Through last Sunday, the Houston Astros were 41-16 and riding a 10-game win streak. They were on pace for 117 wins, so we decided that we needed a weekly Astros piece to check on them as they pursued the single-season mark of 116 victories.
They extended their streak to 11 wins on Monday, but the rest of the week wasn't so awesome. But the Astros are still awesome! Here's what happened:
The week: 3-4
2001 Mariners through 64 games: 50-14
1998 Yankees through 44 games: 48-16
That projected win total would shatter the club record of 102 in 1998, the only 100-win season in franchise history. The only teams with more wins in the 162-game era are those Seattle Mariners (116) and New York Yankees (114).
Best win: Lance McCullers Jr. took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as the Astros beat the Kansas City Royals 6-1 on Thursday with a five-run ninth inning that included four runs off closer Kelvin Herrera. Josh Reddick led off the inning with a walk, and Jose Altuve followed with a two-run home run:
Tough loss: The win streak looked like it would go to 12 games when the Astros took a 7-1 lead in the fourth inning Tuesday. David Paulino and Chris Devenski got through seven innings with a 7-3 lead, but the Royals made it 7-4 and loaded the bases off Reymin Guduan and James Hoyt with two outs in the eighth inning, so A.J. Hinch called on closer Ken Giles, who promptly served up a three-run double to Whit Merrifield. In the ninth inning, Mike Moustakas won it with a two-out, walk-off home run after Salvador Perez beat the shift with a little dribbler into right field.
"I let my team down," Giles said after the game. "It's all on me. In my eyes, this team won today. My failure shouldn't overshadow what these guys did today. They did exactly what they needed to do. This is going to hurt for a little bit, all right."
Player of the week: Mike Fiers. The right-hander won both his starts, including a gem Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels in which he allowed two hits and an unearned run in 7 1/3 innings. With Dallas Keuchel landing back on the DL with neck discomfort, Fiers is suddenly an integral part of the injury-riddled rotation instead of the No. 5 starter. He has allowed a staggering 18 home runs in just 65 innings, but he has now gone three starts without allowing one. Hinch credited the improved results to a better changeup, while Fiers credited a better curveball. The truth: probably both!
Charlie Morton remains on the DL. Joe Musgrove will come off and start Monday against the Texas Rangers. Keuchel said he isn't going to rush back, telling MLB.com, "At this point, I didn't want to push it and have to revisit it later. So I decided to shut it down, and here we are. It's kind of a bad spot to put the bullpen in. I didn't really know how I was going to feel until I started to warm up [on Wednesday]. I wanted to do something now and not revisit later in the season when we're getting ready for the playoffs and hopefully playing in October."
The week ahead: vs. Rangers (3), vs. Boston Red Sox (3)
Musgrove draws the two spotlight starts: Monday versus Yu Darvish and Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN versus David Price. The Astros are 6-1 against the Rangers after going just 4-15 against them in 2016. The Yankees, riding a five-game win streak, have surpassed the Astros in run differential, and the Colorado Rockies, winners of eight of 10, are even closer for best record in MLB, just 3.5 games behind.
Player to watch: Yuli Gurriel The first baseman has three home runs in his past seven games, as he has given the Astros a power source in the bottom of the lineup. His plate discipline, however, remains less than desirable, as he has just six walks in 213 plate appearances. His overall line is mediocre for a first baseman, though the Astros are probably willing to live with him as long he keeps popping a few home runs to go with his .276 average.
Prediction: 3-3. The Astros are at home, but not knowing what you'll get from Musgrove (4.89 ERA in starts), plus starts from Brad Peacock and Paulino, means Hinch will have to continue to milk a lot of innings from his bullpen.