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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Astros: And On the Seventh Day... 

God created the universe in six days. The Astros accomplished something almost as miraculous in that same time span, running their win streak to six games with a 9-3 sweep-clinching win today in Cincinnatti. Tomorrow, they get a well-deserved rest.

I've long thought that the Reds' sweep of Houston May 21-24 was the catalyst for the funk that consumed almost half of the Astros' season. The Good Guys rode high into Cinci with a 24-16 record and left with their tail between their legs. After that debacle, the Stros went into a stretch of medicority that saw them win as many as four straight games just once more before the All-Star Break.

The offense that had led the league in multiple categories disappeared during that stretch, scoring five or more runs just fourteen times in the 44-game span. Compare that to the twenty-five instances in the previous 44, in which Houston tallied as many as five runs, and it's not hard to figure out why the Astros limped into the Break at .500.

Houston's 13-3 record since Aug. 15 has been a Twighlight Zone-esque performance. Balls are leaving the yard right and left, and the Houston bats, which used to go quiet in the late innings, have surged to lift the club to multiple come-from-behind wins. In short, the Astros have looked like the we saw for most of April -- and the one we expected to see all season -- in the past month.

That's why I don't think that it's unreasonable to expect the Stros to maintain this tear for the rest of the season. Sure, they probably won't keep up the incredible pace of the last week for another four, but we know this team has talent. They showed it in April and most of them have shown it over the course of many years. Why they bottomed-out for three months is unknown. Maybe it had to do with Jimy Williams' lackadaisical approach. Maybe it was just a case of most of the team hitting that inexplicable slump -- the one every baseball player seems to have for a period each season, where nothing goes right -- at about the same time.

I don't know, and I really don't care. The important thing is that they're playing great baseball at a great time.

Tomorrow the club takes a break before hostinh Pittsburgh for a weekend series. The Bucs have a scrappy young team that isn't going to roll over just because they're out of the race. They're going to play tough and Houston needs to stay sharp to keep gaining ground.

The Stros opened September today the way they finished August yesterday. We're in this thing, and call me a homer, but I truly believe that Houston can achieve the unbelievable. They just have to keep it up.


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