The Astros swept a series for the first time in 2007 when they won all three games against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park this weekend. Great pitching from two of the most unlikely candidates, Wandy Rodriguez and Woody Williams and an offense suddenly come alive gave the Astros a much needed morale boost.
The Astros lost their stellar defensive short stop Adam Everett for 4 to 8 weeks with a fractured right leg when he collided with Carlos Lee trying to field a fly ball in left field on Thursday, June 14th. Eric Bruntlett was recalled from Class AAA Round Rock to fill the roster spot. Manager Phil Garner stated Bruntlett will get quite a few starts at Shortstop as will Mark Loretta. Loretta started two of the three games against the Mariners, with Bruntlett playing the day game on Sunday. Chris Burke may see some playing time at short stop also, but the majority of the playing time will most likely belong to Bruntlett.
Although the defense on the left side of the diamond will suffer with Everett on the DL, it looks like the offensive improvement with Lamb at 3rd base and Loretta at Short is making up for it. In the last three games, the Astros scored 24 runs and only allowed the Mariners 8.
A much tougher test will come starting Monday night as the Astros go on the road to the West Coast and visit the AL West leading Angels. After 3 games in Los Angeles, the Astros conclude their inter-league series with 3 games in Arlington. The Texas Rangers may be one of the worst teams in baseball, but they took 2 of 3 games from the Astros at Minute Maid Park last month. Their return to all NL games begins on the road as they continue on to Milwaukee for a 3 game series with the NL Central leading Brewers.
If the offense keeps producing runs on a nightly basis, the Astros could make some gains against the Brewers and get right back into the NL Central race. The starting pitching seems to have solidified enough to have quality outings again and the bullpen also seems to have righted itself. The key to winning on this road trip will be production from the heavy hitters—Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Luke Scott, and Hunter Pence. If those four guys are hitting at the same time, the Astros will score runs and get back to the winning side of .500 before the All Star Break.