Back on April 20th we visited the Astros for the first time back when we were only 10 - 3 and Matt Kemp was superman. The Astros were expected to be the last patsy before we hit Atlanta and Washington. We won the first two games behind Lilly / Kershaw putting us at a giddy 12 - 3 but Billingsley got shelled in game three and Wandy shut us out 12 - 0.
Going into the year most analysts expected the Astros to battle the Padres for the worst team in the NL but the Astros have done decent work, coming into this series with a 21 - 23 record, which is good enough for 3rd place in the NL Central.
They went 9 - 14 in April but are now 12 - 9 in May after sweeping the Cubs, so they come into our series with a three game winning streak. As we look at the numbers on May 24th, the Astros might have the best overall hitting infield in the league. Lee, Altuve, Lowrie, and Johnson each have an OPS+ over 100. The outfield has been terrible which is why they are middle of the pack in scoring runs.
1st Base-Carlos Lee is hitting again, his TSL of .306 / .366 / .433 is good enough for an OPS+ of 121 which ranks 6th among qualified 1st baseman(100 at bats).
2nd Base- Jose Altuve left April as the best offensive 2nd baseman in the National League (.951 OPS) but May has not been as kind (.676 OPS). His 126 OPS+ is still good for 2nd in the NL (100 at bats) and his bat is showing signs of life again this week. At 22 he might be the best young 2nd baseman in the NL.
Shortstop-Jed Lowrie is getting full time play and he's making the most of it. The long time Red Sox futility player has managed to stay healthy enough to play 37 games and put up the second best OPS+(130) for a shortstop in the NL.
3rd Base-Chris Johnson is making like 2010 all over again. He struggled a tad in April but found his home run swing in May with five bombs. He'll never be an on base guy but he is giving the Astros the power they so desperately need.
Left Field -Yikes - I wrote this about JD Martinez in the last report :
Martinez is probably the Astros best hitter and might be developing into one of the better hitting left fielders in the NL. The 24 year old is relatively unknown but that should not last long. JD was called up last year after the Pence / Bourn deals and held his own with a solid .742 OPS. His minor league numbers suggested he could do even better and so far in 2012 he is living upto that expectation with a robust 1.002 OPS. Martinez might be the steal of the 2009 draft, as the Astros got him in the 20th round.
Oops - On April 20th when I wrote that he had a 1.002 OPS. Today it sits at .698 because his TSL (.186 / .306 / .233) since that day is so awful I'm surprised he's still getting at bats.
Right Field- Brian Bogusevic so far is exactly what I said in the last report:
is a place holder. He would be no different then Trent Oeltjen starting in RF. He can run a little, has a little pop, but is really suited to be a bench player not a starting right fielder.
Center Field-Jordan Schafer has 13 stolen bases but is not doing much else. He's been hurt a few times this season but will probably play this weekend.
Starting Pitching for our Series:
J A Happ
Bullpen: Brett Myers was moved from the rotation to the bullpen. Many suspect it was to build up his value. Honestly even I have no idea who the rest of t his group is. Left hander Wesley Wright is still here many years after being plucked from the Dodgers in the Rule Five draft. After that we have Wilton Lopez, Rhiner Cruz, Fernando Rodriguez, David Carpenter, and lefty Fernando Abad. Oh, can't forget Brandon Lyon. I suspect by the end of this series we will be well acquainted with all of them except Brett Myers :)
We miss Wandy who shut us out during the last game of the last series but we see Norris who we missed the first time. I'm not going to handicap our team, it is too crazy. I simply expect Kershaw to win and have no idea after that.