Friday's Three Astros Things

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 07: Jed Lowrie #4 of the Houston Astros hits a home run in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 7, 2012 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Blame a draft hangover for no Three Things yesterday...

1) Lowrie for MVP - Just you wait until next week. I'm going to unleash an article on Houston's All-Star middle infield, but for now, let's talk about Mr. Lowrie.

He's now halfway to the team record for home runs by a shortstop. Lowrie is on pace for 31 homers, 78 runs scored, 78 walks and 31 doubles. Aside from obliterating the home run record for shortstop, Lowrie would be the first Houston player to top 30 homers since 2007 and Carlos Lee. He'd also be just the sixth Astro to hit the plateau since 2004.

To put that into less Astro-centric context, no major league shortstop topped 31 homers last season. Tulowitzki and J.J. Hardy each had 30. In the last five seasons, only five shortstops have topped 30 homers, including Tulo (twice), Hardy, Jimmy Rollins and Hanley Ramirez.

Jed Lowrie isn't mentioned in the same breath as those other guys...yet. But, it's starting to look like he should be.

2) J.D. out of slump? - Let's talk some numbers here. I know feelings have cooled on Houston's resident left fielder J.D. Martinez some since his blistering hot April. But, it's worth noting that he's been heating up since a horrendous slump saw his average drop as low as .216.

Since May 15, however, J.D. has been coming around. He's hit .278/.346/.417 in his last 82 plate appearances, complete with seven walks, two home runs and five extra-base hits. In a shorter-term look, he's gone .313/.377/.500 since his average peeked over .219 on May 23, with four extra-base hits in 54 plate appearances.

More recently, J.D. has hit .345/.406/.483 in a recent seven-game hitting streak with three walks, five strikeouts, one home run and a double in 32 plate appearances.

Does that qualify him as on fire? Not really, but I think we can safely assume he's out of the slump, even though his numbers haven't returned to normal quite yet. The average and on-base percentage will be there, but I have a feeling his power will be slower. I still think he can reach 15-20 homers this season, but the slugging percentage may be down around .425 or so.

Still, that's progress from where he was last season and he's shown signs of being a good bat for Houston in the future.

3) Home stand continued rough trend - Yep, that went about as I expected it to go. Houston came off a disastrous road trip in Colorado and Los Angeles to face two very tough teams in Cincinnati and St. Louis. The results weren't much better than they had been previously. Houston did snap that pesky eight-game losing streak, but got nipped by the Cards and Reds twice each.

Houston started out the season averaging 4.5 runs per game in April. That number dropped to 3.8 for May, but is now right around five for June. The problem is they have seen their pitching slip enough to finish below the mark on run differential for the past two months.

Things won't get much better for a bit, as Houston plays another brutal road trip schedule, facing the division-leading White Sox, above .500 Giants and the beastly Rangers in quick succession. After that? The Royals and Padres should provide a nice balm from all those burns.

Still, that's four of the next six series against over .500 teams and six of eight in this current stretch. Houston needs to get more than two wins on this next road trip if they want to continue to be seen as a pleasant surprise.

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