Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 5/2/12
HOUSTON -- It was one three-game series bridging the close of April and the opening of May, so in a sense it's too early for unbridled enthusiasm. But victories are validating. For franchises with rosters teeming with youngsters seeking to find their place in the majors, sweeps aren't casually disregarded. No one expects the Astros to harp on their whitewashing of the Mets, a three-game set capped by a crisp, 8-1 win on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park. However, they do deserve to smile. "We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves," Astros manager Brad Mills said, exercising the proper amount of modesty. "But again, the biggest thing is these guys are realizing the things that they're doing wins games, and if they do these things then we can continue to win games. That's the biggest thing that I think we're getting from this. "We want to make sure that we're keeping everything right here where it needs to be. We're going to enjoy it now and start thinking about the Cardinals and really lock in with them on Friday. We don't want to think of the past, things that haven't been too good that have gone on, but we don't' want to get too far in front of us. We want to make sure that we're focused on what we have to do." This sweep of the Mets (13-12) was the Astros' first since they handled the Pirates at Minute Maid Park last Aug. 29-31. They smacked five homers after opening the series with just 13 over the prior 22 games. Their starting pitchers -- Bud Norris, J.A. Happ and Wandy Rodriguez -- allowed seven earned runs on 19 hits and six walks over 20 innings with 19 strikeouts. Their bullpen hurled seven scoreless innings in relief, allowing only three hits in the process. The Astros (11-14) were precise and remarkably efficient. They confirmed their development. Some of their strides were more nuanced. Base runners aggressively pursued third base from first on hits to right field. Jordan Schafer scampered from second base to third on a bloop single to left field and helped shift momentum in the opener. The Astros did not commit an error in the series and struck out a total of 15 times. They manufactured scoring opportunities outside of the multi-run home runs provided by Matt Downs, Jed Lowrie, Chris Snyder and Chris Johnson, who belted two homers as part of his 4-for-4, six-RBI performance in the finale. "We have a lot of young guys trying to make a mark for themselves, trying to prove to themselves that they belong in the big leagues," Schafer said. "We have guys playing the game the right way and playing hard, so it's nice to see." Gradually, fans are taking notice. The Astros opened this season with nary an expectation. Their front office was revamped and an emphasis on rebuilding embraced. Ten players opened the season on a major-league roster for the first time. The staff ace, Rodriguez, was bestowed the honor eight seasons into his Astros career at the tender age of 33. With the bar so low, it was anticipated that the Astros would perform to form. Instead they have been plucky and poised, desirous and determined. Their six one-run road losses could be deemed deceiving, yet instead of leaving that record up for interpretation, the Astros confirmed that they have improved by sweeping the Mets. This series wasn't eye opening, but the results certainly raised an eyebrow or two. The Astros will not contend for a postseason berth, and the division-leading Cardinals could quite possibly stroll into Minute Maid Park and set the world back on its axis this weekend. But in rolling over the Mets the Astros showed a little something that some wouldn't have expected. It was just one series. But momentum can build from less than that. "We're not really trying to send messages; we're trying to win every game we can," Johnson said. "We really don't mind people coming in here thinking that they can just come in here and get a couple wins. That's fine with us. If you want to take that theory, go ahead, because we're going to try to win every series. "We've got a pretty confident bunch. I think it shows people outside the locker room what we can do, and that makes us all feel good. But I think we're all pretty confident here and we know what we can do as long as we clean a couple things up and play like we did this series." Follow me on Twitter @moisekapenda
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