Let's discuss some important quarter point Astros observations

Yordan Alvarez has beaten the cover off the ball. Composite photo by Brandon Strange.

With 43 games in the books, the Astros are now into the beginning of the second quarter of the 162 game season. At 25-18, they're a half game out of first place in the AL West with one more game in this series to play against their division rivals. They're also up a half game in the AL Wildcard race.

Mind you, they've achieved this level of success while their best pitcher, Justin Verlander, is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Their best hitter, Jose Altuve, hasn't been their best hitter this season. One of the pitchers counted on to be in the rotation, Framber Valdez, hasn't pitched so far in the regular season due to injury. Another pitcher signed to fill in the rotation, Jake Odorizzi, has been less than stellar and has missed time because of injury. Myles Straw has been abysmal from the plate. Not to mention the catcher position, Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro, have contributed next to nothing from an offensive standpoint.

The top five to six guys in the lineup have carried this team offensively. Meanwhile, Zack Greinke, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy, and others have carried the team as far as the pitching staff is concerned. This team constantly figures out a way to work around whatever shortcomings they may face. Yordan Alvarez has beaten the cover off the ball so far, but he's only drawn five walks this season. The bullpen has looked shaky at times while the starting rotation either hasn't been allowed to go deeper into games, or they've been pulled early do to reasons only Dusty Baker and the higher ups can explain.

I say all that to say this: this team is in a good spot despite their early rough start. Baseball has an unusually long season and it's still early. Teams will have stretches in which they will either play great or poorly. It's truly about how they play in the stretches in between. ESPN Houston's Patrick Creighton laid it out perfectly on his show, Late Hits. He explained that the best teams will have no more than four stretches per year in which they play lights out baseball.

Relax Astro fans. This team is in good shape. The A's aren't a team that's talented enough to run away with the division. The Rangers, Angels, and Mariners aren't good enough to catch anyone from behind in this division. Toronto has enough young talent to present a problem in the Wildcard race. Tampa and Cleveland are competitive enough that you don't want to let them hang around. The Yankees aren't as good as many thought they'd be so far, but have the talent to close their 1.5 game deficit in their division race. These teams are good enough to overtake the Astros at any point they put it together. If I were the Astros, I'd get my bleep together sooner rather than later so I could build some distance between these teams in the AL Wildcard race, and/or build a lead in the AL West race. The season is long enough to where they can put together a run to do such a thing, but they have to start now. The longer they wait, the smaller their margin of error gets. This is a team that can't afford a small margin of error given how inconsistent they've been. I'd rather see them build a lead and maintain it, instead of hanging in there all season because they aren't built for coming from behind.

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The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

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