Astros Move Into Wild Card Contention in June
The Houston Astros had their best month of the 2016 season in June with a record of 18-8, moving past the .500 mark into second place in the AL West Division. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they lost ground to the first place Texas Rangers, falling 8 ½ games behind after being 7 ½ games behind at the end of May. The Rangers were 20-8 in June including 3-1 against the Astros.
Since May 24, the Astros have won 25 games while losing only 9. The team has played much better on the road than they did last year. During this 34 game stretch, they compiled a record of 13-7 in road games.
The Astros swept two 3-game series against the Los Angeles Angels in June and also swept a 3-game series at home against Oakland and a 2-game series at St. Louis. Both the hitting and pitching were improved in the month. The team on-base percentage was .354 in June, second only to the Baltimore Orioles at .357. The Astros scored an average of 5.19 runs per game while holding opponents to 3.38. The team scored 10 or more runs in a game 5 times in June, highlighted by back-to-back 13 run games in Kansas City against the defending World Champions.
Individually, several Astros performed well in June, starting with Jose Altuve who hit .420 for the month with an on-base percentage (OBP) of .492 and a slugging average (SLG) of .620. He was named American League Player of the Month for June. Altuve leads the major leagues in hitting (.357) but has lost his lead in stolen bases to former Astro, Jonathan Villar of Milwaukee. Luis Valbuena (.316), Colby Ramos (.313) and Carlos Correa (.303) also batted over .300 for the month and Valbuena and Correa both had an OBP over .400 and a SLG over .500. Evan Gattis had 7 home runs and Carlos Gomez finally started producing after coming off the disabled list, hitting .286 with 3 home runs in June. Top prospect, A. J. Reed, made his major league debut but started slowly going 0 for 15 with 8 strikeouts.
On the pitching side, Doug Fister was again the top starter with 4 wins and an ERA of 2.45 in June. Dallas Keuchel won his last 2 starts and is showing signs of regaining his 2015 form. The other three starters, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers and Mike Fiers were consistent. Will Harris took over as closer and converted all 7 of his save opportunities.
The minor league teams also improved in June. Corpus Christi in the Class AA Texas League came on strong to win the first half championship and qualify for the playoffs. The other three full-season farm clubs have combined with Corpus Christi for a record of 164-145 at the end of June. The three short-season domestic farm teams began play in June but have started slowly with a combined record of 10-19.
The Astros have a favorable schedule in the month of July with 16 of their 25 games at home and no games scheduled against the Texas Rangers. They have nine more games against the Rangers in August and September to try to offset their 1-9 record against the Rangers earlier in the season The Rangers have won 51 games at the end of June, the same number as the Chicago Cubs, a team that some baseball analysts are comparing with the great teams of the past.