The Astros are on track to contend for several awards in 2019

How much hardware can the Astros win this year?

photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With Yuli Gurriel and Gerrit Cole likely on their way to player and pitcher of the month awards for July, it creates consideration for the type of season-long awards this team could come away with this year. We know Justin Verlander is on Cy Young pace, but could some of his teammates also be on their way to some hardware?

Teammates battling for the Cy Young

While we wait to see what Houston's front office can do before the trade deadline to further bolster the pitching rotation, two of the current arms in it are on a course to push each other towards being named the best in the league. Right now it's Justin Verlander deservedly favored to take home the award, but Gerrit Cole has rocketed up the ranks to give him a run for his money.

With the win on Saturday in St. Louis, Cole finished his second consecutive undefeated month. He went 4-0 in July over five starts, besting his 3-0 record over six starts in June. His last loss came on May 22nd and ended that day with a 4-5 record and 4.11 ERA. Fast-forward to today, and Cole has rattled off eight straight wins, and has his ERA down to 2.94, tied for third in the AL behind Charlie Morton in first and Verlander in second.

Where Cole has the advantage is in strikeout numbers. He currently sits atop the league with 212 on the season, with the two pitchers (Max Scherzer and Chris Sale) tied for the second spot still yet to reach 200 at 189. He has been down-right un-hittable at times, which has resulted in his becoming the second-quickest to reach the 200 strikeout mark in a season.

Still, though, it's Verlander at the top of the class. He's currently one start behind Cole, with his next Tuesday night to start the series in Cleveland against the Indians. Despite being a game behind, he still boasts a better record (13-4) than Cole (12-5). As mentioned, he also sits with a better ERA and owns the best WHIP in the league at an impressive 0.84.

While the back end of the rotation may need some help, the Astros will have a fun battle on their hands with these two aces trying to one-up each other the rest of 2019 to take home the Cy Young award.

A batting title for Brantley

By this point, there's no doubt that Michael Brantley was a great acquisition by the Astros in this past offseason. It's also no question that he's a hit machine. Brantley has flirted with the best batting average in the American League in several seasons, finishing third in 2014, fourth in 2015, and fifth in 2018.

This year, he currently sits third in the AL with a .324 average, close behind Rafael Devers in second with a .329 average and DJ LeMahieu who sits at the top with .332. The good news is, Brantley is on the rise after posting his worst monthly average in June (.280), surging back with a hot July (.371 so far).

Brantley has had a better clip at home than on the road on the season (.335 vs .315), but that gap has widened with a below-average performance in away games in July. Luckily for Brantley, the Astros have a near-even split of road vs. away games the rest of the season, and many of those away from Minute Maid Park will be against very hittable teams.

He could easily heat up and outpace the two in front of him before the end of the regular season, or stay consistent, and wait for them to fall below him. For reference, last year's AL winner was Mookie Betts with an impressive .346 average, the same as Jose Altuve when he took home the honor in his 2017 MVP season.

Gurriel could win a Silver Slugger Award

As mentioned, Gurriel is a no-brainer to take home player of the month for his amazing July. So far in this month, he is hitting .407 with twelve home runs and twenty-eight RBIs. That has his season average up to .298, currently the best amongst qualified American League first basemen. Also in comparison to that same field, he sits second in RBIs, sixth in home runs, and first in doubles and triples.

With the return of Carlos Correa which solidifies the defense to keep Gurriel at first base, he has a decent chance at maintaining his average above the field and if he can stay hot, will be in contention, if not the easy winner, of the silver slugger award for AL first base.

Alvarez has a shot at Rookie of the Year

While Brandon Lowe of the Rays remains the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year, he has made his way there over many more games played than Houston's phenom Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez has remained a menace at the plate for opposing pitchers, so much so that he set a new MLB record for RBIs in his first thirty games, driving in 35 over that span to beat the old record of 34.

Alvarez currently has 12 home runs in his 129 at-bats, which paired with 31 other hits has him at a .333 average and a monster 1.113 OPS. If he can continue to perform at the plate as he had for the remaining games of 2019, he could very well come out ahead of Lowe and give the Astros their first winner of the award since Carlos Correa in 2015.

Still, it's all about the Commissioner's Trophy

While individual awards are fantastic, those remain accomplishments to reflect on when the season is over. Until then, the team remains focused on one goal, which is still within their grasp: a World Series win. While the next 48 hours or so full of potential trades can quickly shake the odds up, this Astros team should still have as good a shot of any to bring home another Commissioner's Trophy.

An extra arm in the rotation would be a big boost, but the way this team is playing now that they are healthy, they could still be favorites to beat any team in a five or seven-game series. Getting stronger through trades will only make them an even bigger force for other teams to contend with in October.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.

Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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