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.

Houston will look to even the series in Game 2

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALCS Game 2 Preview

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Houston's performance in Game 1 of the ALCS was a night to forget. The Yankees dominated on both sides of the ball en route to a 7-0 victory, which halted any momentum that Houston had built by winning their way into the series with their big Game 5 win in the ALDS.

However, the ALCS is a seven-game series, which means that overcoming a 1-0 deficit is something that a team of Houston's caliber should be able to do. What the Astros have in their favor is that they had arguably their worst starter of the first three games take the mound in Game 1, and in Game 2, they will have Justin Verlander. Here is a quick preview of Game 2 that will take place Sunday night:

Game Facts

When: Sunday, 7:08 p.m Central.

Where: Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Justin Verlander vs. James Paxton

Series: Yankees lead 1-0.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Yankees 7, Astros 0Minute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke (L) vs Tanaka (W)
Game 2Sunday 10/13, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander vs Paxton
Game 3Tuesday 10/15, 3:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYCole vs Severino
Game 4Wednesday 10/16, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYTBD vs TBD
Game 5*Thursday 10/17, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYTBD vs TBD
Game 6*Saturday 10/19, 3:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD
Game 7*Sunday 10/20, 6:38 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

Houston needs a big day from Verlander

With the Yankees' bats overpowering Houston pitching in Game 1, the Astros will look to Justin Verlander to try and hold the potent lineup in check to keep them from putting the game out of reach as they did on Saturday against Zack Greinke and Ryan Pressly. Verlander will rise to the moment well, like he always does, and could be just what the Astros need to hold New York at bay.

The intriguing storyline to see will be how Verlander can manage his pitch count. Greinke was able to do great in this area on Saturday, finishing six innings with a pitch count that, if needed, could have allowed him to go deeper. With Verlander working for more strikeouts than contact, it would be a significant benefit to the Astros if he can go deep into Game 2.

Astros need offense to build on

Houston's bats went nearly silent in Game 1. They cannot allow that to happen again on Sunday. While coming out and putting up a huge first inning would bode well for them, the Astros would also do well to get some offense to build on in the early goings of the game to capture some momentum that they can use to get the crowd behind them to shake the Yankees off their game.

I would expect one, or several, of Houston's key bats to have a huge game to even this series up before it shifts to the Bronx for three games. As was seen in Game 1, it's unlikely that the Yankees will go down without getting a few big hits that usually result in runs. The Astros need to put up as many runs as possible to keep the Yankees out of reach.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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