Rebuilding doesn’t have to be entirely depressing.
The Astros — predicted by many to be a 100-loss team — won their fifth straight game on Saturday night in Houston, and their second straight against the defending World Series champion Cardinals.
Houston is one game under .500 (13-14), good enough for third place in the National League Central.
Jose Altuve, a 21-year-old Venezuelan second baseman, is batting .346/.389/.529. Shortstop Jed Lowrie, acquired in a steal of a trade this winter with the Red Sox, has a .979 OPS and four home runs. Wandy Rodriguez is sporting a 1.64 ERA through six starts. And left fielder J.D. Martinez ranks 13th in the major leagues with 20 RBI.
There will be regression at some point. The rotation isn’t deep and Wandy is likely to be moved near the deadline for prospects. But the ‘Stros seem to be enjoying their flirtation with relevance and Minute Maid Park is outpacing seven other MLB stadiums — including first-place Cleveland’s Progressive (Jacobs) Field.
Cardinals 2, Astros 8
Dodgers 5, Cubs 1
Phillies 1, Nationals 7
Orioles 8, Red Sox 2
White Sox 3, Tigers 2
Diamondbacks 3, Mets 4
Brewers 2, Giants 5
Reds 2, Pirates 3
Rangers 5, Indians 2 (11 innings)
Yankees 1, Royals 5
Athletics 4, Rays 3 (12 innings)
Braves 13, Rockies 9
Marlins 4, Padres 1
Blue Jays 2, Angels 6
Twins 0, Mariners 7
Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.
Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.
Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.