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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The Astros are headed back to the World Series. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

The Houston Astros aimed to shut the door on the 2022 season for the New York Yankees in Game Four of the American League Championship Series, and it is exactly what they did. Houston defeated New York 6-5 to advance to its second straight World Series.

Houston battled all game long against the Yankees, who were determined to win to avoid the sweep. The Astros overcame multiple deficits, including a three-run early hole to come out victorious.

The final mistake for New York came at the top of the seventh inning. In what should have been at least one out on second baseman Jose Altuve, who was running to second base after a hit by shortstop Jeremy Peña, New York second baseman Gleyber Torres threw a bad feed to New York shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, which resulted in the ball rolling into the outfield.

The error kept Altuve at second and got Peña to first base. Yordan Alvarez followed up by getting a ground ball single to right field that tied the game 5-5. The heart of Houston’s batting order continued to deliver for the Astros. Third baseman Alex Bregman singled on a line drive to right field that made it 6-5, a lead Houston never relinquished.

Houston first turned the game around in the third inning when catcher Martín Maldonado and Altuve got on base with back-to-back walks. The Astros trailed 3-0 entering the inning. The stage was set for Peña to become a game hero.

Peña was able to get into a 3-1 count on pitcher Nester Cortes, who seemed to be battling an injury that caused New York manager Aaron Boone and the team’s training staff to go check on him earlier in the inning. Peña launched a homer to left field that tied the game at three and left the Yankees stunned.

The play sucked the air out of New York’s fans at Yankee Stadium, ignited the Houston faithful in attendance, and was likely the play that ensured the rookie came away with the ALCS Most Valuable Player award. Cortes was then taken out of the game for pitcher Wandy Peralta. New York later stated Cortes had suffered a groin injury.

Peralta was unable to stop the bleeding for the Yankees. Yordan Alvarez doubled on a line drive to right field and Kyle Tucker moved him to third with a single. First baseman Yuli Gurriel delivered the go-ahead hit with a ground ball to right field that allowed Alvarez to score and gave the Astros a 4-3 lead.

Game Four started out ominous from a weather perspective and on the scoreboard. The first pitch didn’t get thrown until a roughly 90-minute delay due to drizzle and the threat of rain. Once the tarp came off the field and the game got rolling, it was the Yankees that jumped out on Houston pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. early.

McCullers struggled against the Yankees’ top of the order in the first inning, giving up three hits and two runs. McCullers’ issues continued in the second inning as he allowed New York shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa to get an inning-opening double.

After recording two outs, McCulllers walked Aaron Judge, which was followed by a double from Anthony Rizzo that scored Kiner-Falefa and made it 3-0 in favor of the Yankees. McCullers had runners on the bases all game long.

When it was all said and done, the 29-year-old pitcher went 5.0 innings, gave up eight hits and allowed four total runs, three of which were earned runs. McCullers also struck out six Yankees. Hector Neris took over in relief in the sixth inning. With two outs, Neris gave up a solo shot to Bader that gave New York a 5-4 lead.

Outside of the run allowed by Neris, Houston’s bullpen went the rest of the way without allowing a run. Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly combined to pitch 3.0 hitless innings and two strikeouts.

Overall, the ALCS saw various Astros star as heroes. In Game One, it was Peña, McCormick and Gurriel, who each homered against the Yankees. In Game Two it was Bregman, who delivered with a three-run homer that carried Houston past New York.

Game Three saw Cristian Javier pitch 5.1 innings giving up only one hit as he struck out five Yankees. Houston had five other pitchers make appearances in the game. They only allowed two hits and struck out six more New York batters. Offensively it was McCormick and Christian Vazquez, who accounted for four of Houston’s runs.

Game Four saw multiple players step up big again. Peña started the rally, Alvarez and Bregman finished it. More importantly, Altuve’s bat has appeared to have awoken. After going 0-for-25 to start the postseason, he got one hit in Game Three. Altuve added two more hits in Game Four.

Houston will now have a few days off until it hosts the Philadelphia Phillies for Game One of the World Series on Friday at Minute Maid Park.

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