Cruising toward another AL West crown

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve celebrates with manager Dusty Baker Jr. after scoring the winning run on a wild pitch by Texas Rangers' Jonathan Hernandez during the 10th inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) (Eric Christian Smith, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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Hey guys, it’s Ari Alexander with the Houston Astros newsletter.

They are nearly guaranteed another 100-win season in 2022 and are cruising to yet another AL West crown and the best record in the American League. Houston has won its past three series, since uncharacteristically losing two out of three to Baltimore, while only scoring 4 total runs. But as always, we know the baseline of this team is 100 wins, so there’s stuff to nitpick.

Cold September

The Houston offense has done just enough to win games thanks to the excellent pitching, but since their 21-run salute against the Chicago White Sox, the Astros have mostly struggled to score runs. Yordan Alvarez is still feeling the effects of sore hands, while much of the rest of the lineup is treading water or worse. The Astros have only scored more than 5 runs twice in the past 17 games. They won the Rangers series scoring 4, 3, and 1. They swept the road Rangers series scoring 5 and 4. So far, the pitching has more than held up, but offense is sorely needed.

Hunter’s here

The Astros top pitching prospect Hunter Brown made his debut Monday night and threw 6 sparking shutout innings, with 5 strikeouts. Brown only gave up three hits and a walk.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Hunter Brown throws during a baseball game against the Texas Rangers Monday, Sept. 5, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Detroit native had his family fly in, and they were thrilled to see his debut. I spent time with them in the lead up to the game and through the first strikeout, and his dad was so nervous he was shaking. The Browns bought custom Astros jerseys with 58 BROWN on the back to support Hunter.

Brown’s idol is now-teammate Justin Verlander and his mechanics are a 1:1 match with JV. There may not be a spot for Brown in the playoff rotation, but a multi-inning bullpen role could be in his future.

Still a quality man

Framber Valdez’s quality start streak has run to 23. 23! STRAIGHT! QUALITY! STARTS! That’s insane!

Houston Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez delivers during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Texas Rangers, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Valdez is one away from the modern era single season record of 24, set by Jacob deGrom in 2018. That year deGrom won the NL Cy Young. Framber Valdez isn’t even the top Cy Young candidate on his own team (although, he should finish Top 5).

Watch for Jeremy Peña Sunday

Wednesday, I interviewed Jeremy Peña 1 on 1 on a number of topics relating to his growth into the player he is today and the current season. Peña has stepped out of the shadow of Carlos Correa and been a valuable player for the Astros in his own right.

Watch out for a feature on the Astros shortstop on Sports Sunday at 10:30 p.m.

About the Author:

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