Astro fans are struggling with something this season they never had five seasons ago. Great expectations.
Back in 2014, the team took a toddling step out of the darkness of three straight 100+ loss season, including the depths of Hell 51-111 record in 2013. They ended 2014 at 70-92 and then slipped into the playoffs in 2015, regressed in 2016 and then won it all in 2017.
It is hard to remember as the team has cruised towards a possible third straight 100+ win season, that this team had only won 100 games once (102 games in 1998) in the history of the franchise before this strong run. And thus the result is almost unreasonable expectations by all of us and maybe by the team itself. Show up and beat everyone every series, every game, every match up.
But baseball is a tough marathon of an ever-changing landscape. Teams often go on runs when they beat teams they have no business beating (note the Seattle Mariners start to this season) or go into slumps against teams they should own (note the recent struggles of the Astros). Sometimes a single injury can trigger a fall as the Gerrit Cole hamstring has done. Fans can expect that teams play at the same high level for 162 games and six months, but it just does not work that way, at least not as long as baseball is played by humans and not machines.
The Astros are in better shape this season than last as they have a 7 1/2 game lead heading into Saturday’s games with a heck of a team (on paper). They had a chance to bury the A’s this weekend, but it is not happening after losing the first two games. If they lost two more this lead would get throat tightening to 5.5 games. If they split the last two it will be a reasonable 7.5 games and if they beat the A’s twice they will leave as they came into Oakland with a comfortable 9.5 game lead in the AL West.
There is a lot to be thankful for these days and it is hard to always see that. The Astros are 78-45 today with that 7 1/2 game lead. It seems another lifetime (2013) when the Astros were 41-82 after 123 games, 29 1/2 games out of first place and already mathematically unable to go .500 for the season.
It is OK to have high expectations of this team, but it is also good to remember that they have performed at a high level to get to their current spot.