Another Lefty Holds Down Cleveland, Astros Win 7-1

HOUSTON - JUNE 24: Chris Johnson #23 of the Houston Astros receives congratulations from Dave Clark after hitting a home run in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Minute Maid Park on June 24, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

You can look at the last two games in a couple of different ways. On the one hand, this whole Cleveland series has shown that Houston still has a problem scoring runs (eighth inning Sunday notwithstanding). For the most part, Houston failed to push across runs when they needed to early in the game and wasted opportunities. Same old offense, same old losing ways.

Except, Houston didn't lose either of the last two games. And, they scored enough runs to win each time, doing it in the later innings. What that tells me is that Houston is making adjustments to pitchers in the game and then capitalizing on them later in the game. That counts for the runs they scored the past two days, the second and third time through the order.

We talked about just those adjustments earlier this week and whether Houston had a problem seeing pitchers for the first time, but it feels like Houston reversed that trend a bit in this two-game stretch.

Of course, it has to continue for us to be really happy. But, for now, it's a slight sign of progress.

As the title said, it's also a second straight nice start from an Astros left-hander, as J.A. Happ has continued to be surprisingly competent this season. Believe me, I wasn't expecting an ERA of 4.00 from him at this point in the season, but I'll take it. He may start tanking eventually, but it's marking a positive trend. You can't even blame peripherals that don't match his stuff, as Happ's FIP and xFIP are both lower than his ERA for the second straight season.

Maybe his strikeout rate drops back to minor league levels, but if he maintains a lowered BB/9 rate and keeps that strikeout rate up...well, Happ suddenly becomes a very viable starter for the Astros. I can't believe I just said that. Next thing you know, I'll be defending Jordan Schafer and the Michael Bourn trade...

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