There are several candidates to chose from, and none of them is a bad choice for the first place team

Astros: Who's Your First Quarter MVP?

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Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa celebrating in game one of the ALDS Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Astros fans, remember the start of the season when the team got off to a slow start and a lot of fans started to panic and worry about the state of the team? Oh, how times have changed and how the record has improved. The team is back in a familiar spot, sitting in first place in the American League West and tied for the best record in baseball. The starting pitching is starting to settle in behind Justin Verlander, who is off to another fantastic start to the season. After some ups and downs and a bit of a rocky start, JV and the rest of the staff seem to have the ship back on course and putting up quality starts as they mow down the rest of the American League. The lineup is loaded and led by George Springer and Josh Reddick, along with newcomer Michael Brantley. Even with Jose Altuve fighting through injury and a less than .300 batting average, the team is pounding the fences and putting up runs in bunches. The back end of the bullpen has been lights out with Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna stabilizing a position group that was questionable at best in years past. With all that success, it's hard to pick an MVP for the first 41 games, especially with so many players deserving consideration. With all that said, let's take a look at my candidates for first quarter MVP.

Josh Reddick

Josh Reddick has always been popular in the clubhouse and a fan favorite with his gutty, gritty style, and his Rick Flair "Woooooooooo!" Known for his defense and some occasional pop at the plate, he has never been known as a player that consistently hits for a high average. That's why this season has been such a pleasant surprise for manager AJ Hinch and his staff. The career .264 hitter is ripping the cover off the ball, hitting .325 including several knocks that either put the team ahead or gave the squad a much-needed insurance run late in games. It was just a few years ago that he had the best home average in the American League and this season he has been red hot on the road where he is hitting .354. When you throw in his exceptional defense and at least one game-saving catch this season, there is little doubt he would be a worthy candidate for this early season award.

Michael Brantley

Michael Brantley has always been a steady force in the outfield for his major league career. He spent the first 10 seasons with the Cleveland Indians where he was a career .294 hitter and above average outfielder as he helped lead the Tribe to several successful seasons. The only thing that seemed to be able to stop or slow down Brantley over his decade in the big leagues has been the injury bug. So when his contract expired and it was time to decide where he wanted to continue his career, Cleveland was looking to trim payroll and essentially told Brantley his services would no longer be needed and opened the door for a fresh start in Houston. He signed a 2 year, $32 million dollar deal and has been worth every penny to an Astros squad that was looking for a little more pop in the middle of the batting order. Brantley has the third-best average in the AL, hitting a sizzling .331. He leads the league in hits and already has 29 RBI for a guy that hasn't had more than 84 in a season over the last four years. He has fit right in with the Astros clubhouse and his veteran leadership has been another reason the team loves having him on their side. He and George Springer have become a dynamic duo in the lineup as well as off the field, where they have continued a strong friendship that started when both were teammates on the all-star team. "Uncle Mike" would be a fantastic choice as the Astros first quarter MVP.

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander and Kate Upton Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Justin Verlander entered this season in the final year of his contract with the Astros and there was a great deal of uncertainty about his future with the club. The man who started out as the hired gun that was brought in to put the team over the top and win a World Series has really taken to the team, the city and the winning culture that Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane have created. The more he and his wife Kate Upton spent time in the Bayou City, the more they liked it and it didn't take long for the team and JV to agree on a two-year extension that will keep the ace of the 'Stros staff in orange and blue through 2021. Once the contract situation was behind him, he quickly returned to his workhorse mentality and started to add more and more solid outings, quality starts and most importantly, wins to his Hall of Fame type career. He is 6-1 with a 2.51 ERA, 68 strikeouts and a 0.82 WHIP. He is second in MLB in wins this season and fourth in ERA. As the rest of the staff has been up and down as they worked on new pitches and continued to get their arms back up to speed, the steady, consistently dominant Verlander has led his team from the mound and would be a strong candidate for team MVP as well as the Cy Young Award in the American League after the first 41 games.

George Springer

George Springer Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

My final candidate for the first quarter most valuable player is the guy that has my vote and should have yours too. George Springer has been as hot as any hitter in baseball over the past month and has put up numbers across the board as he leads one of the most feared lineups in baseball. The reigning AL player of the week had a five-hit game on Sunday, including twi home runs, and leads the AL in long balls with 15 and RBI with 37, through 41 games. He is hitting .321 which is good for fourth in the league and is one hit behind Brantley for the league lead in hits. Coming into this season, he was a career .269 hitter with high water marks of 34 HRs and 84 RBI in the 2017 campaign. With 75% of the season yet to be played, he is almost halfway to both of those impressive numbers. Springer, along with Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich has been the three best hitters in the game so far this season. When you factor in his outstanding glove work and defense in the outfield, while playing both right and center field and his outgoing personality is unquestionably the heart and soul of the entire squad. If George can keep this up moving forward, he should have a long list of accolades to collect along the way, but for now, it's safe to say he has been the best of the best on one of the best teams in baseball.

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After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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