DEAL IS DONE?

After a week of rumors, Astros finally add starting pitcher Cole

Gerrit Cole will apparently be an Astro. Sbnation.com

The Astros have turned up the heat in the Hot Stove season, making a huge splash today by adding another strong arm to their rotation: Gerrit Cole. Cole adds an immediate improvement to an already championship-caliber roster and rotation. Sources are currently stating that the Astros will send third baseman Colin Moran, outfielder Jason Martin and pitchers Michael Feliz and Joe Musgrove to Pittsburg in the trade.

Cole finished the 2017 season with a 12-12 record in 33 starts with the Pirates. His ERA was 4.26 last season, the highest of his 5-year run with Pittsburg. He also allowed 31 home runs last year, a high number compared to his yearly averages.

Cole's most reason playoff appearance was in the NL Wild Card game in 2015 where he was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs in five innings to the Cubs. He also started two NLDS games in his 2013 rookie season, splitting those starts to go 1-1, the loss coming in the decisive Game 5 versus the Cardinals.

However, Cole has tremendous upside and is a lot better than last season's numbers, as evidenced by his 2015 season. In 2015, he finished fourth in Cy Young voting after a 19-8 season with 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 208 innings pitched. The Astros pitching coaches led by Brent Strom have shown they can get the best out of pitchers so this move can pay off huge if they can get him back to 2015 form or better. 

This move unquestionably gives an immediate upgrade to the Astros' rotation, something they will desperately need considering some of their biggest foes in the AL have made moves this offseason to improve their offense. The move does somewhat improve the bullpen by potentially moving Brad Peacock there, though it sounds like the Astros did give up two bullpen pieces in Feliz and Musgrove in the trade. 

Projected 2018 Astros Starting Rotation:

Verlander
Keuchel
Cole
McCullers
Morton

That rotation, paired with the already potent Astros offense, sets Houston up for another deep run in 2018, and they didn't even have to trade any "untouchable" players to do it. 

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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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