Most fans remember the Astros’ famous World Series run in 2005, where they started off 15-30 and spawned the famous tombstone RIP front-page feature on the Houston (spit!!) Chronicle. Monday marks a memorable 10-year anniversary for the Astros’ tombstone – Ultimate Astros (chron.com)
The Chronicle was wrong to prematurely bury the Astros back then, though the full season rally that drove them to an 89-73 regular-season record, which allowed them to eliminate the Braves and the Cards in the NL playoffs before bowing to the White Sox in the World Series was almost unprecedented in the history of the league.
The point is that the Astros strong first-week start (let’s ignore their 6-2 loss on Friday night) is a very good thing for a number of reasons.
First, their recent past success in their three 100+ win regular seasons in 2017 thru 2019 were all based on strong early performance. In 2017 they went 16-9 in April on the way to a 101-61 record and eventual WS win over the Dodgers. In 2018 they went 20-10 in March/April and rode that to a 103-59 record in the regular season and a loss to the eventual champion Red Sox in the ALCS. Similarly, in 2019 they went 18-12 in March/ April on their way to a club-record 107-55 regular season and a crushing loss in Game 7 of the World Series to the Nats.
Second, April is critical to the Astros due to what looks like a difficult May. The schedule includes six playoff teams from 2020, including the two World Series participants (Dodgers and Rays).
- Two games against the Dodgers at home. The World Champs are picking up where they left off in 2020 with a 6-2 start of their own. This is the team against whom the Astros would want to be measured.
- Three games against the Padres at home. The sexy pick to knock off the Dodgers in the NL has also started off well at 5-3 (including Joe Musgrove‘s Friday night no-no) and did the most to improve themselves in the off-season of any of the teams on this list.
- Three games against the Yankees, away. Yes, they are 3-4 right now, but it would be lunacy not to expect that to turn around soon. Always a tough team to play, especially in the Bronx.
- Three games against the Blue Jays at home. Again starting slow at 3-5, but a very dangerous team that will likely have somebody named George Springer back by the time this series occurs. Let’s hope he tries to hit 600 foot home runs and comes up empty.
- Three games against the Rays, away – one of these games is actually in April. The team that eliminated the Astros in the 2020 ALCS and came close to doing the same in the 2019 first round is always a worthy opponent.
- Three games against the Angels at home. The Angels have started off hot, 6-2 like the Astros and took one of two from Houston in LA last weekend and were tied going into the 9th in the other game.
- Three games against the A’s, away. Can’t expect another sweep of the A’s in Oakland, who look like they are finding their balance in the current series against the Astros.
- 1 game against the Red Sox to end April, away. The Red Sox look like they are improved so far this season at 4-3. Boston is a tough place to play.
- 7 games against the Rangers, 4 home, 3 away. By sight, the easiest part of the May schedule against the 2020 last-place Rangers. But the Astros can’t take any rival for granted and the Rangers always have their knives out for the Astros.
Above and beyond all that, the Astros need to look at early-season wins as insurance against the ill winds that might catch them farther down the line. They need this as a defense against injuries (like 2020) or the possibility of a COVID breakout that could hamstring them later in the season.
This is not to put down what they’ve done to date, but to say this is the start of an important month and that the team cannot take their foot off their collective pedals during April.