It’s too early to proclaim with any certainty that the Astros have brushed aside the offensive malaise that engulfed them for much of 2020. If the first four games of this season are any indication, Houston’s supercharged offense should terrify opposing pitchers.
The Astros polished off an impressive four-game sweep of the defending American League West division champion A’s with a 9-2 win Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum behind homers from Kyle Tucker, Jason Castro and rookie Chas McCormick. The Astros outscored the A’s, 35-9, in four games.
“Honestly, we just crushed them from pitch one to the last pitch of the whole series,” said McCormick, who slugged a three-run homer in the sixth inning in his first career start, which came as a replacement for the injured Michael Brantley. “We’re a great team -- defense, offense. We were all just clicking for the four games and it was cool to watch and cool to be a part of. I hope we keep this going.”
The Astros, who are 4-0 for the first time since 2001, are the fourth team in Major League history to score at least eight runs in their first four games, joining the 2003 Yankees, 1995 Red Sox and 1978 Brewers. It’s the first time in club history the Astros started out 4-0 on the road.
“Proud of our guys for battling against a good team,” said third baseman Alex Bregman, who went 2-for-4. “We’ve got to keep our head down, keep grinding and keep going.”
The fact the offensive outburst came against an A’s team that many were picking to win the division for the second year in a row provided an early-season bow shot by the Astros, who finished seven games behind the A’s last year and then beat them in the American League Division Series.
“We don’t feel good about it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s a little bit embarrassing. We played really poorly and they played great. In perspective, we have to look at it as just four games in 162. But we obviously have to play a little better. We got another tough team coming in (Dodgers) and then we go to Houston. We gotta turn things around. It’s not just going to happen for us. We have to play better baseball, and this was not good baseball for us.”
After scoring eight runs in Thursday’s season-opening win, the Astros hung nine runs on the A’s for three consecutive games (8.75 average). Last year, in 10 regular-season games against the A’s, the Astros managed just 25 runs (2.5 per game), but that was a snapshot of the troubles they had swinging the bat all season.
“The guys worked hard in Spring Training and they hit tirelessly in the cage and the field,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “They played a whole bunch of back-field games [in Spring Training] to try to get their stroke together, and they really didn’t like how they started last year.”
As a team, the Astros slashed .320/.398/.565 in the series with eight home runs and 20 extra-base hits. Alvarez, the 2019 American League Rookie of the Year who missed almost all of last season after knee surgery, was 5-for-17 with six RBIs; Jose Altuve was 6-for-16; Brantley was 6-for-9 with four doubles in three games, and Bregman was 6-for-12 with two homers.
“You can’t do much better than the start we had,” Baker said. “You realize it’s a long season and every series is not going to be like this, but you have to enjoy it while it lasts, and build off it and keep going from there. Our goal was to come in here and have some high-octane, high-offensive games, which we did. And we got some well-pitched games, too.”