Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 5/23/12
Before the season began, many people thought the Astros in their rebuilding mode were destined to lose over 100 games for the second straight season. The club was without any established hitters in their prime and the new young regulars had not proven anything yet in the major leagues. The pitching staff was headed by an under achiever with a great arm and a veteran lefty who had only been a .500 pitcher during his career. But so far, led by those two pitchers, things have changed. Bud Norris has been living up to all that has been hoped from him and more. Things were rocky in April, but since May began he has won four games with an earned run average of 0.35. Fellow starter Wandy Rodriguez has won four games overall with an earned run average for the season in the low 2.00 range. It may be contagious. J.A. Happ has been superb in his last two starts. With one inning exception Jordan Lyles has been impressive when he has been able to work. And Lucas Harrell has been a solid "hang with 'em" type starter. He has not been as impressive as the big two, but with any offensive help at all has shown he can certainly compete. The bullpen has been "shut down" in close games. And the Astros are 20-23. Yes, that is still under .500, but it is a long shot better after 43 games than Houston has been since 2008. If you remember 2008 was the last season the Astros were relevant in a pennant race. They were not eliminated until September 26 -- after the 159th game. Players on that team included several that are still around in baseball, although not Astros, with Michael Bourn, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Ty Wigginton, Edwin Maysonet, Humberto Quintero, Jose Valverde and Randy Wolf being the most prominent. Wandy Rodriguez is still an Astro. He is the only one. Funny thing in doing my research I was reminded that Kaz Matsui was the regular second baseman on the last Astro winning team. It has been fashionable to kick him as a player the club should have never acquired. Yet, in that last winning season he hit .about .295 with 20 stolen bases. He was good when the club last was. After 43 games that year the Astros were 24-19. They were two and a half games off the National League Central lead. This season they may be under .500, but only four games off the top spot. They finished the season 86-75 After 2008 and prior to this season the 43 game point has not shown the Astros in a good spot. In 2009 they were 18-23 en route to a 74-88 record. In 2010 they were 15-28 and finished at 76-86. Last year they had an identical 15-28 and ended at 56-106. After losing a team-record 106 games in 2011, a finishing mark of 74 to 76 wins would be a tremendous improvement. Before the season began most fans and front office types would have been happy for a finish like that... an improvement of 18 to 20 games. Now, however, that may not be the case. Baseball has a long season and a team's current pace and improvement doesn't always hold. The same obviously holds for clubs that are talented but get off to slow starts. Things tend of even up. However, if the Astros pitchers can continue to show that they can keep games within range, even the offensive holes in the current lineup can be hidden somewhat. No team can be a big winner with the lack of offensive production coming from the Houston corner outfielders so far unless it is picked up at positions that are not usually expected to provide it. Jed Lowrie at shortstop has picked up some of the missing power, but not enough to cover the lack of help from others. At some point Astro pitching may not be quite as strong as it has been. The hitting needs to come around. In the mean time fans can at least be happy knowing this club is on a pace through 43 games to be the best Astro team in the last four years. That would be something to build on.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Dolphins reached out to Peyton Manning about possible comeback

The Baltimore Orioles tied an MLB record they can’t be proud of

Report: Knicks afraid of Porzingis rebelling, hurting their image

Report: Blake Griffin opts out of contract to become free agent

Report: Wolves targeting Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, other point guards in free agency

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Conor McGregor’s coach says tentative plans include a return to UFC in 2017

Report: Mets open for business on the trade market

Markelle Fultz believes the Sixers are already a playoff team

Report: Jimmy Butler’s attitude toward Fred Hoiberg made players ‘uncomfortable’

St. Louis Cardinals to hold first LGBTQ Pride Night

John Mara: Extending Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t team’s No. 1 priority

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Kicking it: David Villa isn't interested in a 'retirement tour'

Box Score 6/23: Philly continues to trust the process

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Kicking it: David Villa isn't interested in a 'retirement tour'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker