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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Houston to repeat again?

Por MRod

In its spectacular path towards the first championship in the history of the franchise, the Houston Astros led the Major League offense in 2017. However, this season, it is the pitching who has the Texans in first place of the West Division of the American League, and what drives the aspirations to be the first double winner of American baseball in almost two decades.

According to ESPN, Houston powerful offense led both batting leagues (.282), runs scored (896), OBP (.346), OPS (.823) and was second in homers (238): However, it has looked less decisive in the first two months of the current season to compile the following numbers: 11th in batting (.254) and OPS (.738), 14th in homers (52) and 8th in runs (221). Despite that evident offensive reduction, Houston heads the 30 clubs of the Big Leagues in the run differential (+98), that is the relation between runs scored and allowed. Last season, the Astros were third in that department. What does the manager have to say about this? Is he worried? "As long as we keep winning, I do not care which player does it," manager AJ Hinch told ESPN Digital. "What we care about is playing real, real good baseball, we have good defense, a great pitching, batting, we are a very complete team," added the skipper.

After winning the third match of a very important series against powerful Cleveland Indians at Minute Maid Park, Houston starts the penultimate week of May with a 30-18 record and two games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels in their division. The current record of the Astros is the third best of the major leagues, behind those exhibited by the New York Yankees (30-13) and the Boston Red Sox (32-15).

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. offered outstanding pitching in the deciding game against Cleveland on Sunday, working seven shutout innings and leading the world champions in the 3-1 win. McCullers improved his ERA to 3.20, very good by traditional standards of the young circuit, but away from his rotation mates Justin Verlander (1.05), Gerrit Cole (1.75) and Charlie Morton (1.94), who are 1-2-3 in the leadership of the league. If you think this are just mere numbers, get this: the last team to have the first three league leaders at the end of the season was Cleveland in 1954 with Mike Garcia (2.64), Bob Lemon (2.72) and Early Wynn (2.73). Last year in the National League, the Washington Nationals had three of their pitchers in the top five of the earned run average. Houston's pitching staff has allowed 123 runs in 48 games and leads the majors in ERA (2.43), WHIP (0.97), strikeouts (494) and the rival’s lowest batting average (.195). Since 1920, the only team with fewer runs allowed in their first 48 games was Cleveland of 1968 with 112. If defense and offense take charge of some other games, Houston may as well be impossible to beat in the current season.