ASTROS REPORT

Let's discuss 3 players that are having career years for the Astros

Kyle Tucker is crushing the baseball for Houston. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images.

After a tough loss on Saturday, the Astros bounced back to beat the Los Angeles Angels Sunday afternoon 3-1. Houston has won back-to-back series and currently sits 6.5 games ahead of both the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners in the American League West. With 20 games remaining in the regular season, the Astros look to earn their 4th A.L. West title in five years, and make a deep run in the postseason.

Some players received the memo and are fine-tuning their skills as October approaches.

Kyle Tucker has been on fire as of late. Since coming off the injured list on August 24, the outfielder is 25 for 59 with 11 extra-base hits, including three home runs. One of those came on Sunday when Tucker hit the go-ahead homer off José Quijada in the bottom of the 5th inning.

"I've been seeing the ball really well and trying to hit it on the barrel and not chase pitches," Tucker said. "I am just trying to do my job and get on base and score some runs."

The Astros' outfielder is having a career year at the plate and has a slash line of .458/.552/.792 over his last seven games.

Another Astros' player having a great year is Lance McCullers Jr.

As I alluded to in my previous article, McCullers exceeded his career high for wins in a season with his 11th victory over the Mariners on September 6th. He didn't stop there, as the Astros' pitcher earned his 12th win of the season Sunday against the Angels.

In six innings of work, McCullers gave up one run on three hits with seven strikeouts. This is his third consecutive start in which he has allowed three runs or fewer.

"He pitched ahead in the count most of the time, and he used his fastball probably more than he had early in the count to get strike one," Houston manager Dusty Baker said. "He threw some outstanding breaking balls for strike three, and he threw some very good changeups. He had a good tempo going. He wasn't in trouble very much."

Baker will have some tough decisions to make with Houston's playoff rotation, but it can be assured McCullers will either be the ace of this staff, or the number two pitcher behind Zack Greinke once the postseason rolls around.

The final Astros' player having a career year is Yuli Gurriel. The first baseman is hitting .315 and is tied with teammate Michael Brantley for the second best batting average in Major League Baseball.

The 37-year-old slugger had a four-hit game on Sunday against the Angels and drove in the first run of the contest.

Gurriel has been a mainstay in this Astros' lineup all season, and looks to continue to give his team great at-bats in the middle of the order.

Injury Report: Brantley left Saturday's contest against the Angels with right knee soreness and is listed as day-to-day according to Baker. Houston will most likely play him sparingly until the playoffs start, with players such as Aledmys Diaz, Yordan Alvarez and Chas McCormick splitting time in left field.

The Astros will look to get both catcher Jason Castro and infielder Taylor Jones back soon, as both players are set to make rehab stints in Sugar Land this week.

Up Next: Houston starts a four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers for the final time this season. Jake Odorizzi (6-7) has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last four outings will take the mound Monday night against Spencer Howard (0-3).

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Here's why the Texans will make the playoffs under Lovie Smith

1. The Houston Texans had a mentally tough practice Saturday. The team has worked a lot in pads and Lovie Smith noted the days starting to build up on them during this practice. The head coach said this is a good practice because it is like the fourth quarter of the games the team will end up playing.

2. Davis Mills threw one of the best passes he has thrown all camp on Saturday. In a red zone drill, he dropped back and whipped a pass between two defenders into the tightest window he has had all camp. Nico Collins hauled in the threaded pass for a score.

3. A few reps later Davis Mills struck again. With traffic from linebackers and defensive backs, he found Chris Conley for a score. It wasn’t as tight of a window as the first one, but Mills snapped it off nonetheless.

4. Pharaoh Brown made something hard look very easy on Saturday. With Mills rolling out and tossing the ball to Brown in the back corner Brown hauled in a one-handed catch and had both feet down. Touchdown. Brown then acted like it was no big deal.

5. Pharaoh Brown has had a wonderful camp. Lovie Smith named him the starting tight end. The thing that really jumped out to me today is he makes his work look easy. He isn’t straining to excel in his opportunities. The good ones always make it look easy and it has looked easy for Brown so far.

6. Rookie linebacker Christian Harris is on the shelf for a few days. He joins fellow rookie Kenyon Green as players who are injured. Max Scharping played left guard with Green down. Wide receiver Phillip Dorset practiced while veteran wideout Chester Rodgers did not.

7. Roy Lopez flashed again today. While Friday was about the rushing attack and Lopez made his presence felt at defensive tackle, he got into the pass rush Saturday. Lopez would have had a bone-crushing sack in a live rep.

8. Ross Blacklock hasn’t been consistent. A statement like that is good and evil. There are some plays where Blacklock looks like he isn’t a factor. I watched one today. A play later he had what would have been a sack on the play. He’s a player to watch in the preseason games closely.

9. Don’t expect to see Derek Stingley in the preseason opener next Saturday. Lovie Smith wouldn’t commit to the rookie cornerback playing in the preseason. Smith did say Stingley is on track to play week one in the regular season.

10. Brevin Jordan has had a nice camp and should be an important piece for the team. Jordan had a bad drop in 7-on-7 drills that he was beating himself up over for a few minutes. That was out of the norm. He’s been used a lot and will be on the field a bit it seems for the Texans.

11. Brevin Jordan also rattled off a few contenders for the quote of the day. He exclaimed he had taken care of himself this offseason and he finally had abs. He also revealed he’s quite the fisherman and once caught a 125-pound tuna. When asked what he did with the tuna Jordan laughed and said “RIP tuna!”

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

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