The April jinx went from bad to worse. Dickie Thon, who had become an All-Star the year before, was hit in the head by a pitch from Mike Torrez on April 8th during a 3-1 loss to the Mets. The rising fastball glanced off the ear flap of Thon's batting helmet and shattered a bone above his left eye. Once the swelling went down, surgery was performed but Thon experienced blurred vision for many months. He was gone for the year.
Two days later, the injury bug struck broadcaster Gene Elston in the form of an automobile which flipped him while he was jogging in Philadelphia. He suffered a broken nose, a broken leg and other ailments. By the end of the month, five other players joined Thon on the disabled list while the Astros were dropping eight of nine games. 37-year-old Nolan Ryan helped to right the ship on May 6th when he outdueled 18-year-old Mets phenom Dwight Gooden, 10-1. Ryan contributed a single during an eight-run uprising.
Craig Reynolds reclaimed the job at shortstop while Enos Cabell came back to take over at first base. Slumping Ray Knight was traded to the Mets in August. With Alan Ashby injured again, Mark "Beetle" Bailey assumed duties behind the plate.
Power was rare again for the Houstonians. However, they accomplished a rare feat on July 24th in San Francisco when Cabell, Phil Garner and Jose Cruz hit consecutive homers. It was the first time three Astros had homered in a row. Cruz homered again the next inning for good measure in the 10-3 thrashing.
Cruz was again the main man in the Astros lineup. He led the club in average (.312), homers (12), runs (96), hits (187), steals (22) and RBIs (95). Cabell batted .310 and Terry Puhl hit .301. Bill Doran and Craig Reynolds worked well around second and each hit .260 or above. Jerry Mumphrey contributed a .290 average and 83 RBIs.
In September, the Astros brought up Glenn Davis for the proverbial "cup of coffee". He got his first big league hit in his first game. His first home run came four days later. His power numbers at AAA Tucson were impressive and the Astros hoped he could develop into the slugger they felt they needed.
For the fifth time in six years, Joe Niekro paced the club in victories with sixteen. Bob Knepper bounced back after two bad seasons to win fifteen. Bill Dawley won eleven and saved five out of the bullpen while squeezing out a 1.93 ERA.
It was a year where the meek inherited the league. Two traditional doormats, the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres, won their divisions and the Padres, seven years younger than the Astros franchise, reached the World Series before Houston. The Astros were locked in a three-way duel for second place. Atlanta and Houston would tie with lackluster 80-82 records, one game ahead of the Dodgers.By Astro Daily
- Alan Ashby, Bill Dawley, Bill Doran, Bob Knepper, Craig Reynolds, Dickie Thon, Dwight Gooden, Enos Cabell, Gene Elston, Glenn Davis, Houston Astros, Jerry Mumphrey, Joe Niekro, Jose Cruz, Mark Bailey, Mike Torrez, Nolan Ryan, Phil Garner, Ray Knight, Terry Puhl