MVP: Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa or someone else.
- Most likely to be left off playoff roster: Qualls, Carter, Perez or Luis Valbuena.
- Astros’ leader in home runs in ’15: Correa, Evan Gattis, Valbuena, Carter or Colby Rasmus.
- Most likely to return in 2016: Kazmir, Fiers, Carter, or Qualls.
- Most likely to not return in 2016: Kazmir, Fiers, Carter, Qualls or Valbuena.
- Astros are 71-57. How many wins will the team finish with?