Keys to a streak? Starters, runs & young 'pen

5 reasons why the Astros have won eight in a row

August 21st, 2020

Astros manager Dusty Baker warned his team not to get too comfortable Thursday afternoon. Even after they scored five times in the second inning to take a five-run lead and after they added five more in the fifth to take a seven-run lead, Baker wasn’t at ease.

After all, no lead is safe at Coors Field, and Baker knows that all too well from his time managing the San Francisco Giants. So when Josh Reddick made a great diving catch in right field to rob Trevor Story of an RBI double for the final out in a 10-8 win, only then could Baker relax.

“I could tell he had a beat on it,” Baker said. “The ball was slicing back towards him. I know he had a chance and I just wanted him to hold onto the ball when he hit the ground. That was the hardest part of it. He looked like Superman on that one. That was a big catch, because I’ve seen them come back here many, many times.”

The Astros did all their damage in two innings, scoring five runs in both the second and fifth frames, capping their scoring with a three-run homer by Abraham Toro that was the difference. The win extended their winning streak to a season-high eight games, including four in a row over the Rockies.

“We’re playing really good,” said second baseman Jose Altuve, who went 2-for-5. “Of course, we’ve missed the boys that are not [with] the team right now because they’re hurt, but at the same time, we’re enjoying the way the guys are playing right now. Eight in a row is good, and we want to keep playing hard and continue to win games.”

The Astros keep winning despite being ravaged by injuries. Slugger Yordan Alvarez, the 2019 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner, will have right knee surgery next week and will be out for the season. Alex Bregman, last year’s runner-up in the AL Most Valuable Player Award race, was placed on the IL prior to Thursday’s game with a right hamstring injury.

Still, nothing seems to slow down Houston. Here are five reasons why the Astros have won eight in a row:

1. Piling up the runs
The Astros have scored double-digit runs three times during their eight-game winning streak, including the last two games in Denver. They’re averaging six runs per game during the streak, hitting .400 (28-for-70) with runners in scoring position. They’ve only hit four homers in the eight games, so the clutch hits have been pivotal to the offense’s success.

2. Solid starters
Prior to Cristian Javier’s outing Thursday in which he allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings, the Astros’ starting pitching has been terrific, even without injured ace Justin Verlander. Houston's starters have a 1.64 ERA during the eight games, with 17 walks and 45 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings. Six of the eight outings have been quality starts by definition.

3. Arrival of Kyle Tucker
With Alvarez only playing in two games in 2020 and Michael Brantley missing all eight games of the winning streak because of a right quad injury, Tucker has made the most of his playing time. The young outfielder is slashing .310/.323/.724 during the streak, with seven RBIs in his past three games. He also had three triples in the last two games in Denver and looks more comfortable than ever.

4. Young relievers stepping up
The Astros have used 12 rookie pitchers this season, and lefty Blake Taylor, hard-throwing right-hander Enoli Paredes and Andre Scrubb continue to rack up huge outs. Taylor and Paredes each threw a scoreless inning Thursday for a bullpen that has posted a 3.28 ERA during the eight-game streak. Five of the 10 runs the bullpen allowed in those eight games came on Thursday, but Houston had already built a big lead.

5. Workhorse catcher Martín Maldonado
Not only has the veteran Maldonado started 21 of 25 games behind the plate this season -- and seven of eight during the winning streak -- but he’s playing well. He’s slashing .304/.333/.609 with eight RBIs during the streak, tying him with Tucker for the team lead with 17 RBIs. He’s led a young pitching staff through numerous long games and has thrown out three of four trying to steal in the last four games.