Can Houston win the battle against discomfort?

Are injuries jeopardizing the Astros' season?

Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

The Astros have taken some big blows recently on the injury front. Jose Altuve hasn't played since May 10 after his hamstring injury. George Springer strained his hamstring on his first night back after missing several games with back tightness. Also this weekend Houston lost Max Stassi and Aledmys Diaz to other leg issues.

The discomforts are stacking up, and with that many will start to worry if all this missed time from these players will degrade the overall outcome of the 2019 season. My opinion on that matter at the moment is this: no, not really.

It's only May

Sure, it's the end of May, but still, it's early in the season. You hope injuries don't happen at any point in the season, but if they must, you'd prefer earlier than later. If you remember, Carlos Correa missed the first three games of the season with a neck strain, something that some conservative rest time has allowed him to play thus far fully healthy.

With so much season left, the Astros have plenty of time left to be conservative with players who need some time off, so they might as well take a slower approach and be sure that the players are 100 percent healthy before getting them back in the lineup.

Another side-benefit of allowing plenty of breathing room for these star players dealing with injuries: they can go on rehab assignments not only to get them back in rhythm but provide some veteran knowledge to some of the prospects we may see soon.

The division looks very winnable 

Early in the season, the Astros were looking up at the Mariners who started the season on an absolute tear. Since then, the Mariners have had a very tough stretch while the Astros have gone on to win series after series while putting together a couple of ten-game winning streaks.

It's of course too early to fly the division banner, but as of now, it's looking like even with some injuries along the way the Astros may find the AL West to be a division they can lock up well before the end of the season. However, they have a ton of AL West matchups in the second half which could either be cakewalks or fierce battles during the playoff push.

Strong depth 

One more reason that Houston can absorb a few players going on the injured list and take their time coming back, the team is balanced and has good depth. One way a team can keep the train moving with a few of their offensive leaders missing time: good pitching and defense. The Astros have plenty of that, including their rotation led by Justin Verlander, and strong defense including a strong left side of the infield and crazy athletic outfield.

There have been many plays on defense that have saved runs or stifled the momentum of opposing defenses, which along with a strong bullpen adds up to Houston's 8-5 record in one-run games. Despite moving Collin McHugh to the bullpen who would himself land on the injured list, the rest of the rotation has been solid, with Verlander having another Cy Young caliber year, Gerrit Cole leading the league in strikeouts, and Wade Miley and Brad Peacock racking up some quality starts.

A lot of defensive players can play multiple positions, which is a great benefit too. Yuli Gurriel can play first, second, or third. Tony Kemp can play second or in the outfield, and if needed Alex Bregman can play shortstop in addition to his now normal third base position. They're toeing the line of comfortability on infield versatility, but as of now, it's still manageable.

Put all of this together, and you've got a team that can still win plenty of games even with multiple injuries stacking up together. Even without Jose Altuve on the field and in the lineup, the Astros cruised along and rose to the top of the power rankings, and I think they still belong near the top of that list, for now, even with the other injuries that came later.

All of this said, even with the Astros being the best in the AL West, they need to ensure they can put themselves in a spot to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs because that will be one of the keys to a successful playoff run. That means that while the current injuries allow for plenty of time to play out, adding more, or more severe, injuries can make things challenging for the Astros in the rest of the season.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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