Fresh off of taking 2 of 3 from the 1st place Sammy Sosa Cork Soakers, the 'Stros are just 1.5 games back and looking like a "contenda". After opening the series with a 7 - 2 shellacking, the Astros won games two and three in dramatic fashion. Not because they were both come from behind wins, but because they did it with solid starting pitching and airtight relief work. Certainly not the hallmarks of a team that reminds of a Harvey's Wallbangers lineup that included Molitor, Yount, Cooper, Ogilvie, and Gorman Thomas, 1 decent starting pitcher, and a great closer in Rollie Fingers.
Instead the Astros got solid starts from Sampson and Chacon combined with blemish free relief appearances by Brocail and closer Valverde. Mix in a granny from Pence and a 3 run bomb by Carlos Lee and you've got a huge series win. Look for road rage on I-45 to fall accordingly. The 'Stros are back.
Here are a few things that stand out to me about this team:
Tejada. His bat is as advertised but it doesn't look like the Astros have missed a beat defensively short. His infectious attitude is also a breath of fresh air for a team that has lacked emotion in years past. Miggy has been a great addition in more ways than I thought he could be.
Valverde. He's filthy to be sure, but he's also located the ball much better than he has at any point in his career. He looks to be maturing and improving from game to game. I credit Coop for keeping his ship righted.
Lance Berkman. The Big Puma is putting up triple crown like numbers and looks absolutely dialed in at this point. Lee's hot bat should only increase his opportunities. He'd have just an ungodly number of RBI's had Matsui been healthy all year and Bourn not struggled early like he did.
Brocail. He's been a godsend after Villareal gas-canned. Hopefully Nieve or Geary when he's healthy can take some pressure off the old warhorse.
Matsui. A professional hitter that is perfect for the top of the order in front of the teeth of this offense. He takes pitchers deep into counts and it must drive them nuts knowing Tejada, Berkman, and Lee are looming. Kaz's defense has been steady.
Dissappointments. Towles, Bourn, and Wiggington. Towles needs time, Bourn needs a couple of breaks and/or bloops, and Wiggy needs to make way for Blum.