Raise your hand if you thought the Houston Astros would be in first place in the AL West at the end of April when the season started. Chances are, you aren’t raising your hand, but that is exactly what we have. Not only is Houston (16-7) in first place in the division, but the team is in the midst of the franchise’s best start to the season since the 80’s.
Not only are the Astros winning, but they are doing so in a way that most fans around the country didn’t think they could: pitching. The bullpen in 2014 was one of the worst in Major League Baseball History for much of the season. Toward the end of the season the team started to figure it out. Jeff Luhnow also addressed the bullpen situation in the off-season with the additions of Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. It also helps that Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh have been outstanding at the front end of the rotation. Houston trails only the Kansas City Royals for the league’s best team ERA at 3.04.
At the plate, the team started out slow, but you can definitely see the signs of key hitters in the lineup starting to put it together at the plate. Evan Gattis, has struggled mightily at the plate this season, but has continued to find ways to help the team score runs, even if he is unable to reach base. George Springer is another key hitter that didn’t have the start many fans hoped, but in his last seven games he is hitting .364 with seven runs scored and three homers. Jake Marisnick and Jose Altuve have been bright spots in the lineup in the first month of the season even when others were struggling. Either Marisnick and Altuve leads the team in stolen bases, hits, runs scored, and RBI’s. Altuve is also in the midst of a nine game multi-hit streak which ties him with Jesus Alou and Billy Hatcher for first all-time in Houston Astros franchise history.
The Houston Astros are entering May of 2015 as the hottest team in Major League Baseball as winners of their last eight contests (first time since 2006) and nine of their last 10. They currently hold a five game lead over the second place LA Angels in the AL West and are tied with Kansas City for the best record in the league at 16-7 (1st. St. Louis 16-6).