The blog will give out some April Chipalatta Awards in our next post, but today we will look ahead to the month of May and those things that “may” come for the Houston Nine.
- The Astros do have some days off scattered during the month (May 3, 17, 24, 27). There is that 13 days stretch of no days off in the middle of the month from the 4th through the 16th that the team will have to navigate.
- The Astros top 4 starters at this time are Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy. With the May 3rd off day, they don’t need a 5th starter until May 8th and based on his recent performance this is likely to be Luis Garcia as the Astros wait for Jake Odorizzi to return from the IL. Kent Emanuel has earned another shot at a spot start, but the team wants to use him as a second lefty out of the bullpen, especially against the lefty centric Rays.
- In the most positive sense, May should be the month of returning health for the Astros. Heading into May with Yordan Alvarez returning from the COVID IL, the position players should be at full strength. We hope full strength is stronger than they showed in their 1-0 loss against the M’s in that series finale. Though we don’t know how much rehab these pitchers must do, we understand Andre Scrubb should be back ready early in May, Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor and Odorizzi some time in mid-May and there may even be a chance for a Framber Valdez return by the end of the month. Reliever Pedro Baez on the other hand was ominously moved to the 60-day IL, so his return is out there.
- The Astros schedule for the month is a mixed bag of teams that are underperforming (for the moment), overperforming (for the moment) and performing to spec. Some thoughts…
- They start off with three against the 13-13 Tampa Bay Rays, who knocked the Astros out of a WS trip in 2020 and darned near did it in 2019. Always a tough team for the Astros.
- They follow up with three against the disappointing 11-14 NY Yanks. The Yanks’ fans are warming up for a scream and obscenity fest on the Astros by working over deposed manager A.J. Hinch and his Detroit Tigers this weekend.
- Minute Maid will be full of emotion when George Springer returns to Houston with his 11-12 Toronto Blue Jays for a three-game series. We hope the home team shows some emotion that seems to be missing since George left.
- The Astros come back to the AL West division with 3 against the all too familiar 12-11 Angels and their part-time two-way wonder of Shohei Ohtani and the best player breathing Mike Trout.
- Mixed in will be two series with the cellar-dwelling 11-15 Texas Rangers. Hopefully, those 7 games give the Astros a chance to make hay or make up ground on the division.
- They play 3 against the first place 16-10 Oakland A’s towards the end of the month by which time either a) Mike Fiers will have developed a hang nail trip to the IL or b) they will start him either before or after the 3 game series with his best friends in Oakland.
- Dodgers’ fans get their first shot at WS revenge on the Astros with fans in the stands in a 2 game series at Chavez Ravine against the 16-10 LA club. This won’t be comfortable, but will likely be much more civil than the Yankee visit.
- The Astros then play the Dodger wannabes in the 14-12 Padres with 3 games in San Diego. Chances are the Padres will be much better by that time than they have played to date.
- The Astros finish off May with the first game of a series against the resurging 16-10 Red Sox. This allows the Astros to exact some pound of flesh from the Sox manager Alex Cora, who was supposedly behind the Astros’ cheating scandal for which they were punished and the Red Sox cheating scandal that baseball mostly ignored.
The Astros and their fans are looking forward to a challenging May, but one where they hopefully will be healthier than in April and without the stumbling block of a COVID scare and loss of prime players. What are they hoping to see?
- The first RBI from Martin Maldonado. He basically had an RBI every other game in 2020 (24 RBIs in 47 games) and has not had a single one in his first 17 games of 2021.
- Kyle Tucker to hit in some positive luck as he seems to be leading the league in hard-hit balls finding no holes to date with a .185 BA and a .169 BAbip.
- A lot more save opportunities for the most reliable arms in the bullpen – Ryne Stanek (2.19 ERA) and Ryan Pressly (0.82 ERA)
- Continued hitting success from Yordan Alvarez (.309 BA/ .355 OBP/ .855 OPS) with some power improvement on his 2 HRs to date (the same as Jason Castro).
- Much more of Cristian Javier (3-0, 0.87 ERA) and his 17 straight scoreless innings.
- More of the helpful youngsters – Luis Garcia, Brandon Bielak, Kent Emanuel and Peter Solomon.
- A week or two where someone like Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and/or Jose Altuve totally dominates for a week and wins 3 or 4 games by himself. (I would add Yuli Gurriel in here but what else can we expect from the guy).
- A little more consistency out of Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers, who need to quit the good/bad/good/bad starts.
- Myles Straw to run with the improvement we have seen lately and be that on-base guy who flips the lineup.
- And of course the healthy and effective return of the pitchers mentioned in the first section of this post.
So, on to the second month of the season. What are you looking forward to seeing?