Break Up the Astros
The Houston Astros finished the month of July with 4 straight wins, outscoring the opposition 25-2.Â It was the first winning month for the Club with a record of 13-11.Â Most of the credit goes to the pitchers with the starters compiling a 2.54 ERA, the best in the league for the month.Â Brett Myers was 3-0 with an ERA of 1.67 and Wandy Rodriguez was 4-1 with an ERA of 2.38.
Unfortunately, the strong pitching did not translate into as many wins as might be expected. Â The Astros offense improved slightly in July but continued to perform at a level below the league average.Â Rookie Chris Johnson hit .359 in July and finished the month on a 14-game hitting streak.Â Jeff Keppinger batted .353 and Hunter Pence hit .312 in July.Â However, Carlos Lee batted .247, Lance Berkman hit .233 and Michael Bourn batted .195.Â The team on-base percentage finally reached .300 but remains last in the league as does the slugging average of .357.Â The team batting average of .241 is slightly ahead of the Pirates.
The Astros are scoring 3.64 runs per game for the season which ranks 15th in the National League while allowing 4.81 runs per game.Â In July, the Astros scored 4.00 runs per game and allowed 3.88.
Speaking of breaking up the Astros, that is exactly what happened when long time Astro stalwarts Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman were traded to the Phillies and Yankees respectively after both waived their no-trade clauses.Â In return, the Astros received two major league ready players, pitcher J.A.Happ and first baseman, Brett Wallace, and three promising minor league prospects.Â Â Oswalt leaves with 144 wins, one less than franchise leader, Joe Niekro with 145.Â Berkman ranks second behind Jeff Bagwell as the Astros all-time home run leader and he is the Clubâ€™s all-time leader in on-base percentage (.410) and slugging average (.549).Â His .296 batting average with the Astros ranks behind only Jeff Bagwell and Bob Watson, both with .297.Â Berkman ranks in the top three in most career offensive categories with the Astros.
Another change in July was the appointment of Jeff Bagwell as batting coach.Â While he may have some limitations in coaching batting mechanics he should be very valuable in helping hitters with their approach at the plate.Â There was some evidence of this toward the end of the month.
While the Astros are not in contention, the final two months of the season should provide some interesting baseball with the new players if the team can keep playing with the energy displayed at the end of July.