After losing at least 106 games in three straight seasons, the Astros finished at 70-92 last season. It was a small step in the right direction, but Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow sees more improvement on the way in 2015.
According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Luhnow was a guest on MLB Network’s “High Heat” with Christopher Russo on Friday and said that he thinks the Astros will have a winning record this season.
“The Astros, in my opinion, are going to have a winning record this year,” Luhnow said. “I’ll go on record as saying that. I believe this is a winning team, and I think this is the beginning of many years of winning teams.”
The Astros acquired slugger Evan Gattis in a trade with the Braves this week and have also signed infielder Jed Lowrie and relievers Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek this winter. Those additions have the potential to move the needle, but they’ll also need Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh to prove that their breakouts were for real and young players like George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, and Brett Oberholtzer to progress. Still, after years of essentially tanking during their rebuilding process, there’s no question that things are looking up for the franchise.
The Astros haven’t had a winning record since they went 86-75 in 2008.
Astros outfielder Robbie Grossman isn’t exactly a household name, but he was on all the TV sets late Saturday night when he went to the wall in right field and robbed Blue Jays pinch-hitter Juan Francisco of a game-tying two-run home run in the eighth inning, preserving Brett Oberholtzer’s win.
Manager Bo Porter brought in lefty reliever Tony Sipp when the Blue Jays pinch-hit Francisco for right-hander Danny Valencia. Sipp’s first pitch to Francisco was an 81 MPH slider, and Francisco put a charge into it, sending a fly ball out to deep right field. Grossman ranged back, timed his leap, and snagged the ball at the apex of his jump with his glove clearly above and beyond the yellow line at the top of the fence.
The Astros hung a four-spot on the Jays in the bottom of the eighth, bumping their lead to 8-2 and ultimately winning by that score. The game had a little bit of everything: SABR 44, the open roof, a knuckleballer, Grossman’s catch, and Jonathan Singleton’s inside-the-park home run.
This wasn’t quite in the Bob Boone/Pete Rose echelon of deflected pop-up catches, but Angels reliever Mike Morin made a good one nonetheless on Sunday afternoon against the Astros. With a runner on first base and two outs in the top of the eighth inning, Jonathan Singleton popped up a 3-1 fastball.
Catcher Hank Conger and first baseman C.J. Cron both came in to attempt to catch the ball a few feet in front of the pitchers mound, but they bumped into each other. The ball deflected off of Hank Conger’s mitt and a crouching Morin sprang to his side to make the catch before the ball hit the ground.
The Angels went on to win 6-1, polishing off a four-game series sweep of the Astros. At 51-36, the Angels have the second-best record in the American League. The best team happens to play in the AL West as well, however, as the Athletics lead by 3.5 games with a 55-33 record.