It’s the first Friday of the stretch run and the Astros have plenty of needs and “needs not”. Let’s take a look at a few.
Houston need another Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in the lineup. Springer could be activated Friday and needs to spring out of the gate to provide extra punch and a spark. Assuming manager A.J. Hinch slots him into the two-hole, a front-end lineup of Altuve, Springer and Correa could set the table for an assortment of middle order guys and jump-start the Astros’ offense.
The aforementioned offense must get jump started. Duh. Pitching has carried the team for most of the season but the offense is what could put away the division title for Houston. Springer at the top, but Evan Gattis, Jed Lowrie and Carlos Gomez need to pick up their games over the next 28 games if Houston is to stay in the battle.
Home and Away.
The Astros need to make hay in the remaining 12 home games. Minute Maid has been a haven of sorts for the Astros, where they are 46-23. With 16 road games (27-38), all against West Division teams, the home and away schedule is not in the Astros’ favor.
The needs not.
Dallas Keuchel and company must keep the streak going. Yes, starting pitching is the difference in the season and the rotation cannot crash and burn now. Hinch has several options if one is hurt or fails, but Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Scott Kazmir must be playoff level down the stretch.
Springer’s injury-prone status is legendary, even at his young age. Correa has already been down this year for a few games and missed the last part of 2013 with a freak injury. Altuve, Springer and Correa are vital to the team, but so are Gattis, Lowrie, Gomez and a few others. The Astros are still thin in depth — at least valuable depth — and can ill afford a major injury this month.
Every division has some luck along the way. The Rangers are hot and the Angels are, well, the Angels. Many onlookers might suggest the Astros have already had plenty of luck. But good teams tend to get lucky at the right time. Jeff Luhnow, Hinch and the staff are counting on their share of it in September.
What else do you see on the Astros’ needs and not needs list, if they are expected to win the division or even back into the playoffs through the Wild Card?