After a slow start to the season, the Houston Astros have reeled off nine straight wins—the longest winning streak in the Majors since, well, the Houston Astros won 12 straight last June. There are sure to be some rough patches during a long baseball season, so let’s take advantage of the Astros’ recent excellence and reflect on some of the keys for them during this stretch.
Just a couple weeks ago, following a 6-4 Astros loss to the Rangers, Jose Altuve was slashing .174/.240/.348. Sure, we were like six games in, but it seemed as though Altuve wasn’t fully healthy and that his performance was a missing piece in a sluggish start to the season.
Well, he’s back, y’all.
During the Astros’ nine-game winning streak, Altuve has nearly as many homers (6) as strikeouts (7) to go with 12 RBI and 10 runs scored. Altuve ripped a homer in five consecutive games—one off the team record held by Morgan Ensberg (April 14-20, 2006)—and four of his six long balls tied the game or gave the Astros a lead.
Jose Altuve's 5-game HR streak is tied with 8 other instances for the longest HR streak as a second baseman since at least 1908.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 14, 2019
No second baseman in that span has had a HR streak reach 6 or more games.
Altuve is slashing .405/.439/.919 over the last nine games, though he somehow didn’t win the American League Player of the Week award. Regardless, Altuve has obviously gone to another level the past 10 days, which has renewed chatter about his MVP status.
McHugh has been brilliant for the Astros in each of his first three starts in 2019. Following a season in which he was one of baseball’s best relievers, McHugh has already provided about one-third of the bWAR and almost half of the fWAR he did a year ago. He’s only pitched 17 innings.
During the Astros’ winning streak, McHugh has thrown 12 innings and allowed three earned runs to go with 13 strikeouts. He’s only given up seven hits in that span and beaten the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees, two playoff teams from a year ago. McHugh has been able to bewilder opponents with a heavy dose of his slider, which he’s throwing over 40% of the time and nearly twice as often as he did during a phenomenal 2018 campaign.
As the say, the proof is in the pudding.
40 Seconds of 22 Collin McHugh Sliders from tonight (either called or swinging strikes). pic.twitter.com/7woI0Dmhe6— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 11, 2019
In his most recent start, McHugh struck out Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge all three times he faced him. For the season, McHugh’s K-BB% is nearly identical to a year ago (25.7% in 2019) and he is putting up strikeout numbers comparable to the game’s elite.
#Astros currently have 3 starters in the top-10 for K/9:— Astros Stats (@astro_numbers) April 15, 2019
3. Gerrit Cole - 12.96 K/9
7. Justin Verlander - 11.74 K/9
9. Collin McHugh - 11.65 K/9
Carlos Correa and the Improved Defense
Another guy who looks like a potential MVP through the early stages of the season is Carlos Correa, and not just because of his stick. Correa’s mix of elegance and sheer strength has led to some dazzling plays in the field for the Astros.
Carlos Correa’s relay throw to get Semien was RIDICULOUS pic.twitter.com/K2q73QZcPK— Baseball Scoops (@BaseballScoops) April 8, 2019
What a play by Carlos Correa pic.twitter.com/yjrCgG1Z85— Baseball Scoops (@BaseballScoops) April 10, 2019
The defense has quickly improved following Correa’s brief absence to begin the season. After committing four errors in the team’s first three games (all of which Correa missed with a minor neck injury), the Astros only have three errors during the win streak. On top of that, Correa’s return has allowed the Astros to lengthen their lineup in ways we were used to in 2017. Here’s a great stat showing the improved contact Correa is making—the best of his career, in fact—so far this season.
Jake Marisnick has also been really good defensively (duh) as well as at the plate. Even if his bat drops off a bit, Jake routinely makes difficult plays look simple and is a great luxury for the Astros to have on the roster.
Tonight's game of choice is Astros-Mariners, and Jake Marisnick made an excellent catch out there in CF. Verlander thought that ball was an extra-base hit right off the bat. Probably should have been; .620 xBA on the batted ball.— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) April 14, 2019
The combo of Will Harris, Ryan Pressly, and Roberto Osuna has been outstanding for the Astros, particularly during the win streak. The trio has pitched 14 innings over the last nine games and has 15 strikeouts, three walks, two wins, seven saves, and only one run allowed. The dominance of Pressly-Osuna, in particular, has given the Astros one of the game’s best 8th/9th inning duos.
He never gets enough credit, but Hinch inspires with his subtle yet sturdy confidence in his players and himself, as he did about two weeks ago in Arlington.
Hinch made the right decision going with Pressly for a four-out save against the Yankees last week and has also been willing to shuffle the lineup to keep the bench options ready and the regulars fresh.
Speaking of, shout out to Ron (who made another big mistake last night). The Astros haven’t lost since this guy went at them.
Help from the Others
Unlikely heroes are needed to stretch all a team can out of a prolonged winning streak. We’ve seen big at-bats and home runs during the win streak from:
and Aledmys Diaz
Lastly, just a Little bit of Luck
The final ingredient, a dose of luck, is always essential to sustain a winning streak. Altuve, one of the most swing-friendly hitters in the league, drew a walkoff walk to beat the Oakland Athletics.
The next night, Correa’s broken-bat infield hit was enough to score the winning run and cap a late rally over the New York Yankees.
In the series against the Seattle Mariners, Dee Gordon dropped a liner from George Springer to keep the inning alive. Altuve crushed a grand slam on the next pitch.
Even in the Astros’ most recent win, Roberto Osuna watched a drive from former Astro Domingo Santana hook just foul in the bottom of the ninth of a one-run game.
Tonight, the Astros look to extend their streak to 10 straight wins against the A’s. How long do you think the streak will go? Will the Astros break the franchise record of 12 straight victories?
How long will the Astros winning streak last?
This poll is closed