We’ve all heard it a million times: It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish. Apparently, the Houston Astros (10-17) need to have that message tattooed on their faces before they get the message. (Just don’t steal Mike Tyson’s design). Last night’s blown save by closer Brandon Lyon marked the seventh blown save already this year for the Astros, three of those by Lyon. While the Astros ended up with a walk-off victory, the bullpen problem is one that doesn’t seem to be going away. It has been mentioned ad nauseum in this short season, but the Astros will not be out of contention quickly if they don’t solidify their bullpen.
Already six games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals, and tied for the worst record in the National League, the Astros’ struggles at the end of games are the only thing they’re failing to close on. Including today’s rubber match against the Milwaukee Brewers (13-13), the Astros have been in position to win five of the nine series going into the final game. They have yet to capitalize on one of those opportunities, dropping the series in every instance by losing the final game. Today, the Astros turn to Bud Norris to try to buck that trend.
The next two weeks could make or break the Astros’ season. To this point, nobody is out of contention in the NL Central. However, with six games against Cincinnati and three against Pittsburgh coming up, a failure to close things out when they have the chance, could effectively close out the Astros’ chances at being relevant the rest of the summer.
Puma? Is that you? … Former Astro Lance Berkman, aka The Big Puma, is mauling opposing pitching this year. Berkman is among NL leaders in every major category with a .393 BA, 8 HR, and 22 RBI. To add insult to injury, last week in the series against St. Louis, the former All-Star went 8-for-14 with 7 RBI, 2 HR, 2 2B, and 3 R. Quite a stat line for a guy who was supposed to be on his way to the retirement village when he finished last year in a tailspin with the Yankees.
Can I do that? … Berkman’s replacement, first baseman Brett Wallace, is trying his best to pick up the slack this season and is continuing his hot start. Wallace is currently fourth in the NL with a .388 BA and a .458 OBP. However, Wallace was brought in for power, and has shown little of it to this point. He currently has only one home run on the season, and is fifth on the team with nine runs batted in. Wallace can hit, but he needs to start ripping it if he wants Astros fans to stop pining for Berkman’s return any time soon.
Yep, he’s still fast … Astros center fielder, Michael Bourn, is currently the stolen base leader in MLB with 11. Bourn, who finished first in the NL in 2010, second overall in MLB, is looking to take the crown again. The most impressive stat for Bourn, so far? He’s yet to be caught stealing, making him a perfect 11-for-11 to start the year.
Ouch … Due primarily to the bullpen, the Astros pitching staff is gasping for air at the moment. Currently, they rank 30th (dead last) in three of the four major statistical categories, including ERA (5.06), WHIP (1.58), and BAA (.297). The bad start has also cost Nelson Figeuroa his spot as a starter. Aneury Rodriguez will take his place as the fifth starter.
Twitter me this … Be sure to follow the Astros players that have twitter accounts to get a more in depth look at what these players are up to. The players that have accounts are Chris Johnson, Brett Wallace, Bud Norris, Hunter Pence, Jason Bourgeois, and minor leaguers JB Shuck, Drew Locke, Ryan Rowland-Smith, and Brian Bogusevic.
Sun. May 8 @ Pirates: TBD
That’s it for this Astros Quick Hits. Have a great week. Go ‘stros!