By Jeremy Clements
Three errors and an off night from starting pitcher Kyle Lohse derailed the Cardinals chances of winning the opening game of the Cards series with the Houston Astros last night. It was the first time this season the Redbirds have faced Houston and for many of the players on the Astros roster, it was the first time they had ever faced any of the Cards pitchers.
With that in mind, I think that many probably overlooked the Astros. They don’t have many names that jump out at you, Carlos Lee isn’t young anymore, and their pitching staff isn’t composed of Cy Young contenders either. However, last night you saw that this team does have a few young stars in the making.
The list of players Houston will build around begins with Jose Altuve. He 2-for-5 including a three run homerun in last night’s victory, giving him a total of 36 hits in the clubs first 25 games. The last Astro to do that was Craig Biggio who had 34 hits at this point of his 2004 season. Obviously it’s too early to project that Altuve will pan out the way Biggio did. However Jeff Lunhow should look at this guy as a key building block for his organization. Since being called up last season, Altuve has hit .302 with 17 doubles and 25 RBI’s. He’s proven capable of showing off the leather from time to time and has a .985 fielding percentage.
Another player Lunhow will look at is their 24-year old, left fielder J.D. Martinez, who leads the Astros with 20 RBI and a .430 on base percentage. He’s also tied for the team lead with 3 home runs has a team high 19 walks this season. He has yet to commit an error this season and has a lot of potential to get even better as he develops at the big league level.
Staying the in the outfield, the focus of Lunhow shifts to center, where 25-year old Jordan Shafer uses his speed to track down fly balls. He hasn’t proven to be dangerous with his bat, but when he does reach base look out. Shafer likes to run and his team leading 11 stolen bases tie him with Starlon Castro and Dee Gordon for 2nd most in all of baseball. If he shows signs of improvement at the plate, I don’t know how Lunchow could overlook extending a player who could turn into one of the premier base stealers in the game.
If you combine the players mentioned above with a pitching staff who has proven to plague Cardinal hitters recently, you might make the case that the Astros leaving the NL Central is a blessing in disguise. Last night the Cards learned that you can’t take a young team for granted or give them extra outs by committing errors.