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Streaking Taveras Leading Astros in Wildcard Chase

Willy Taveras is trying to push the Astros into the playoffs

Just a few weeks ago, the Houston Astros did not figure to be in contention for the National League Wildcard, and were focusing on 2007. While the bats were there — Lance Berkman, Luke Scott, and Morgan Ensberg are all very good hitters — and the arms were there — Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens are both pitching well — the Astros just couldn’t get it together and win ballgames. That all seems to have changed, now that one of the most exciting young players in baseball is leading the Astros in the Wildcard chase.

Willy Taveras, after a very promising 2005 season, in which he led the MLB in infield hits, seemed to have run out of magic early this year. He was one of the major factors in leading the Astros to the playoffs and eventually to the World Series, because he was able to get hits out of otherwise routine plays for opposing infielders, due to his amazing speed. As his bat went silent, the Astros were looking down as well, but in late-July and August, Taveras has turned it on at the plate.

Taveras owns the 2nd-longest hitting streak in baseball this season, at 30 games and rising. His ability to get on and steal bases (Taveras has 28SB’s on the season), makes it much easier for Houston to get a rally going, and to score runs. And that has helped the Astros win games.

While Taveras statistics may not indicate it, he is a major factor in how the Houston Astros perform. If he’s going 0-for-4, Houston is losing if he’s going 2-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored, the Astros are coming away victorious; in other words, as Taveras goes, so go the Astros. Since Taveras’ streak began, the Astros have made a run at the NL Central division and at the NL Wildcard. They are now 6.5 games behind in the division, and 4 games out in the wildcard. Those deficits have been decreasing, which means the Astros are playing well at the right time.

Houston still has 6 games remaining against St. Louis, and 3 games left against Cincinnati, so if the Astros stay hot, they can definitely still make a run at both the Wildcard and the NL Central division. The important thing for the Astros though, is that Willy Taveras must remain hot.

For those wondering if Willy Taveras can beat Joe DiMaggio’s streak of 56 consecutive games with a hit, I would say his chances are about 15%. Taveras is more than likely to face some tough pitchers that will make it difficult for him to get a hit in the coming weeks. On the other hand, he has a knack for getting infield- or bunt-hits, so his speed will definitely help him get “cheap” singles. If Wheelin’ Willy does pass Joltin’ Joe, his streak will reach 57 games on Wednesday September 27, when the Astros take on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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