Unsung Astros

Short-handed Astros are showing us why we should #NeverSettle

Rondon is making his case to stay in the closer's role. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There’s a difference between being disappointed when a star player gets hurt and giving up hope. Which category were you in? Let’s rewind a little bit.

  • May 29: Brian McCann lands on the DL with right knee soreness.

McCann is replaced with Federowicz. One starter on the DL—not bad.

  • June 26: Carlos Correa hits the DL with back soreness.

This one hurts, but it’s okay. We’ve got bats to spare.

  • July 28: Jose Altuve get sent to the DL with a right knee injury.

Jose Altuve hits the DL for the first time in his career, and it comes when we drop three straight to the Rangers. Nice.

  • August 3: Chris Devenski goes to the 10-day DL with left hamstring tightness.

A reliable arm from the bullpen joins relief pitcher Jandel Gustave on the DL. Okay, that’s enough.

  • August 4: Lance McCullers Jr. leaves game, is placed on 10-day DL the following day with elbow discomfort.

Down goes a pitcher from our impressive starting rotation that’s been used consistently from opening day.

  • August 6: George Springer sent to the DL with a left thumb injury.

Seriously?

 

Welcome back. It’s been tough for the defending world champs when it comes to injuries, but have you given up on them? Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t.

They’re still winning games.

Starting July 28, when Altuve left the lineup, the Astros are 6-4. With a couple of tough losses in that ten-game stretch, they’re still winning some important series, including those against the Mariners and the Dodgers.

The Astros also maintain the second-best record in all of baseball, only behind the Red Sox, staying ahead of last season’s pace. With Carlos Correa hopefully returning soon, the team will have even more help in continuing that pace.

Players are taking on positions that they’re not necessarily used to.

Gurriel has started at second base only three times in his MLB career—both of them were this season. Bregman has also returned to shortstop, a position that he hasn’t played in much since coming to Houston. These guys are helping manager AJ Hinch be creative with these lineups with several starters not playing.

Players like JD Davis and Tyler White are also seeing their names on the lineup cards a lot more often in these unusual lineups. White has more than earned his spot in the lineup recently with some important hits in crucial innings. The 27-year-old has nine hits including Tuesday’s go-ahead homer in his last seven outings with the ‘Stros.

The pitching has been excellent. Yes, even the bullpen!

We’ve talked about a few names from the bullpen this season—in both good and bad lights—but right now, it’s about Héctor Rondón. He’s appeared in the closer spot a lot in recent games and has managed to impress many. In his three appearances in the month of August, Rondón has racked up three strikeouts with no earned runs.

It’ll be interesting to see how McCullers’ injury will play out, but in the meantime, the Astros are keeping their pitching in a good place with an MLB-best team ERA of 3.00, despite missing guys like Devenski and McCullers.

This is a team that can win another World Series.

All in all, we can be a little bit pissed at the baseball gods for how these injuries have stacked up. We can also look forward to the return of these injured players. What we cannot do is count this team out. They’re proving to us with each game that we should never settle and to expect every bit of fight they have in that clubhouse to be laid out on the field day after day. This is the kind of team you need to win back-to-back championships.

 

 

 

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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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