How a wild division finish sets up for Astros over final pivotal stretch

STONE COLD 'STROS

While the weekend didn't go as planned for the Astros (dropping a 3-game series to the Royals), they find themselves leading the division by a game and a half over the Rangers with 12 games left to play.

Of course, the big topic of discussion is the Astros' inability to take care of business against lesser opponents. Is it a lack of focus that's causing the problem, or is this version of the Astros less consistent, and just not quite as good as last year's team?

We know one thing for sure, the players know there is an issue. Otherwise, 3 team meetings wouldn't have been called in the last several weeks. Fatigue plays into this as well, nobody has played more baseball in recent years than the Astros. And as much as Dusty Baker says everyone on his team plays, maybe some guys are playing a little too much.

Older players like Jose Abreu and Martin Maldonado could benefit from some extra rest, allowing them to be as fresh as possible when they are needed most. The pitch clock might also be a factor that's causing the starting pitching to regress this season.

Whatever the issue is, whether it's playing at home, or the batter's eye being an issue against left-handed pitching at Minute Maid, the margin for error is incredibly slim.

Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion!

Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.

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Jose Abreu is no longer an Astro. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros released José Abreu on Friday, cutting ties with the former AL MVP less than halfway through a three-year, $58.5 million contract.

The 37-year-old Abreu was batting .124 (14 for 113) with two homers and seven RBIs this season, during which he spent time in the minors trying to fix his swing. The Astros still owe him $30.8 million from the deal he signed before last season.

A three-time All-Star during his nine years with the Chicago White Sox, Abreu was named MVP during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014 after defecting from his native Cuba the previous year.

His production dropped off significantly with the Astros. He batted .237 last year, the lowest average of his career, with 18 homers and 90 RBIs.

Abreu is a career .283 hitter with 263 homers and 960 RBIs in 11 seasons.

Houston owes him $30,822,504, including $11,322,504 remaining from this year’s salary and $19.5 million for 2025. Any team can sign him for a prorated share of the $740,000 major league minimum, with the Astros responsible for the rest.

Be sure to watch the video above as Charlie Pallilo, Brandon Strange, and Josh Jordan of Stone Cold 'Stros react to the news.

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