LOS ANGELES – Even with the team as beat up as they are, Dusty Baker still has his boys rallying.
After trouncing their division rival in the Oakland Athletics 10-1 and then dropping a 7-5 decision to the Minnesota Twins on Memorial Day, they’re now 31-21 on the season and are second in the AL West, three games behind their fellow Lone Star State neighbor in the Texas Rangers.
Dusty Baker Battling Injuries
The Astros have been without star second baseman Jose Altuve all year following an injury in the World Baseball Classic, as well as fellow MLBbro Michael Brantley. “The Professional” is nursing a shoulder injury that’s supposed to keep him out until around the All-Star break.
In addition to those key absences, the Stros lost one of their best pitchers in Luis Garcia due to Tommy John surgery.
And yet, they’re still 10 games above .500, mainly because of the culture they’ve been able to establish and the belief they have in one another, and it all starts at the top with Baker.
Baker will turn 74 in June, and has been managing clubs since 1993. All this time managing teams, it took him 30 years, in his third season with Astros, to finally lead a team to a championship. He was only the seventh MLB manager since 1969 to win a championship as both a player and a manager.
Dusty Baker Builds On Illustrious Career
Before winning it all, Baker had won National League Manager of the Year three different times, during his stint managing the San Francisco Giants. He’s the current active leader in manager wins in the MLB, and was the only manager in the top 10 ranking in wins all time to have not won a championship until that point.
He has always established himself as a very solid guy to lead a team and after last year’s World Series, Baker eliminated any doubts about his championship pedigree.
Last year’s win established him as one of the greatest managers that the game has ever seen, as he is only one of four MLBbro managers to lead a team to glory.
Time To Defend The Throne
And now, he has a challenge that he’s never had in his managerial career: to defend a world title.
The one thing that is different compared to other years is that the AL West has actually become competitive. The Mariners continue to roll from last season’s success, the first-place Rangers seem to have figured it out, and even the LA Angels have been in the fight as they have what some would consider the two best players in baseball in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Even with their fourth-best win percentage in the AL at .596, they’ve been a subpar hitting team, as they are 22nd in the league in on-base plus slugging percentage, and 23rd in home runs hit. However, what’s kept them at the top is that they’re one of the best teams in terms of pitching, as they lead the MLB in ERA at 3.16, and are second in WHIP at 1.17.
With Houston being as beat up as they are, them only being two games out of first is truly impressive. They’re only going to get healthier from here on out, and with Dusty still continuing to be one of the best managers in the league, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Astros once again be playing baseball deep in October.