It's simply time for the Astros to start playing better consistently

The Astros schedule remains mostly soft. Composite image by Jack Brame.

For August 19, it was no must win but it was a big win for the Astros Thursday as they averted what would have been a straight up embarrassing four game sweep at the hands of the lowly Kansas City Royals. They weren't in need of a tourniquet but stopping some modest bleeding was a good thing. Losing three out of four is obviously not good, but salvaging the finale was a nerve soother and a standings helper. The Astros lost one game in large part because of blundering baserunning, another because of going to sleep defensively. Guess they're called the "dog days" for a reason. Stuff happens over a 162 game season. Winning Thursday in 10 innings means the Astros avoid the ignominious distinction of having been on the wrong end of sweeps vs. all three last place American League teams (Royals, Orioles, Rangers). The Royals are no good. When the Astros hit town K.C. was a last place team on a four game losing streak. It's still a last place team. Only the pathetic Rangers and Orioles score fewer runs per game in the American League, only the Orioles give up more runs per game.

The Astros are still in good position, just not nearly as good as a couple of weeks ago when they held a six game division lead. As they were dropping three of four in Kansas City, in Chicago the White Sox helped out by taking three out of four from Oakland. So, the Athletics are still two and a half games off the AL West pace. For the Astros it's simply time to start playing better consistently. In each of the season's first four months they posted a winning record. Thus far in August, 7-9. Their schedule remains mostly marshmallow soft, they need to better take advantage of it.

While the A's play a Bay Area Series against the best in the bigs San Francisco Giants, the Astros get the Seattle Mariners for the weekend at Minute Maid Park. The Mariners are on the fringe of the playoff picture, five and a half games back of the Astros, three games out of Wild Card position. That they're in the picture at all is an achievement. The team immediately ahead of the M's in the AL standings, Boston, has outscored its opponents by 52 runs. The team immediately behind the M's, Toronto, has outscored its opponents by 118 runs. Seattle has been outscored by 43 runs. The Astros have outscored their opponents by a whopping 164 runs. The Mariners last made the playoffs in 2001. That makes for the longest active drought in the "big four" sports.

What happens when Bregman returns?

There is no debate forthcoming over whether when Alex Bregman reclaims his third base post once his quad is finally deemed ok for prime time. However, Aledmys Diaz in his playing time this year has been better than what Bregman was before the quad popped more than two months ago. It no doubt will be frustrating for Diaz to again be reduced to a fill in role, but in that role he'll be a fine boost to the Astro bench which of late typically has consisted of the backup catcher, Taylor Jones, and Jacob Wilson. Kyle Tucker's return from COVID-protocol will also result in a bench boost with either Chas McCormick or Jake Meyers bumped from the starting lineup.

Chasing .300

Twice before Yuli Gurriel has come soooo close to finishing the season as a .300 hitter. In his first full season with the Astros (2017) Gurriel went two for three on the final day to finish at .299. Then in 2019 he faded the final week going just two for 19 to close at .298. Not quite three weeks ago Yuli seemed near a lock to finally notch a .300 season. August 1 in San Francisco he had a three hit game including a homer to raise his average to .324. The next day he woke up with a stiff neck that wound up placing him on the injured list. Since returning last Saturday Yuli is one for 23, dropping his average to .307. Leaving aside his struggles as a 32 year old rookie in 2016 and his awful play in the shortened 2020 season, Gurriel has been a stalwart. Ultimately he'll only deserve a .300 season if he hits .300, but it feels like he deserves it.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Thankfully this is the last weekend of 2021 without football games that matter. It's a light college schedule next Saturday, but we'll take it!

2. Who knows who the Texans' quarterback will be next year, but at least the 2022 Texans-Cowboys matchup is a regular season game. It will be in Arlington.

3. Most critical bedding components: Bronze-sheet Silver-mattress Gold-pillow

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