ASTROS REPORT

5 significant reasons the Astros are rolling in the month of August

Yordan Alvarez is off to a great start this month. Composite photo by Brandon Strange.

The Astros finished this week with a 4-1 record and won back-to-back series against the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels.

As it currently stands, Houston remains 2.5 games ahead of the Oakland A's in the American League West standings with 45 remaining contests this season.

During the month of August, the Astros look to pull away in the A.L. West standing and make the postseason for the 5th consecutive year.

Here are some keys as to how they can continue their winning ways.

1).The pitching has improved over the last few games as Houston only allowed a total of seven runs over their last 5 games. According to MLB.com, the Astros rank fourth in the league in ERA at 3.62 and their rotation is starting to shape up as the playoffs are approaching. This past week, the entire rotation threw at least five innings and one of them made a little history.

Pitcher Zach Greinke (11-3) tied Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez and with his 219th win against the Angels on Saturday.

Greinke and Lance McCullers continue to dominate on the road with a combined record of 13-1 this season. The two pitchers look to be the anchors of this rotation throughout the season and into the postseason as well.

2).Welcome back to the Astros Aledmys Diaz. Since his return from the injured list on July 27th, Diaz has increased his batting average from .283 to .301, and is hitting a solid .306 in the month of August.

His return to the team gave Houston some much-needed production at third base and at the plate. He is doing a great job holding the fort down until Alex Bregman eventually returns. (More on that later.)

3).Yordan Alvarez is having himself a fantastic month of August as well. The designated hitter/outfielder has a line of .356 AVG, .396 OBP, .689 SLG this month. He is coming off back to back multi-hit games against the Angles and looks to continue his hot hitting as September approaches.

4).Jake Myers made a name for himself in a big way Saturday night against the Angels. The rookie outfielder hit the first two home runs of his career, including a grand slam. He is the first Astros player to hit his first two career home runs in the same game since Lance Berkman did it in 1999.

Kyle Tucker, who also hit a grand slam Friday night against the Angels, was placed on the injured list for health and safety protocols. Thus, putting Meyers in right field. The team doesn't expect Tucker to return for at least a week.

Meyers has a .278 batting average to start his MLB career and will receive a good opportunity to prove he can be a productive player during Tucker's absence.

5).Houston was able to get two players off the injured list this week in Yuli Gurriel and Pedro Baez.

Gurriel missed only a handful of games with a sore neck and was back in the Astros lineup Saturday against the Angels. His neck injury was nothing serious, and the 37-year-old most likely needed a few days off to rest.

Baez made his debut for the Astros on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies. He threw one inning in a relief appearance and struck out one batter.

The pitcher signed with the Astros back in January for a three-year deal and looked to become a key piece in the back end of the bullpen. With the addition of Kendall Graveman and the stellar play of All-Star closer Ryan Presley, this doesn't look to be the case this season. But having Baez in the bullpen does give manger Dusty Baker one more arm to use, and it's never a bad thing to have too much pitching, as the Astros have found out this year.

Finally, Alex Bregman told reporters on Wednesday that he is progressing during his rehab assignment, although it's taking longer than expected.

"I wish I could have two months ago been like, 'This is the day I'm going to be back playing,'" he said. "But it's just not the case with these types of injuries. Getting really close. I feel like everything is going in the right direction and continuing to improve."

Bregman has been out since June 16th, and the Astros hope to get him back sometime in September.

UP NEXT: Jake Odorizzi takes the mound Monday night as Houston opens a four-game series in Kansas City before coming home to take on the Seattle Mariners in a three-game series.

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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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