Let's discuss the keys to a stellar second half for Astros

Getting Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa back will be huge. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

After an incredible come from behind victory to beat the New York Yankees on Sunday, the Astros now sit at top the American League West standings with a 55-36 record.

As it currently stands, Houston has the 2nd best record in the American League only behind the Chicago White Sox.

With the official first half of the MLB season in the books, the Astros look to continue their winning ways and make a playoff run for the 5th consecutive year.

Here are the keys to Houston's success entering the second half of the 2021 season.

In order for the Astros to continue their winning ways, they need consistent production from their All-Stars. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley and Ryan Pressly all made the All-Star team this season. Although none of them are playing in the Midsummer Classic this year, they will use this opportunity to heal existing injuries and spend time with their families.

Atluve has a .278 batting average and leads the team in home runs with 20 this season. His latest was a three-run, walk-off home run against the aforementioned Yankees.

The other All-Star sluggers Correa and Brantley have and great seasons as well with Correa continuing to showcase he is one of the best shortstops in the game at the plate and on the field. Brantley is continuing to mash at the plate as he leads the team in bating average and is 2nd in the American League (behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) with a .326 average.

One Astros hitter who should have been an All-Star was Yuli Gurriel. He leads the team with 96 hits this season and has a .313 batting average with 54 RBI's. The first basemen is putting up career numbers across the board and has become one of the Astros best hitters this season.

Other Astros hitters who have made tremendous progress are Kyle Tucker and Myles Straw. When George Springer and Josh Reddick left the team after the 2020 season, both Straw and Tucker were given the opportunity to become everyday players for the Astros. Both outfielders got off to slow starts to start the season, but have become tremendous guys Dusty Baker can put in his lineup consistently.

This Astros hitting core leads the league in runs, hits, batting average and OPS. It's safe to say if the Astros continue to hit consistently, this team can defeat any team in the league.

Finally, Houston is expecting to get some of their injured players back here soon. Both Alex Bregman and Aledmys Diaz should be back to bolster this batting lineup and give the Astros some depth. Jose Urquidy should be back soon as well to help out this starting rotation.

After the All-Star break, the Astros will head to Chicago to start a three-game series with the White Sox before coming home for a six-game homestand against the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers.

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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