What the baseball schedule giveth, it also taketh away.
After a nice 3-game sweep of the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals, the Astros got swept in San Francisco. Now, their road trip hinges on two games in Los Angeles. Well, hinges may be a bit strong, but a winning record on a road trip would be a nice feather in the Astros cap.
Ultimately, that's what this Giants series comes down to: do you see these three games as an improvement over the series to open the season? Or was this more of the same in a lost season for the Astros?
I'm leaning towards considering the improvement more than the latter. For one, the Astros had chances to win the past two games late. Both times, Kazuo Matsui impressed more Houston fans than at any other point this season. Of course, he was 0 for 2 in those crucial at-bats, striking out on Sunday with the tying run at third. Still, it's a giant step forward for a guy who's been scuffling quite a bit lately.
There's also Brett Myers complete game loss. He only needed 104 pitches to get through eight innings, saving the Astros bullpen from having to work any longer. Myers did give up four runs, but uncharacteristically, only gave up five hits while striking out seven and walking three. A WHIP of 1.00 has been fairly rare for Myers this season, so to see him do it here is a great sign.
Ditto for Carlos Lee. El Bufalo hit another home run Sunday, his third of the season. He was also the only Astros with a multi-hit game, going 2 for 4. He's still hitting under .200 on the season, but it's been a positive month of May for Lee. Combine that with Hunter Pence's resurgence and the Astros offense really does look like it's turning the corner.
On the other hand, says the pessimistic bunch, the Astros looked as offensively inept as they have all season. Houston only managed to score five runs against the Giants. Sure, they were facing Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, but every team has talented pitchers. Good teams score runs against everyone.
The Astros certainly are not a good team. Do they have the potential to be one? Sure, anything is possible. Streakiness is usually a characteristic of bad teams, though. It means the team cannot play consistently and gets into funks. If the Astros keep this streaky nature up, it's going to put a few new gray hairs on fans' heads. Until then, let's hold on tho the hope that this team could still be decent.