Surging since Mexico series, Astros dominate A's

Houston improves to 12-6 since declaring 'we're better than this' in team meeting

May 17th, 2024

HOUSTON -- Prior to flying to Mexico City for their two-game series against the Rockies late last month, the Astros cleaned their slate. They were a disappointing 7-19 after getting swept by the Cubs, but they met as a team and decided none of that mattered anymore. The Astros hit the reset button on the 2024 season.

Three weeks later, the rejuvenated Astros have clawed their way into third place in the American League West and have righted the ship. They’ve gone 12-6 in 18 games since, including an 8-1 win over the A’s on Thursday to polish off a four-game sweep at Minute Maid Park.

“We went into Mexico City after our meeting in Chicago and said, ‘It’s time to go. We’re better than this in all aspects of the game,’” manager Joe Espada said. “The guys have responded well to that. It’s a long season and we’ve got a ways to go. We’ve got to continue to build on the way we’re playing right now, but I’m very pleased.”

Astros starter fired six scoreless innings, and rookie outfielder ’s first career home run capped a six-run third inning on Thursday. The Astros outscored the A’s, 22-4, in the sweep, which was their first four-game sweep since May 5-8, 2022, against Detroit. Houston has won seven of its last eight games.

“I just think we’re executing better in all facets of the game -- on the mound, at the dish, putting better at-bats together, playing good defense,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “Overall I think the biggest thing is everybody is executing better. I just feel like we’re playing better as a team now. We’re playing baseball. You guys can see it, as well. We’re just playing team ball now.”

How did the Astros flip the script from one of baseball’s biggest early-season disappointments to a surging buzzsaw?

It begins with starting pitching, and more specifically, getting their rotation healthy. The Astros began the season with four starting pitchers on the injured list, and have since seen both Framber Valdez and Javier spend time on the IL. Astros starters have a 0.64 ERA and a .156 batting average against in 28 innings during the five-game win streak. They haven’t allowed a homer in that stretch.

Javier, who was rocked for seven runs and five hits in 1 1/3 innings in his first start off the injured list on Saturday, struck out a season-high eight batters and allowed two hits while throwing 80 pitches (52 strikes).

“I think the biggest adjustment for me was trying to stay as focused as possible and attack the strike zone as quickly as I can and try to throw my pitches inside the strike zone,” he said.

Offensively, the Astros are slashing .299/.362/.461 during the five-game streak with five homers. They’re hitting .302 with runners in scoring position in that stretch, which was a huge issue in April. A surging Bregman (.387 average, 1.200 OPS in his last eight games) has been a big reason why, but there have been big hits up and down the lineup.

All six runs the Astros scored in the third off Oakland starter Joey Estes came with two outs, including a three-run double by Yainer Diaz that got the scoring started. Jake Meyers added an RBI double, and Loperfido cranked a homer to right field for a 6-0 lead. Loperfido led the Minor Leagues with 13 homers when he was called up April 30.

“I think just trying to build on that comfort level every at-bat, every day,” Loperfido said. “I was talking to Joe during BP today and we were talking about the bottom of the lineup just dropping something good in the bucket every night for a win, whether it’s a hit, a walk or a stolen base, playing the field. Just doing something to contribute.”

Since the start of the Mexico City Series, Houston’s bullpen has a 2.88 ERA in 18 games (5.13 in the team’s first 26 games). Their recent success has a lot to do with the rotation coming into form and the starters pitching deeper into games, which has allowed the relievers to settle into their roles.

No matter how you look at it, the Astros are rolling.

“It feels really good,” Bregman said. “We have to keep it going.”