Hot salsa returns, nitpicking and what’s next as Astros reach 80 wins

Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros bats against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning at Truist Park on August 21, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Brett Davis/Getty Images) (Brett Davis, 2022 Brett Davis/Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Hey guys, it’s Ari Alexander and like some of the previous newsletters, we’re going to nitpick because there simply isn’t much to complain about the Houston Astros. They have the best record in the American League, and they’re on pace for 104 wins this season. Let’s take a look at what happened this past week.

BRAVES STRIKE AGAIN

The Astros won both of their 2021 AL playoff series’ convincingly, but then struggled offensively against the lefty-heavy Atlanta Braves in the World Series. Houston’s three-game set against Atlanta at Truist Park was much of the same story, with the Braves giving the Astros fits. Houston won a close game and lost two close games, including an extra-inning walk-off. In the grand scheme of things, the Astros have mostly been good against good teams (7-2 vs. the AL #2 seed Yankees, 4-0 vs. the NL #2 seed Mets, haven’t played the NL #1 Dodgers), but something about the Braves gives them trouble.

THREE TOUCHDOWNS

The Astros put up 21 runs Thursday against the Chicago White Sox, with five of the nine starters having three-hit games. A lot has been said about the random low outputs when Houston’s offense gets shut down, but that 21-run game shows Houston’s peak -- a juggernaut lineup without relent.

HOT SALSA

Breggy Bomb Salsa comes in two flavors: hot and not as hot.

From April to about mid-June, the latter is how you would describe Bregman’s bat. Through June 15, he was hitting .216 with a .694 OPS, which was below league average. All-Star 3B Alex Bregman was a liability at the plate, in 61 games.

He made a mechanical tweak with his hip, kept his same keen-eyed approach and started hitting after that.

Starting June 17, Bregman has played 58 games (through Tuesday’s series opener vs. Minnesota). He’s hitting .318 with an OPS of .994, which are MVP-level numbers.

Bregman is back to being the hot salsa.

A QUALITY RECORD

Framber Valdez passed Mike Scott’s 1986 record for quality starts Wednesday night after throwing seven innings of one-run ball. Valdez has relatively quietly been a down ballot Cy Young contender in the American League, and moved into 4th place in the AL in ERA at 2.65. Only eight qualified pitchers in the AL have an ERA below 3.00 and the Astros hold two of them (Justin Verlander leads MLB with a 1.87 ERA).

Framber Valdez #59 of the Houston Astros delivers during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Minute Maid Park on August 24, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

Valdez leads the majors in quality starts and tied the modern major league record for a left-hander with 21 (set by Johan Santana). The modern record dates back to 1913, and it’s 24 set by Mets ace Jacob deGrom in 2018. That year deGrom had a 1.70 ERA and one of the greatest pitcher seasons ever. Valdez is only three more starts from tying that record.

Framber Valdez #59 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout prior to facing the Minnesota Twins at Minute Maid Park on August 24, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Astros finally get a bit of time off next week! Houston finishes up their series against Minnesota Thursday before hosting the Baltimore Orioles for three over the weekend. Then the Astros get a Monday day off before two games with the Texas Rangers in Arlington, then a Thursday off before a weekend series against the Angels on the road.


About the Authors:

Murrow and Emmy award-winning sports anchor & reporter. Avid traveler, mediocre golfer. Loves good food, good friends and southern rap.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.