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Astros need to add a top flight pitcher for another title run

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Through 90 games of the season and at the All Star break, the Houston Astros are 57-33 with a seven and a half game lead in the AL West. They are currently in second place in the AL playoff race behind the New York Yankees. Under most circumstances, one would say this team is in prime position to make another playoff run. Despite all the injuries to key players (Altuve, Correa, Springer), they've been able to maintain their level of play and a stranglehold on the division lead.

Of all the things teams have done from last season up until now, most have tried to improve areas of weakness or shore up strengths. For example, the Yankees added one of this season's top homerun hitters in Edwin Encarnacion to an already strong lineup. The Astros have made minimal moves (Wade Miley signing) or promotion from within (Yordan Alvarez). Both moves have worked out well, but they aren't enough. Here's a few reasons why I think that way:


Forrest Whitley isn't walking through that door

Long rumored to be called up some time in June to give the team an extra year of control, Whitley is the top pitching prospect the organization has, but a "shoulder fatigue" injury has slowed him down. He started throwing off the mound about a month ago. If he hasn't been called up by now, chances are he's not coming up this year. They'd need to give him a few starts to get acclimated to the big league level before knowing if he can be relied upon in the postseason. That can't happen unless he's called up ASAP.

Justin Verlander's home run problem

When your ace has given up a near career high in homeruns before the All Star break, that's a problem. Verlander recently complained about MLB juicing the balls. While that may be the case, Verlander is still on pace for giving up nearly 50 homers this season. Most of them are early on in the game and of the solo variety. But being down early puts you at such a disadvantage, one that can be hard to overcome. Especially when...

Your best hitter isn't hitting very well

Jose Altuve is currently batting 52 points lower than his career .314 average. His OPS down 35 points from a career .816 average. those numbers have risen up in the last few games before the break and were much worse. Maybe he's still recovering from offseason knee surgery. Or maybe he's pressing knowing he should be performing better. Either way, if your best hitter isn't doing his thing, you'll need others to step up, or the pitching staff to cover offensive deficiencies. While Altuve isn't really pulling his weight, the rest of the lineup is trying to pick up his slack. I still feel this lineup can be hit or miss. Just see their slip ups versus the Pirates and Reds midseason.

Jeff Luhnow values prospects

Teams getting rid of top flight big league talent usually want prospects in return. It's understandable since they know the team trading for said talent is trying to win and won't likely part with any big league roster talent in return. Luhnow values prospects like they're air and/or water. I'm sorry, but I'd give up clean air or fresh water for a period of time if it meant I got closer to a life goal.

Do I have faith that this team can make another playoff run? Yes. Is that faith being tested? Hell yes! Do I think they're a World Series threat? I believe so, but the only way to heighten their chances is to add to the pitching staff with a top flight pitcher. Charlie Pallilo named four pitchers they should go after leading up to the hard trade deadline of July 31. While he lists some interesting pitchers, I believe there are others out there that may be had, but the price will be steep. So what price do you place on possibly winning another World Series? Would you be willing to part with a top prospect or two? Or are you willing to stand pat?

Astros win another against the Rangers

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 4-1 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Astros, after a day off on Monday, were back in action at home on Tuesday night for the two-game conclusion of the season series with the Rangers. At 98 wins, and with their magic number down to four, it was a timely night to get Carlos Correa back in the lineup and have Justin Verlander on the mound. Here is a quick recap of the game:

Final Score: Astros 4, Rangers 1.

Record: 99-53, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (19-6, 2.50 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (14-11, 3.77 ERA).

1) Verlander goes six scoreless

It was a stout pitching matchup early in Tuesday's game, with both Justin Verlander and Lance Lynn tossing scoreless frames through the first half of the game. Verlander would win the battle, shutting out the Rangers through six innings while Lynn would allow three runs over that same span.

Although Verlander had managed his pitch count well through his six innings, he would not be asked to extend himself as Houston gears up for the postseason. That didn't keep him from putting up more strikeouts and efficiency to his season totals, though. His final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 0 HR.

2) Houston backs up JV with 3 home runs while the bullpen finishes it off

Meanwhile, Verlander's offense provided him with three runs of support. The first came on a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel to start the scoring for the night in the bottom of the fifth. In the bottom of the sixth, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez hit two solo home runs as well, back-to-back shots to extend the lead to 3-0.

Hector Rondon was the first out of Houston's bullpen to take over for Verlander in the top of the seventh and would allow a solo home run to cut the lead to 3-1 before getting out of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Robinson Chirinos hit a blooper into left field that the Rangers converged on but could not catch, and with Chirinos not stopping on the bases, was able just to beat out the tag for a triple. He would score on an RBI-single, pushing the lead back to three runs at 4-1.

Will Harris was the next pitcher for Houston and recorded a 1-2-3 inning to maintain the lead headed to the ninth. Roberto Osuna would enter in the top of the ninth, and he was able to close out the three-run lead to reduce Houston's magic number to three and move them to 99 wins on the year.

Up Next: The final game this season between the Astros and Rangers, since Texas has already been eliminated from playoff contention, will take place on Wednesday night at 7:10 PM. Kolby Allard (4-0, 4.34 ERA) is expected to get the start for the Rangers while Gerrit Cole (17-5, 2.62 ERA) will be on the mound for the Astros.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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