The Astros whacked the hell out of the Royals last night, beating Kansas City 7-3 to extend their win streak to 11 games. It was the kind of game good teams win all the time, in which the Astros’ starter only lasted five innings and the 1-5 hitters went 4-21, but two homers and five RBIs from the 7 and 8 hitters made the difference.
Winning games like that is how you end up with a 42-16 record and the AL West pretty much in the bag before mid-June. If that record looks a little cockeyed to you—42 wins and just... 16 losses?—don’t worry, it’s not just you. 42-16 is a record we haven’t seen since 2001, when the Seattle Mariners set the single-season record for wins.
Do the Astros really have a shot at 116 wins? They aren’t a perfect team by any means—perhaps not even as flawless as last season’s Cubs, who won 103 games—but they are really good all over the field. Last night was a demonstration of the lineup’s depth, which when combined with the star power at the top of the order produces a team that leads the AL in runs, hits, homers, batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and OPS.
The starting rotation is probably the biggest reason to feel bearish about the Astros’ chances to break the wins record. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have been unhittable, but behind them are three guys with ERAs over 4.00. A mid-season trade for another frontline starter seems likely, but given that Houston already has a 14-game lead in the division, such a move would be done with an eye towards the playoffs rather than the wins record.
Even if the Astros don’t upgrade, the offense, Keuchel, McCullers, and the bullpen should be enough to win plenty of games. The pen has soaked up 192 innings so far and accumulated 3.7 WAR, making it second only to the Dodgers’ bullpen. Houston’s relievers also lead the league in strikeout rate, sitting down 11.6 batters per nine innings.
Whether the Astros can manage to stay on this historic pace ultimately feels like a second-order concern. They’re going to the playoffs whether they win 116 games or 95 games, and on the way they’ll keep playing some of the most entertaining baseball the league has to offer.