Wednesday's Three Astros Things

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 25: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros is congratulated by team mates as he returns to the dugout after scoring a run during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 25, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

Let's cover some of the stuff in this very belated look at all things Astros...

1) Late-inning runs up - I've talked before about how the Astros seem to be scoring more runs in the first inning this season than I remembered them doing last year. Turns out, that's a true story, as Houston is averaging .72 runs per game in the first inning this year and had just .45 runs per game last season.

But, that's not where you may have noticed the biggest improvement in this team's scoring department. A big reason why Houston has been in so many games this year is these Astros have scored 29 runs in the final three innings of games, good for 1.6 runs per game. Last year? They managed just 1.2 runs per game over that stretch.

Let's dig further. How about in the final six frames? Was there any difference there? Houston averaged 2.4 runs over the final six innings last year. This time around, they're averaging 3.3 runs per game, almost a full run more than they did last year.

If you're looking for a reason to be optimistic about this team playing better than that 6-12 record suggests, look right there. Scoring runs late is a pretty good recipe for success.

2) New lineups every day - Boy, Brad Mills does like to make things interesting. Seems like every time we turn around, he's hitting someone in a different spot.

The biggest change has been moving Jose Altuve up to the 2-spot and dropping down Jed Lowrie (when he's played him at all). I guess he figures a guy threatening to hit .400 should get a few more at-bats than he would in the No. 8 spot.

Still, just as maddening, though, is Houston's lack of production out of its 4-5-6 hitters. Maybe as a way to combat that, Jed Lowrie finds himself hitting in the fifth spot tonight. That's a day after batting Altuve sixth in an attempt to move his bat up.

It's obvious the plan to go with Carlos Lee, Brian Bogusevic and Chris Johnson there just isn't working out. That might be the traditional best use of those guys, who may have the best power potential on this team, but in practice, this team needs more than just potential there.

Who knows what we'll see in Cincinnati? If Jason Castro returns, will Altuve and Lowrie still be hitting where they are?

3) Weiland hurting - Not sure what to make of the news that Kyle Weiland will have his next start skipped because of a sore shoulder. On the one hand, the Astros could just be doing this to skip his spot and let Wandy, Harrell, et al pitch on normal rest.

On the other hand, it could be a legitimate injury and we could be looking at one of the Triple-A guys coming up by next Tuesday. Is this a precursor to a more serious injury?

The sad thing for Weiland is it comes after his most effective start with the Astros, when he threw seven innings against the Dodgers. He also had a pretty easy assignment in his next, non-skipped start. What do you think? Precautionary? For scheduling purposes or should we be worried?

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