How sweep it is!
Yanks were ready to be kicked
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
The New York Yankees are a wounded group right now but they still have a lot of horsepower and this was a fortunate time to have them on the schedule. The Astros took full advantage this week by staging a three-game sweep of the Brinks Bombers by scores of 4-3, 6-3 and 8-6. The Astros needed some late-inning magic the first two nights and spent Wednesday's game fending off a late rally.
Jose Altuve was the star of the series, smacking four homers. Yes, the 5-5 second-sacker leads Houston in home runs and is in the top five among American League sluggers.
Houston pounded 34 hits in the three-game set while plating 18 runs. While neither Justin Verlander nor Gerrit Cole picked up victories, their pitching kept the Astros close. Carlos Correa drove home the game-winner in the eighth during the Monday opener with a slow roller between first base and the mound, plating Alex Bregman.
Down 3-2 on Tuesday, the Astros rallied for four runs late sparked by an RBI double in the seventh from Michael Brantley, a two-run double in the eighth by George Springer and a sacrifice fly from Altuve who homered earlier. Altuve drilled two solo homers in the Wednesday finale while Correa and Jake Marisnick notched three hits each. Everyone in the Astros lineup contributed at least one hit.
The six-game homestand sweep raised Houston's record to 8-5 and into second place behind Seattle who has an early four-game bulge after Thursday's victory. While the Mariners should be lauded for their 13-2 start, it should be noted that most of that damage was done against the three teams with the worst records in the American League - Boston, Chicago and Kansas City. Put aother way, Houston opponents thus far have been tougher.
The Astros get their first crack at the Mariners this weekend in a three-day series up in the Emerald City. Wade Miley (1-1) will pitch the opener for Houston against a fellow lefty with the same first name, Wade LeBlanc (2-0). If that's not confusing enough, Miley is a former Mariner (2016) and LeBlanc is a former Astro (2013). The first pitch will be 9:10 pm Central.
Verlander (1-0) makes his fourth start of the year against King Felix Hernandez (1-0) in Saturday's 8:10 pm Central contest then the series will close Sunday afternoon when Cole (0-2) challenges lefthander Marco Gonzales (4-0). That game will begin at 3:10 pm Central. After a day off Monday, the Astros will play a two-game series in Oakland.
After a slow start, the Astros are now second in the league in batting average (.282) with six players batting over .300 (Altuve, .314, Correa, .316, Brantley .306, Bregman, .341, Marisnick, .389 and Josh Reddick, .303). Houston is also second in on-base percentage and fourth in OPS.
Bregman sat out Wednesday's game after tweaking his right hamstring late in the Tuesday contest. The Astros are hoping he will heal without the need of putting him on the 10-day Injured List.
Fifth starter Brad Peacock has been moved back to the bullpen temporarily due to there being multiple off-days in the schedule during this stretch. Peacock (1-0, 4.63 ERA) has been okay as a starter but the rough performances of Josh James (0-0, 7.88) and Framber Valdez (0-1, 6.00) might cause the Astros to leave Peacock in the pen and call up someone like top prospect Forrest Whitley for the rotation.
On Thursday, Valdez was sent down to AAA Round Rock and replaced by Reymin Guduan who was in a spirited battle for the lefthanded relief role during camp.
In a complete turn of fortunes, the Astros are 2-5 on the road and 6-0 at home. We'll see if the momentum of the homestand carries over into these three matchups in the Pacific Northwest.
- Bob Hulsey