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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?

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Luis Garcia played his part in a pitcher's duel with Carlos Rodon on Friday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With an impressive offensive onslaught to overpower Chicago in game one of this series, the Astros entered this second of four games hoping to keep their momentum going. After an impressive pitcher's duel left the game tied late into the game, Houston would edge out the win with a big walk-off in the ninth.

Final Score: Astros 2, White Sox 1

Astros' Record: 41-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryan Pressly (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Garrett Crochet (2-3)

Garcia matches Rodon in a pitcher's duel

Both starting pitchers were very effective, save one inning, in their respective seven innings of work. For Luis Garcia, he had his struggles in the top of the first to start the game, allowing a one-out double and single to put runners on second and third, setting up an RBI single to give Chicago an early 1-0 lead.

He limited the damage to that one run, both in that inning and the rest of his night, as he would follow that with six straight scoreless frames. Once he found his groove in the fourth, he would retire 12 of 13 batters he faced over that span to get through seven one-run innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 96 P.

For Houston, it took until one out into the fifth inning to get a hit and their first baserunner against Carlos Rodon. That sparked an opportunity to grab a lead, as they would go on to load the bases still with one out but would get just one run out of it with a two-out RBI walk by Martin Maldonado to tie the game up 1-1.

Astros walk it off in the ninth

Ryne Stanek was first out of Houston's bullpen in the top of the eighth, erasing a one-out walk for a scoreless inning to keep things gridlocked. Still in a stalemate in the top of the ninth, the Astros opted to bring in closer Ryan Pressly to try and keep it tied to set up a potential walk-off. He was perfect, striking out Chicago 1-2-3 to send it to the home half.

In the bottom of the ninth, Yuli Gurriel got the winning run on base by hitting a one-out single. That brought Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who got the walk-off hit, roping a ball into the right-field corner deep enough for Gurriel to hustle from first to home to win it for Houston, 2-1.

Up Next: Now having won five in a row, the Astros will try to lock up this series in game three of four on Saturday at 6:15 PM Central. Lance Lynn (7-2, 1.51 ERA) will try to get a win for the White Sox, while Framber Valdez (3-0, 1.42 ERA) will look to continue his 2021 success for Houston.

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