Is Houston the team to beat even if they don't make a move at the trade deadline?

What if the Astros stand pat at the deadline?

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros fans, are you OK with the team not making a move before the only trade deadline in Major League Baseball this season? Especially after the rumors have been hot and heavy that the team was looking to add a starting pitcher or two to the roster for depth and security as they head towards the postseason. General Manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have been open and active in discussions with teams around the league, as well as the media in admitting they would like to address the bullpen and add another catcher as well as at least one front line starting pitcher. Luhnow has been very hesitant to part with one if not both of his top prospects in Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker. In a market that has been less than stellar in terms of the quality of pitchers available and the number of teams willing to participate in trade discussions. So what if the deadline comes and goes and in passing your Astros fail to add another front line hurler to the rotation? Will you be disappointed? Frustrated? Will you still believe in this team and its chances to win a World Series? Although I have been lobbying for weeks that the team needs to go out and make a move for an arm, based on what I have seen lately around the American League, I still believe the Astros can get to the fall classic even if they don't make a move.

Yuli Gurriel Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The reason I still have so much confidence in this Houston team is actually two-fold and it starts with how good this team has been playing and how many games they continue to win even as they fight through the last few lingering injury issues they have been forced to deal with for the last few months. Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve have snapped out of early-season struggles at the plate to once again putting up big numbers and high levels of production at the plate. George Springer returned from a lingering hamstring issue to pick up where he left off putting up all-star numbers and Aledmys Diaz and Carlos Correa are finally back from their injuries to take their rightful place in the lineup and batting order. Rookie Yordan Alvarez has been a huge boost to the middle of the order and provided a much-needed power surge, while Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley have provided reliable, steady and strong starting pitching at the front of the rotation. As much as the bullpen has had a few slip-ups lately, overall the numbers for the season are good as they rank as one of the better bullpens in baseball. At the time of this article being published, Houston had the best record in the American League and was in a great position to compete for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if the team fails in attempts to add depth and improve the roster, there is no reason to believe that they don't have enough to make a run at another title.

Yankees Aaron Judge Astros Jose Altuve Photo by Getty Images / Composite by Brandon Strange

The other reason I believe the Astros are going to be OK even if they are unable to make a move before the trade deadline is the performance of the other teams in the American League that are thought to be contenders for the league championship. After a hot start, the Minnesota Twins have cooled off and are now in a dog fight with the Cleveland Indians down the stretch to see who will win the A.L. Central. In the East, the Yankees have gone from favorites to win the World Series to a team that doesn't have enough offense to cover for a less than stellar starting rotation. If New York doesn't make a move for a starting pitcher, they could be in real trouble heading into the postseason. As potent and powerful as their lineup has been all season and with all the injuries they have overcome, it appears that Brian Cashman has work to do if the Bronx Bombers are going to compete with Houston and others for American League supremacy. The reigning World Series Champion Red Sox have been disappointing all year and their lack of quality pitching continues to be at the heart of all the teams' struggles. If it all comes down to the Astros, Twins, and Yankees, I like Houston's chances assuming all three teams stay status quo. If they don't, I still believe the Astros will be there in the end, fighting for their second title in three years.

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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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