JOHN GRANATO

This roller coaster Astros season still has many twists and turns to come

Dallas Keuchel had a rough start to the season, but look at him now. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If you thought this was going to be a smooth ride this Astros season you couldn’t have been more wrong. What you thought you could count on has turned to mud and what you thought was an ugly duckling is really a beautiful swan. And it’s not over yet, There’s still a month left to this season. Who knows how it’ll end up but this is why you can never speak in absolutes at any point in a 162-game season.

This season started with unbelievable starting pitching, well, everyone but Dallas Keuchel. He got off to a miserable start. The rest of the rotation was straight fire. Remember when Justin Verlander was a lock to win the Cy Young? 16 starts in he was 9-2 with a 1.60 ERA and 15 of those 16 were quality starts. He led the league with 130 strikeouts.

Since then he’s had 12 starts with a 4-6 record and given up 34 runs for a 4.46 ERA. Only half of those have been quality starts but the most alarming part is the 18 home runs he’s given up over those 12 starts. You don’t hear nearly as much about the Cy Young these days but with Chris Sale’s injuries Verlander is definitely still in the hunt thanks to that fast start.

On the other end of that spectrum is Keuchel. At one point it looked like he was going to have a tough time making the postseason rotation. On June 10th he went 4 ⅓ and gave up 6 runs, 5 earned which ballooned his ERA to 4.45. He was 3-8 on the year on a team that was 17 games over .500. In a contract year it looked like this would be Dallas’ last season in Houston.

Something somewhere somehow changed after that start and he’s been the Astros best pitcher over the last two months. Since then he’s 7-2 with a 2.74 ERA. All but three of his 14 starts have been quality starts. He’s back to clearly being the Astros number two starter.

There was a time this season when J.D. Davis, Derek Fisher and Tyler White were prominent in this lineup. Two of those three have gone by the wayside while Tyler White has not only played his way into an everyday role, he’s become one of their best hitters. That’s not an understatement.

Early on I’d get tweets about White in the lineup, how pitiful it was and how he should go back to Fresno. I don’t get those anymore. While he has a smaller sample size than most of the the guys in the lineup, he’s been so good that if the playoffs started today you could make the argument that he should be the team’s cleanup hitter.

White leads the team in OPS and slugging. He’s second in on-base, batting average and home runs per at-bat. Only Gattis hits homers at a better rate but White destroys him in every other category which is why Gattis doesn’t see the field anymore. Remember when Gattis knocked in 30 runs in June in 98 at bats? He’s had about half that many at bats this month and at this rate probably even fewer in September.

Remember when Marwin was costing himself millions in a contract year? Not anymore. At the end of May he was floundering with a .612 OPS. This month it’s 1.049, second only to White who needed a ninth inning walk-off home run yesterday to pass him. Good stuff.

Remember when the bullpen was a mess and there was maybe one guy (Colin McHugh) you could count on? Not the case anymore. I know Osuna has his issues. He will blow some saves. You’ve got to live with that. But a 7th, 8th, 9th of Pressly, Rondon, Osuna or Pressly, Osuna, Rondon or McHugh, Pressly, Rondon or McCullers, Rondon, Osuna or Sipp, McHugh, Rondon or whatever combination A.J. chooses to use is actually not scary anymore. There will be hiccups - always are - but at least you don’t think that you have to use a starter in relief to get anyone out this postseason.

I know Carlos Correa looks bad right now. His average is below .250. He looks lost at the plate. He shouldn’t be hitting clean-up for anyone let alone one of the best teams in the majors, but let’s not jump off the Correa boat just yet. If there’s anything we’ve learned from this season it’s that you never know, you just never know.