Astros stumble to close opening third of season

On May 26, the Astros were 22-23 and they were in a 6-6 tie with the Dodgers in LA. I had predicted 25 wins for the Astros over the first 54 games of the season, and my prediction looked like a lock.

Then A.J. Ellis goes deep for a three-run walk-off, and the Astros drop eight in a row.

With a sweep-avoiding win Sunday over the Reds, the Astros finish the Beginning of the season at 23-31.

On the bright side, they are on pace to exceed the 63-win over/under mark set by Vegas handicappers. Jose Altuve has been a positive, batting .316 out of the gate. Jed Lowrie has been a pleasant surprise with 9 homers and a .291 average.

The Astros are a respectable 8th in the NL in team batting, and the team ERA of 3.99 is a not-so-horrible 10th in the league.

Prior to this most recent skid, with the .500 mark in sight, there were even whispers of words like "competitive" and "relevant" in connection with this team.

But now, it's going to be hard to get on any Astros bandwagon. This group has proven that the bottom can drop out at any time, and when it does the Astros go from scrappy to crappy in a hurry.

My 75-win prediction is still within reason. Barring an extended collapse, the Astros won't be the worst team in baseball. Thanks to the Cubs, they have a good chance not to be the worst team in their division.

However, nothing we've seen over the first 54 games should have any Astros fans looking at the Reds' 7.5-game lead over Houston and thinking "Hmmm, seven and a half games isn't that big a lead."