With all the negative talk going on recently I felt it was time to inject some positive vibes into Astro fanbase.
I don't blame anyone for the pessimistic talk. From the bullpen blowing it in the late innings to a less than stellar offense this is a hard team to watch night after night.On more than one occasion I've found other things to do while the Astros were playing. That doesn't mean this team hasn't had it's moments.
I've put together this list of the top 9 performances from the first half.
Not all the performances are going to include a win, because...well they're the Astros but just because the team stinks shouldn't detract from some of the contributions made. I've also limited the performances to one per player or else this list would be mostly Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. So without further ado here are some performances to lift your spirits:
The Home Opener - April 8, 2011 - J.R. Towles and Brett Wallace
This game ended in a 4-3 Marlins victory in the Astros home opener. With Ricky Nolasco on the hill the Astros managed to collect 8 hits in 8 innings but only managed to score 2 runs via solo homeruns. The two home runs belonged to J.R. Towles who struck first in 3rd inning and Brett Wallace who smoked one in the 9th. Both Wallace and Towles were 3-4 on the day and the only two Astros who managed to collect multiple hits. Defensively they shined as well with Towles throwing out Chris Coghlan trying to steal in the 7th and Wallace turning a double play on a bad suicide squeeze attempt.
We Still Have a Shot at .500 - April 2 2011 - Carlos Lee
This was the closest the Astros have come to a .500 record all season. Unfortunately they were facing Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros did not farewell as a team losing 4 to 9. One Astros that did have a good game however was Carlos Lee who had a 3-4 night with a homerun and a triple(?) off Lee, he drove in 4 and scored a run. Not much else exciting about this game unless you're a Phillies fan.
Memorial Day - May 30 2011 - Jeff Keppinger
This one had all sorts of good performances to choose from four Astros had homeruns, five had multi-hit games and six had at least 1 run batted in. When it was all said and done the Astros came out on top of a 12-7 victory over the Cubs. The man of the day, Jeff Keppinger who drove in 4 runs. Batting fifth he hit a three run homerun, and a double in a 3-5 effort. Kepp's homerun came in the top of the 9th and pretty much put the game out of reach for the Cubs. An argument could be made for Hunter Pence who was equally as good. Seeing as I chose only one performance per player the nod went to Kepp but this game plays a part in Pence's performance....I fear I've said to much.
Interleague Play - June 21, 2011 - Michael Bourn
So far in this look back at performances has a loss, another loss, a win and now, in true Astros fashion, another loss, this time a 4-5 thriller against the Texas Rangers. This was Jordan Lyles fifth start and heading into the bottom of the eighth the Astros were clinging to a 4-3 lead. That lead was result of Michael Bourn who contributed to every single run with a 3-5 night. He scored 2 runs, hit 2 doubles, drove in 2 runs and stole 2 bases. It's also worth noting that with President George W. Bush in attendance the Rangers fans set a Guinness book world record for most sunglasses worn at night....Oh the jokes.
Close but No Cigar - May 17, 2011 - Wandy Rodriguez
I'm so sorry guys this is another loss, this time a 3-1 heart breaker to the Atlanta Braves. It was note worthy for the fact that Brian McCann not only tied the game on a homer but also won the game with a homer in the 11th inning. Still Wandy Rodriguez had arguably the best start of the season striking out 6, walking only 2 and allowing 5 hits. He kept the game scoreless through 8 innings handing the ball over to Mark Melancon in 9th who with two outs served up the long ball to McCann that tied the game and left Wandy with a no decision.
If you're still with us it gets better from here on out.
Going the Distance - June 17, 2011 - Brett Myers
In this one Myers showed why the Astros signed him to a contract extension in a 7-3 complete game win over the Dodgers. It wasn't pretty as Myers did allow 3 runs to score but only 2 of those were earned. Still he mowed through the Dodgers lineup striking out 6, walking only 1 and allowing 4 hits on his way to a 98 pitch complete game. It was his third win of the season. Hopefully more games like this are in his future.
The Walkoff Win - April 30, 2011 - Jason Bourgeois
It should of been easier, it should of been another Wandy win. Wandy pitched another spectacular 8 innings of scoreless ball only to see the bullpen blow it in the 9th inning. This was a time before you know who went on the disabled list with bicep tendinitis. Meaning Brandon Lyon served up a homerun ball to Prince Fielder.. This one ended in the Astros favor with a walk-off single by Jason Bourgeois but that wasn't his only contribution to the game. Like Bourn, Bourgeois contributed to both runs scored by scoring a run and driving in the winning run, for the evening he was 3-5 with a double and 2 stolen bases. The walk-off was a nice way to cap off the night for one of the more exciting players on this team.
The Almost No-Hitter - June 8, 2011 - Bud Norris
I don't think I've paid more attention to a game than this one. The Astros won this game 4-1 over the Cardinals, the story though was Norris' who flirted with a no-hitter. Lance Berkman ended that possibility in the 7th inning with a homerun to right field. It was just out of the reach of Pence by inches and ended up being the only run the Cardinals would score. Surprisingly it was an uncharacteristic start for Norris who only struck out 2 batters, walked and used only 104 pitches to get through the 8 innings. Had the Berkman hit not happened Norris had plenty left in the tank to complete the no-hitter.
The 23-Game Hitting Streak - May 19 - June 13, 2011 - Hunter Pence
If you want national attention go on a hitting streak. Such was the case with Hunter Pence who went on a 23-game hitting streak allowing Astro fans a chance to focus on something positive in a season full of negatives. Over the stretch Pence batted .406/.4436/.625 with 4 homeruns and 19 RBI. The team unfortunately only went 10-13 but that far exceeds what they managed to do in the entirety of the first half. The streak is second only to Andre Ethier's who had a 30-game streak going at the beginning of the season.