Here are the driving forces fueling Houston Astros offensive breakout

After losing a heartbreaker to the Angels on Saturday, the Astros were able to rally and beat LA on Sunday, which secured a series win for the club.

The Astros got huge performances from Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, and Chas McCormick on Sunday, and now the 'Stros team OPS is inching closer to the top 10. The Astros spent much of the year in the bottom third of team OPS, but now have climbed to 13th.

The offense is steadily improving, and that's without the help of Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez. Imagine when those guys get back to full health. And if Alex Bregman can continue this hot streak, things will really be moving in the right direction.

But we can't go any further without talking about Chas McCormick's splits this year. Traditionally, he's been significantly better against left-handed pitching, but his splits are evening out. McCormick has an OPS of .840 versus right-handed pitching and an eye-popping 1.004 versus lefties. In fact, McCormick has the highest slugging percentage on the team, behind only Yordan.

Be sure to check out the video above as we discuss the importance of Sunday's win, and reflect on what we are seeing right now from Kyle Tucker and AL Player of the Week, Chas McCormick.

Plus, should the workload of the Astros relievers be a concern? They just had time off from the All-Star break, and they already look tired after just one series. Does the front office need to be looking for some bullpen help?

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The Astros open a 3-game series with Arizona on Friday night. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The sports cliché about controlling one's own destiny is oxymoronic given the very definition of destiny. So let's say the Astros have the ball in their own court. Their job is not done but with their season perilously close to bleeding out that was a timely baseball tourniquet the Astros applied in winning two out of three in Seattle.

The Astros' dream scenario entering their regular season-ending series at Arizona is simple: The Astros sweep three while the Mariners win at least two of the remaining three games in their series with the Texas Rangers. The Astros would win the American League West outright if the Mariners sweep. If the Mariners win two of three, the Astros and Rangers would both finish 90-72, the Mariners 89-73, with the Astros winning the division title and bye into the Division Series by virtue of the Astros owning the Astros-Rangers season series tiebreaker.

If the Astros win two of three in the desert to close 89-73 they are in as a Wild Card.

If they drop two of three in the desert the Astros are out entirely if the Mariners take two of three from the Rangers. The Astros lose tiebreakers to both the M's and Toronto Blue Jays.

If the Astros get swept, F%#%^$! Backing in would require the Mariners winning no more against the Rangers.

The Astros have no walkover in Arizona. The Diamondbacks are positioned to get a National League Wild Card but haven't clinched, so the Astros will face the D'Backs "A" team at least Friday, including ace starting pitcher Zac Gallen. In one game you never know, but Gallen is clearly better than Astros' Friday starter J.P. France.

The Mariners' dramatic win Thursday night means the Astros cannot clinch a playoff spot until Saturday at the earliest. It would have been huge to wrap up a Wild Card Friday. Now, unless the Astros opt to go with Hunter Brown (um, no) or Jose Urquidy, Justin Verlander is their starter Saturday. With the Wild Card series slated for Tuesday/Wednesday/if necessary Thursday, Verlander pitching Saturday takes him out of the Wild Card series until a prospective decisive game three, presuming starting the 40-year-old Verlander on three days rest in game two (if the Astros were facing elimination) would be off the table.

If the Astros were the Mets or Yankees during the 4-12 fade the Astros posted, along the way there probably would have been a typically understated New York Post headline reading “Breggy Bum.” Bregman's salsa certainly has more kick to it than his performance down the stretch has had. He enters the Arizona series with a paltry three hits in his last 36 at bats (batting average .083), seven hits in his last 54 at bats (.130).

Bregman's very up and down season has had multiple stretches during which he's been awful.
Bregman turns 30 years old two days after the 2024 season opener. His contract is up after next season. Over the last four seasons Bregman is a .260 hitter who does draw a lot of walks. He's been an above average offensive player, but closer to average than to great. And while he has tremendous hands defensively, Bregman has committed a career-worst 15 errors. Injuries have curtailed his games played in multiple seasons, but last year Bregman played in 154 games and made just seven errors.

Bregman isn't worth a mega-dollar long term extension that starts when he's 31. The sticky spot for the Astros is their weak farm system has no quality prospect emerging as a comparable successor, unless perhaps this year's first round draft pick Brice Matthews is projectable as a third baseman.

If during the Astros' skid you were thinking “This is the worst choke job ever!” that's understandable, but it wasn't. Which is not saying going 2-7 vs. the sad-sack A's and Royals was anything better than pitiful.

The most famous blown postseason spot of all-time award probably goes to the 1964 Phillies. That was in the pre-divisions era meaning the postseason consisted of just the World Series. The Phils led the National League by six games with just 12 to play. They then lost 10 in a row. In what could be fairly called foolish desperation, during the collapse manager Gene Mauch repeatedly used his two best starting pitchers on just two days rest. After dumping 10 straight, the Phillies won their final two games, and finished one game behind St. Louis which went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

The Phillies were on the other end of the choke stick in 2007 when the New York Mets managed to puke up the seven game NL East lead they held with only 17 games left. The Mets 5-12 el foldo enabled the Phils to overtake them and win the division by one game. The last day of the season the Mets could have forced a one game playoff with a home win over the then Florida Marlins. Instead, future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine lasted just one-third of an inning getting blasted for seven runs and that was that.

Looking for more Astros coverage?

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule a first video segment goes up at 4PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, with the complete audio available in podcast form at outlets such as:

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