Right now, for the Houston Astros, itʼs all about baby steps.
Sunday afternoon, the Astros beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-1 on their home turf at Minute Maid Park. They lost the opener, but it was their third win in a four game series. Even more surprising: the Astros dismantled the Blue Jays with seemingly relative ease.
Itʼs been a rough season for Houston, who currently hold the third worst record in the major leagues, as opposed to their previous position in last place overall. But the last two series have been a narrative of improvement for the team, with the Astros finally showing some completeness to their game while winning both decisively.
The Blue Jays are something of a dark horse contender this season, but theyʼre one of the hottest teams in the sport right now. Theyʼre scrappy. Theyʼre hungry. They were perfectly capable of blowing out the shaky Astros.
And on Sunday they staggered out of Houston after being handed three losses in a row.
Hitting the ball well has evidently gotten easier for the Astros in recent weeks, and has finally been happening with some consistency.
This was an area of major concern for Houston; with both George Springer and Dexter Fowler on the disabled list, where the offense and runs were going to come from was a question that needed to be answered quickly.
In spite of their depleted lineup, somehow, the Astros have done a better-than-average job, with at least five runs in six of the last seven games. Even more impressive, this has happened without much help from the home run ball.
For the bulk of the season, Houston only ever seemed to score on homers. Lately, however, theyʼve switched up their strategy, forcing the ball to the other side of the field. This has produced results and helped save the bullpen.
The Astros can also largely thank their pitchers for their recent upswing. In the last week of play, Dallas Keuchel has been consistent, and managed to lower his ERA to under three. On eight hits, Scott Feldman gave up only one run Sunday. And Brett Oberholtzer, recently recalled from the minors, has had both of his starts in the last week end in wins, with an ERA of 3.29.
The final product for the team is still a really long way off. Theyʼre nowhere close to where they want to be, and arenʼt likely to start posting a stellar win percentage anytime soon. But games are beginning to come together for the struggling franchise, things are starting to make sense to the rosterʼs young players.
Theoretically, this trend should continue as time passes and experience is gained. The only place the Astros can go from here is up. Right?