THE LONGER HOUSTON WAITS TO MAKE A MOVE, THE HIGHER THE PRICE WILL GO.

The time is now for Astros to get in the arms race and get their man

Composite photo by Jack Brame

When Brad Peacock was scratched from his start against the Angels Monday night due to lingering shoulder issues it should have been the final straw. After Framber Valdez couldn't get out of the first inning in his start against the Rangers last week and the Jose Urquidy experiment failed to impress, the writing is all over the wall that Houston needs to get into the arms race and trade for pitching help before the prices go up and the teams involved do too. The time is now for GM Jeff Luhnow to make a move for a starting pitcher or two and beat the heat that is sure to be straight fire by the time we hit the final week in July. With only one trade deadline this year and so many teams within striking distance of a wild card at the very least, it would seem to me that the sooner the Astros can complete a deal for the main weakness remaining on the roster, the better off the squad will be.

Astros Forrest Whitley, Josh James Composite photo by Jack Brame

The Yankees are the main competition for the Astros in the race for best record in the American League and home field advantage will go a long way in deciding which of the two teams gets out of the AL with a birth in the World Series and the other goes home wishing they had been able to do more. New York is also Houston's number one competition in the sprint to obtain starting pitching before the trade deadline at the end of July. The Yanks are rumored to be in the market for not one, but two starting pitchers to solidify the biggest weakness on thier club and compliment the powerful and destructive offensive lineup they fill out their batting order with on a nightly basis. The Red Sox and Athletics have already made moves to strengthen their rotation with the addition of Andrew Cashner and Homer Baily respectively. When you factor in the numerous teams in the National League that are within shouting distance of a Wild Card, including the Reds and Diamondbacks and others that started the year not given a chance to sniff the post season, it becomes even more imperative that the 'Stros act fast and avoid the rush. Houston loves their top prospects and Luhnow has been very cautious when considering trades that involve his blue chip youngsters like Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley. Teams that are going to be sellers are ecstatic that so many teams may be in the market to buy at the deadline, which will cause bidding wars and the inevitable urge to over pay to guarantee they get the help they desperately need for a stretch run.

Astros Gerrit Cole Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Depending on the contract status of the players Luhnow and the Astros are interested in, the price will fluctuate accordingly. A player under contract for a few more years will have a much higher price tag than a player in the final year of his deal who will be looked at as a rental more than a long term solution to a short-term need. Houston isn't quite sure how much of a long-term need they will have, but do realize that Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley are free agents in the offseason and there's some uncertainty as to how healthy and capable Lance McCullers will be next season as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Peacock and Colin McHugh have not had the season that the organization expected and therefore there are more question marks than answers for their long-term future as potential arms in the rotation. All of this on top of thier other top pitching prospect Corbin Martin shelved for the foreseeable future after he was diagnosed with arm issues serious enough to require his own Tommy John surgery. It's crazy to think that a position group that was universally looked at as one of the best rotations in the game could now be facing a dilemma of needing to make at least one move for a starter to keep them in contention to compete for the AL crown.

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Some possibilities that are on the market and could help Houston in thier starting pitching issues are Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray and Matthew Boyd, with the longshot being Noah Syndergaard if the Mets become sellers and decide to make the power pitcher available. Of those mentioned, Bumgarner would be a rental and cost the least while Syndergaard would probably cost the most due to his experience, contract and productivity on a really bad team. One other factor to keep in mind is the Astros have found the Blue Jays to be a friendly trade partner in recent moves that included Roberto Osuna and Aledmys Diaz. I say that to say that Marcus Stroman is a quality arm that the Blue Jays will almost certainly move before the deadline and if the two sides can work something out again, he would be just what the doctor ordered to boost the Astros staff and solidify their patchwork starting rotation. Regardless of who they like and who Luhnow targets, the time is now to act fast and get the guy you want before you get in a bidding war and get caught holding the bag instead of all the cards.

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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