How Michael Brantley's return could have polarizing consequences for Houston Astros

NOT SO FAST!

The Houston Astros received some good news this week with Michael Brantley beginning his rehab stint with the Space Cowboys and hitting a home run in his first game.

Astros general manager Dana Brown said recently that when Brantley is ready to play every day, he'll play every day. So if that's the case, Brantley and Yordan Alvarez will be in the lineup daily at DH and left field. Which means Chas McCormick can only be deployed in center field.

We also know that Dusty Baker starts Mauricio Dubon in center every time Justin Verlander is on the mound. And Jake Meyers is typically in center when Framber Valdez starts. So are we looking at a scenario where Chas McCormick is getting less playing time?

To be fair, Dusty Baker opted to go with Chas in center field once the playoffs started last year, but the Astros are in a different place this season. They are still trailing the Rangers in the division with about 40 games to go, making every game of the utmost importance.

And we haven't even addressed the Yainer Diaz implications. With Brantley and Yordan playing daily, Yainer will likely only be used as a catcher, which means he'll only start once or twice a week.

So what needs to happen?

Dusty Baker needs to commit to Chas McCormick as the everyday option in center, and Jake Meyers and Maurico Dubon only need to play the outfield when one of the regulars needs a day off. Chas McCormick is just too good of a hitter to not be a constant in the lineup.

Finally, what's the ideal batting order for the team once everyone is back to full health?

Be sure to watch the video above as we lay it all out!

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Astros beat the Mariners 4-2. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a go-ahead two-run homer off former Houston reliever Ryne Stanek in the seventh inning, and the Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 4-2 on Saturday night to take sole possession of the AL West lead for the first time this year.

Stuck playing catchup through the first 3½ months of the season, Houston has won six of eight to climb into first place all alone.

Seattle lost its fifth straight and fell out of first place for the first time since May 11.

Meyers drove a 1-2 pitch from Stanek (6-3) to right-center field for his 11th homer. Stanek opened the inning by walking Jeremy Peña, and the homer by Meyers cost George Kirby the chance at a victory after he allowed one run in six innings.

Yainer Diaz added a solo homer in the eighth off reliever Trent Thornton that bounced off the top of the wall.

Julio Rodríguez snapped Seattle’s 14-inning scoreless drought when his two-run homer off Framber Valdez gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead in the sixth. It was his 11th of the season and Rodríguez nearly hit a second longball in the eighth off Ryan Pressly only to watch Trey Cabbage make a leaping catch at the wall in right field.

It was one of two terrific defensive plays by the Astros in the eighth as Joey Loperfido ended the inning with a diving grab of Mitch Garver’s drive into the left-field corner and saved one run from scoring.

Valdez pitched 5 2/3 innings. He allowed three hits, four walks and struck out six. Tayler Scott (7-3) got the final out of the sixth before Bryan Abreu, Pressly and Josh Hader closed out the final three innings. Hader earned his 20th save.

Kirby allowed four hits and struck out six. Houston’s only run off him came on Peña’s infield single that scored Alex Bregman in the fourth.

UNUSUAL STRIKEOUT

Houston slugger Yordan Alvarez struck out to end the first inning when he was called for a pitch-clock violation for not being ready in the box prior to a 3-2 delivery from Kirby.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHPs Justin Verlander (neck discomfort) and Luis Garcia (Tommy John surgery) threw bullpens. Verlander threw about 40 pitches with increased intensity, while Garcia threw 15 pitches. Both are expected to throw again sometime early next week. … C Victor Caratini (hip) was expected to catch for a second straight day at Double-A Corpus Christi.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Ronel Blanco (9-4, 2.56 ERA) has allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts, but lost to Texas in his last outing before the All-Star break.

Mariners: RHP Bryan Woo (3-1, 2.45) will make just his second start since June 24. Woo allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings on July 12.

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