THE BIG MAN'S HOT START ALLOWS GM TO BE PICKY AND FLEXIBLE

Yordan Alvarez gives Luhnow and Astros options

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Yordan Alvarez has been everything and more for the Houston Astros in his first experience in the big leagues. His first hit was a home run, his plate discipline and hitting eye have been sharp and he has displayed power to all fields in putting up outstanding numbers in his first 6 games. Hitting .381 with 4 home runs and 8 RBI in his first 6 Major League games has not only put him in rare air and elite company, but it has also put GM Jeff Luhnow in the power position of being able to be picky as he looks for ways he can improve this team through trades.

I fully expect that Alvarez will come back down to earth at some point, but if he can maintain his eye and ability to make solid contact he should get better and better as he sees the game slow down and he gets accustomed to major league pitching and life in the big leagues.

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Luhnow and the Astros were one of a few teams talking to the Seattle Mariners about Edwin Encarnacion, the league leader in home runs that was wasting away on a team going nowhere in the American League West. The Yankees ended up swinging the deal to get the power hitting slugger, as the Astros were said to not be willing to take on as much of his salary as the hyper-wealthy Bronx Bombers.

That's a sure sign that Luhnow isn't in panic mode and will not overreact or make rash decisions when considering ways to improve this team. Before Alvarez was called up and the team was in the midst of an injury-plagued stretch of games, he may have had a different mindset. Now that the big man is up and raking, the GM can afford to be selective and patient as he navigates and negotiates the trade market.

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Instead of focusing on a bat for the middle of the lineup and a potential power hitter like Encarnacion, Alvarez allows Luhnow the luxury of focussing on available starting pitchers that could strengthen his rotation. Prospects that were being considered as potential trade chips for a bat can now be used to obtain a valuable arm. Names like Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, Cory Kluber, and Andrew Cashner can be the main focus instead of trying to spread out his prospects to be considered in multiple deals to attempt to get a quality hitter as well as an experienced starting pitcher.

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Obviously, the situation remains fluid as Alvarez now goes on his first road trip with the big club. He is considered a defensive liability at most positions and with the National League opponents taking away the DH, it will be interesting to see where he plays and how games away from Minute Maid Park affect his at-bats.

Assuming everyone currently out of action with injuries return to the lineup healthy at some point soon, Luhnow and his staff will be able to further evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the roster and what position possesses the most pressing need for improvement. It could be an arms race and then again, it could result in a power struggle. One thing is for sure, the Astros new young slugger, Yordan Alvarez, has put them in a position of strength in more ways than one.

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

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With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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