HOUSTON — The Houston Astros return to the field today following the All-Star break. And while it hasn’t been the greatest half in club history, it hasn’t been as historically bad as many fans have grown, or groaned, used to in recent years.
Actually, there are a few bright spots for Houston, and one of those is League City’s own Jarred Cosart.
In his second MLB season, his first starting the year on the opening-day roster, Cosart has posted a 9-6 record with a respectable 4.17 ERA and headed into the break as one of the hottest pitchers in baseball.
Since May 11, Cosart is 8-3, which is tied for tops in the AL for wins during that span and second in the majors, trailing only Los Angeles Dodgers starter and All-Star Clayton Kershaw (9-2).
Cosart and Dallas Keuchel (9-5) give the Astros two pitchers with nine or more wins at the break for the first time since 1999, when the trio of Jose Lima (13-4), Mike Hampton (11-3) and Shane Reynolds (11-6) completed the feat.
And in some regards, the first half has been historically good for Houston.
Rookie outfield George Springer, called up the to the majors on April 16, set franchise rookie records for homers (19) and RBIs (50) before the break and is just two long balls shy of tying Lance Berkman’s rookie home-run record for a full season (21).
Then there’s Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the squad’s lone 2014 All-Star, who leads the majors in hits (130) and multi-hit games (40). Altuve tops the AL in steals (41) and stolen base percentage (93.2) and is second in batting average (.335) and doubles (29).
He set a franchise record at the break in hits, topping Bob Watson’s 123 hits in 1973, and his steal total is the second-highest in club history before the All-Star game, trailing only Gerald Young’s 47 swipes in 1988.
And since the All-Star era began in 1933, Altuve is the only Major League player to reach both 130 hits and 40 steals before to the break.
All that individual success has led to more wins on the field. With a 40-56 record — Houston won only 51 games all of last year — the Astros find themselves not in last place of the AL West but actually 11⁄2 games ahead of the Texas Rangers.
And with a winning percentage of 41.7, Houston is on pace to break a span of three years with 100-plus losses.
The Astros have the youngest overall roster in MLB with an average age of 26.8, and 24-year-olds Cosart, Springer and Altuve are part of that talented nucleus Sports Illustrated recently dubbed the 2017 World Series champions.