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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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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