Once again, let's look around the roster to see who's playing well and who's scuffling in the past week.
Brian Bogusevic, rising: It isn't much, but Brian Bogusevic definitely got off to a great start with the big league club. Last night, he picked up a hit in his only plate appearance and scored the tying run in the ninth inning. It was even on a heads-up play as a base runner, as he scampered home on a wild pitch. Bogusevic isn't the fastest guy on the team, but he's shown ample evidence in the minors that he's a pretty smart base runner. With him, Jason Bourgeois and Michael Bourn on the team, pitchers could get driven crazy.
Jason Michaels, falling: When a guy gets to be a certain age, you start to question whether a slump is just a slump or if he's done. Michaels is at that age, but we're far from asking that question. It may not pay off for the Astros to have resigned Michaels, but I'm sure he provides a bit of a security blanket for Mills. He's a veteran who can still hit with little to no playing time and he's still fairly athletic. If Bogey impresses in this short time and Michaels is slow to heal from this separated shoulder, things might become different.
Clint Barmes, rising softly: The oft discussed but rarely seen shortstop has played in two games on his rehab assignment to Oklahoma City, collecting a hit in each one. He also hit a double last night and drew a walk on Tuesday. All signs point to him being ready to rejoin the team sometime soon, maybe by this weekend's series against Milwaukee.
Bud Norris, remaining strong: In his last two starts, Norris has struck out 12 in 12 innings. He's got an ERA of 2.25, an FIP of 2.87 and an xFIP of 2.97. His ground ball rate dipped slightly, but his home run rate is still down. In fact, the only reason Norris doesn't have two bright, shiny wins on his record in those two starts is that his BABiP is a ridiculous .400. I questioned a little whether Norris was ready to become a "third starter" in this rotation, when he was given that slot in the rotation. But, he's proved me wrong and been the third-best pitcher on this team to date, if not the best.
Carlos Lee, falling sharply: 2 for 24. 2 for 24. 2 for 24. 12 for 71 against right-handers. 2 home runs, zero at MMP. .207 batting average. Not good Carlos, not good. An occasional home run won't make us forget how you've turned into a platoon player making 18.5 million this season. Not good...
Brett Wallace, paying dividends: I have a feeling Wallace will end up a little like a couple of his spiritual cousins in Sean Casey and Lyle Overbay. He's not showing great power, but he's becoming a very good hitter, taking the ball the other way when he needs to and generally just getting on base. In the past week, he's gone 11 for 21 with four doubles, five runs scored and two RBIs. If his defense were better, I'd be much higher on him, but he had a few bad gaffes in the past week that can't be ignored. It's not enough to downgrade him, though.
Angel Sanchez, finding a new equilibrium: He's not doing what he did earlier this season, but Sanchez rebounded from a lackluster previous week. He went 7 for 25 this week with two doubles, four runs scored and two RBIs. He now has 13 RBIs this season, five behind team leader Hunter Pence. Sanchez isn't getting on base terribly well, but he's getting hits. In the past year, we've gotten a pretty good picture of him as a hitter, and it looks like he'll always have a decent batting average, but one that's fairly empty, since he lacks much power or walks.
Hunter Pence, rising quickly: That's what three home runs will do for you. Pence led the team in WAR over the past week, driving in six runs and adding a double. Would you believe the updated ZiPS projections for Pence have him hitting .280 with 25 home runs? It's uncanny how he finds that mark every season.
J.R. Towles, below the radar: He only had one hit in 7 plate appearances last week over two games. That hit was a home run, and he did drive in two runs, but that's beside the point. Towles is showing this season what he showed in the minors with his bat. There's still a question of whether he can keep it up, but more and more, he's proving he deserves more playing time.
Bill Hall, finally rising: Even the blind pigs find a truffle every now and then. Hall had his first good week with the Houston Astros in the same week when he faced a less-than-warm reception from his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers. Hall went 5 for 15 in the past week with a triple, three runs scored, two RBIs and four walks. That was just two walks less than the entire team pulled over that span. Add in Hall's terrific defensive play (when he got hurt) and his walkoff single last night, and his teammates may have warmed up to him by now.
Humberto Quintero, strong returns: One of the reasons Towles hasn't played more is that Q is hitting like crazy so far. In the past week, he went 6 for 15 with a double, three runs scored and three RBIs. He was also hit by a pitch, stole a base, struck out twice and grounded into a double play. It seems there is little Mr. Five Tool can't do. So far, he's receiving about 60 percent of the playing time. As much as I think Towles deserves more time, Q's defense will keep him on the field as long as he's swinging the bat well. Heck, even if he's half as good as this, he's still probably getting the bulk of the time.
Jose Valdez, showing value: Small sample sizes and all that, Valdez has a nice arm. I miss seeing guys who can throw with some velocity out of the bullpen and Valdez certainly makes that easier. His ERA in the past week isn't very good at all, but he has struck out three in 1 2/3 innings. You'll find I'm much more forgiving on relievers who are striking guys out than those who aren't (I'm looking at you, Brandon Lyon...).
Aneury Rodriguez, recovering: It's only one game, and Rodriguez did give up three runs (none earned), but Aneury showed a little something. He did strike out three in two innings, walking just one. All we should be asking from him this season is to show a bit of promise so he can stick on the roster. Next season is really when he'll need to take a step forward.