I'm sure I'm not alone among Astros fans wishing we could just fast forward to October. This club is so hot that they're tying or setting records practically every night. Can't we just move on to the ALDS before the inevitable injuries and slumps return?
Gurriel: Scorching since June
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Yes, the homestand sweep of Seattle and Colorado was against two floundering franchises but Houston's dominance couldn't have been clearer. On Tuesday, Zack Greinke didn't even have to be sharp as the offense provided an 11-6 victory. Wednesday, Yuli Gurriel tied the club record with eight RBIs while Gerrit Cole ran his personal winning streak to ten in a 14-3 bloodbath.
Interestingly, Cole and Gurriel both started slowly. Cole was once 4-5 with a 4.11 ERA in late May. Since then, he is 10-0 in 14 starts with a 1.86 ERA. The offense has supported him at almost a 10-run-per-game clip the past six outings. It can be argued that Cole, not Greinke or Justin Verlander, is the ace of the staff although it's a close argument.
Gurriel was hitting .258 with five homers and a .681 OPS through June 22nd. Since then, he's exploded with a .379 average, a 1.256 OPS and 18 homers. He's certainly enjoyed mentoring fellow Cuban Yordan Alvarez, who has batted .348 with a 1.131 OPS and 14 homers in his first two months in the majors. It's almost not fair.
Surely, that's what the Oakland A's must be thinking as they have boldly won seven of their last ten only to lose two games in the standings to the torrid Astros. Houston has now built a double-digit lead on the rest of the AL West as play begins Friday.
Only modest resistance should be expected in that trend as the Astros visit the flaccid Baltimore Orioles at Ralph Kramden Yard. Wade Miley (10-4) will pitch the 6:05 pm Central Friday opener against Dylan Bundy (5-11). Aaron Sanchez (4-14) will follow up his six-inning no-hit performance on Saturday's 6:05 pm Central contest. Aaron Brooks (2-5) will be the mound opponent.
Verlander (15-4) works another day game in the 12:05 pm Central series finale as he faces former Astro Asher Wojciechowski (2-5). The 75-40 Spacemen are currently on a 106-win pace which would break the franchise record.
Lastly, the Astros announced they will install the extended netting around the box seats in an effort to protect more fans from batted balls. Bottom line, fans: you're at a baseball stadium. Pay attention to flying objects and, if you bring children, make sure they stay alert to what is going on around them. An alert adult is always the best protection.
- Bob Hulsey