- Houston snapped a four game losing steak by jumping on Washington early, then cruising to an 11-4 victory Thursday night. They are home again Friday against the LA Dodgers, a team that had a generally unhappy and unfulfilled time in Milwaukee this week.
- For once, the bats weren't the problem. In fact, Houston made team history on Thursday night by banging three straight triples - Jose Altuve, Brian Bogusevic and Matt Downs - in the first inning.
It's the first time since it happened in 1997, when Mike Hampton, Craig Biggio and Chuck Carr did it.
Houston's bats have been on and off this season, sometimes showing up and sometimes not. But it was clear tonight Edwin Jackson - coming off one of his signature appearances of his career to open his season - was not going to get it easy from the Astros. Jordan Schafer was out to open the game. The next six hitters all reached safely, including the aforementioned three triples.
This was surprising in part because the Astros hadn't done it this season. Aside from the eight posted against Atlanta in the first Monday of the year, this team been regularly posting 3 or 4 runs. Not bad at all, but certainly not the crooked numbers they dropped on the Nationals.
What was good to see from a fan's standpoint was that the quiet bats in this young season came to life a little against a couple of good pitchers:
- Bogusevic continues to be maddening at the plate. He has tantalizing talent as a hitter - his home run in the first game of the year demonstrated that, as did his 3 for 5 evening with two RBIs on Thursday. But many of the nights this season, he's been swinging away, and missing ... a lot.
He's doing a lot of things right. The former pitcher sure knows how to get in the way of opponents pitches, having been hit twice already this season. He also has five walks.
He's still hitting just .184 this year, up from .121 entering the game. His on-base percentage is now over 3 with Thursday's performance.
Bogusevic is going to need some time. Things have a way of evening out during the season; right now, sans Thursday's game, things aren't finding holes for the right fielder. Later on, if he keeps finding ways to get a hold of pitches and walking, things will balance out.
The key question is: Will he be better than your bargain basement, replacement level player at his position?
- It's been a rough week, but this is an important thing to keep in mind in the early going. Houston is keeping opponents close, and scoring runs. Not a ton of runs, but they are scoring. It's more than can be said for any point last year.
Several young players that were expected to do well (Schafer, Martinez) have done very well; some (Marwin Gonzalez) have surprised in their roles; while others have - Altuve, Castro, Johnson - have been a disappointment in one respect or another Seriously, the Altuve can hit, but it's like he found a way to get worse at second base in the off season. ... Castro falls into the "needs more time/seasoning/salt" category.
It would be nice to see Chris Johnson take a walk once in a while. No walks so far this season ... Yeesh.
Plus, the veterans are showing up. Matt Downs is a valuable cog off the bench that landed in Houston because the Giants are run by people who still use examine leaves and twigs as a means of predicting the future for a ballplayer. Carlos Lee is playing like he wants another contract, and Travis Buck seems to have found a nice niche as a bench player and pinch hitter.
Second, it also means the pitching is doing its job and more or less keeping runs off the board. Kyle Weiland notwithstanding, the rotation has been in the top 10 in the league so far this season. The bullpen ... too early to tell, but there are some encouraging signs. Brett Myers seems to do well at closing for Houston and the support staff, aside from a few moments, hasn't done anything so blasphemous as to earn them a demotion to the minors.
Houston is still 5-8. It's good for only so much. But remember: This team wasn't supposed to have five wins until mid May, the way everyone predicted it.
So, small victories.