Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 7/16/12
Much is being made of the Astros thirteen game road losing streak. That is only natural. It IS a long streak. But the current road trip still has seven games to play. Not only will that streak end, but the Astros may have a chance to actually split or win the series opening in San Diego Monday night. For one thing the Padres record is only slightly better than the Astros'. The Padres are a sub .500 team at home...ten games under .500 in fact. But perhaps mostly important are field dimensions and pitching match ups. In San Francisco no matter who the Astros pitched the Giants had a better starter. The Giants had a stronger middle of the batting order and frankly just had a better club. Hey, they won the World Series only two years ago and are holding down first place in the NL West now. That was a good team that took all three from the Astros over the weekend. And don't forget, they needed extra innings to take one of them and then closed the series with a one run win on Sunday. The Astros may have been beaten, but they were certainly not humbled. As for the Padre series Petco Park is a pitcher's park. Dimensions in the outfield are not conducive for many home runs. The Astros don't hit many so that won't put their offensive game at a disadvantage. And while the four Padre starters are serviceable they cannot be compared with what the Giants offered. Kip Wells, Ross Ohlendorf, Clayton Richards and Edinson Volquez will face J.A. Happ, Jordan Lyles, Wandy Rodriguez and Lucas Harrell in that order. That does not give the Padres any sort of guaranteed advantage. It most definitely does not at spacious Petco Park. With no pennant hopes on the line and a club struggling why should you--Astros Fan-- pay much attention to what the team is doing now? If you want to know what the Astros have and whether there is reasonable hope for improvement from the current players you need to watch them play. You can't make reasonable decisions just by checking the box score. You have to SEE what players do at bat, on defense and on the mound. For awhile you will have a chance to see more from shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. In his sporadic playing time he has looked good. The switch hitting shortstop may have wider range than the currently injured incumbent, Jed Lowrie. And he may be a better hitter than expected entering the season. You, like Astro management, can evaluate players like Scott Moore, and Brian Bixler who are on the club based on merit while playing at Oklahoma City. They may not be in long term plans, but are trying to take advantage of the chances offered. Add Justin Maxwell to the "intriguing, but unproven" list, too. He has good power, but will he be able to get enough other hits? You can evaluate players like Chris Johnson, Brian Bogusevic, J.D. Martinez, Jordan Schafer and even Jose Altuve to decide if they are going to be able to earn the right to be long time major leaguers and maybe even stars--or if they simply fall into that large pool of players who hang around for awhile, but never really develop to help a team become a big winner. Many games must be played to properly evaluate. To do it right every player needs to be given a lot of time. Judging an offensive player only after he has faced the Giants pitching staff is hardly any more fair than making a final decision on a pitcher after he has only faced the Yankees or Rangers. All of this is why continuing to pay attention to the Astros in this series with the Padres is important for fans. It will be a fairer test to see if there IS any progress being made with the current group of players. For the Astros to re-build to success as soon as possible some of this group has to be part of that foundation.
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