The season is nearly one-third of the way complete, and it is safe to say the Astros are not where they want to be. They won 86 games last year and played in the ALDS, so expectations for 2016 were high for the young, up-and-coming team.
Rather than build on that success, the Astros have struggled. Entering Wednesday, they were 7 1/2 games back in the AL West. They improved their record to 25-29 thanks to George Springer's 11th-inning walk-off home run (HOU 5, ARI 4).
To the video:
A little more than a week ago, Astros manager A.J. Hinch made a subtle change atop the lineup in an effort to spark his offense. All he did was swap Springer with Jose Altuve. Altuve batted first and Springer batted second for the first 45 games of the season. Now Springer leads off and Altuve hits second.
Has the move worked? For Springer, it sure has. Wednesday was his ninth game as the leadoff hitter, and in those nine games he has gone 18 for 40 (.450) with four doubles, four home runs, and nine RBI. He has a .511 on-base percentage, too. Can't beat that production from the leadoff hitter.
The Astros still have a long way to go to get back into the race -- they're now 6 1/2 games out of first -- and if they do manage to make a run at a postseason spot, Springer will lead them there from atop the lineup.