The week of April 8 through April 14 in review.
Starting last week, the Astros had just finished taking out the broom in their sweep of the A’s that brought them back to the .500 level. Well, the broom got plenty of work last week as the Astros swept both the Yankees at home and the M’s on the road.
Heading into the Yankee series, the Astros were a 1/2 game behind the 5-4 pinstripers with a 5-5 record. At the end of the week, the 11-5 Astros were 4-1/2 games up on the 6-9 New Yorkers. In the opener, the Astros helped get Justin Verlander off a 3-1 hook with a two-run Robinson Chirinos double off Zack Britton and an eighth-inning run on a Carlos Correa squibber leading to a 4-3 win. The second game featured another rally this time from a 3-2 deficit as Michael Brantley and George Springer both had huge late inning doubles on the way to a 6-3 win. In the finale, the Astros rode 2 homers from Jose Altuve (his 3rd and 4th in 3 days) and a homer and a double from Carlos Correa to a 7-2 lead before hanging on for dear life to an 8-6 win.
The Astros jetted off to Seattle with a six-game winning streak but were facing the M’s who had a six-game winning streak of their own, which had left Houston 4 games behind in the AL West. In the first game, the Astros rode 3 big swings (2 run homer by Springer and two Grand Slams by Altuve and Yuli Gurriel) to a huge come from behind win 10-6. Wade Miley had struggled mightily, but Brad Peacock picked up the win with 3.1 innings of 1 hit, 1 run relief. The Astros then swept the series with a pair of near identical 3-1 and 3-2 wins. Both Verlander and Gerrit Cole had strong starts with six innings, 11 Ks and 0 walks each. Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna closed out with a strong inning each in both wins. On Saturday, Altuve and Chirinos had HRs and Brantley knocked in the third run for the 3-1 win. On Sunday, Brantley knocked in two and Aledmys Diaz hit his second critical HR of the season to give the Astros a sweep and bring them back to within one game of the Mariners.
The week of April 15th through April 21st
This is what the business world calls a short week for the Astros as they follow up a day off Monday with two road games against the 10-9 Oakland A’s, another day off Thursday before finishing the road trip with three games at the (currently) 8-7 Texas Rangers. The Astros take a nine-game winning streak into Oakland and send out McHugh and Miley in the two-game set.
The Astros swept the A’s at home, but the A’s have won 4 of their last five thanks mostly to the Baltimore Orioles. The Rangers took 2 of 3 from the Astros earlier in the season and are 3-4 in their last seven games, but will likely be facing Verlander, Cole and McHugh on the weekend series.
Player of the Week: This is the easiest award to date to choose.
Jose Altuve went bat-guano crazy this week. He batted .400 BA with a 1.527 OPS. He had 10 hits, including 6 HRs, 8 runs scored and 10 RBIs. It seems like a long time ago (after game 9) when he had only 2 runs scored, 1 RBI and 2 RBIs. He now leads the team in runs, hits, HRs, RBIs, BA and OPS.
Focus on Stats
Ryan Pressly has been pretty much a revelation since coming to the Astros. After giving up 2 runs in his first 5 appearances for the Astros in 2018, he has gone 28 consecutive appearances over 2 seasons without giving up a run. In that time he has only given up 11 hits and 3 walks in 25.2 innings with 35 Ks. This season he has an 0.00 ERA and a microscopic 0.391 WHIP as he has only let 3 of 26 hitters reach base. He has helped the Astros along with Roberto Osuna to put up one of the best 8th/9th inning combos in the majors in 2019.
The focus today is on one of the best pitchers no one ever heard of – the late Don Wilson. After making his debut at 21 in 1966, he became a hard-throwing workhorse for the Astros pitching at least 184 innings for eight straight years and showing an ERA of 3.28 or less in 6 of those 8 seasons. But due to lack of support, he only had a 104-92 record with a career 3.15 ERA.
Wilson tied a major league record at the time and set the Astros club record with 18 strikeouts against the Reds in 1968. He was the only pitcher in franchise history to post two no-hitters, 2-0 over the Braves in 1967 and then 4-0 over the Reds in 1969. The second no-hitter was a “revenge” game as Jim Maloney (who ironically also had two career no-hitters) had no-hit the Astros the game before. In September 1974, Wilson had the misfortune of having Preston Gomez as his manager. Four years earlier, Gomez had pulled his Padres pitcher Clay Kirby for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning while trailing in a game he was throwing a no-hitter. He repeated this move with Wilson in 1974 with the Astros trailing the Reds 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth and Wilson heading for a 3rd no-hitter. The Astros did not win and the no-hitter was lost in the 9th inning by Mike Cosgrove. By the way, the Astros were 16 games behind first place at the time…
Wilson would only pitch four more games in the majors, finishing with a complete game 2 hit shutout against the Braves. That January he would die in what was ruled an accident when he was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in his car inside his garage. His alcohol level was over the legal limit and his five-year-old son, who was sleeping above the garage also died. Wilson was only 29 years old.
So…. that’s a look at last week, this week, plus a bit of Astros history.