The kids have done about as good as anyone could expect through 5 months of an approximate 6 month season. Since April 19th they have led or been tied for the lead for 119 of 127 games and they have never been more than 2 games out of first place any time since the beginning of the season.
But in reality, the real season starts in September. This is the time when inexperience, injuries and inaction by the front office come to the forefront.
Only a handful of Astros has ever been in a pennant race. George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jason Castro, Marwin Gonzalez, Luis Valbuena, Preston Tucker, Jake Marisnick, Dallas Keuchel, Colin McHugh, Lance McCullers Jr., and Vincent Velasquez have never sniffed a pennant race. Does this matter? Heck the fans are nervous right now, imagine how these players are feeling right now. On the plus side a player like Carlos Correa is so special that he does not seem to notice that this is not a Lancaster A+ league pennant race.
With a young club that is not super deep, injuries can affect them down the stretch. Yes, they have other options than Scott Feldman in the rotation, but he is one of the most experienced and tested players on the team and between last year and this season has been one of the best pitchers down the stretch. There is a good chance he may not pitch again this season. Castro went down at a crucial time for this team. There is no doubt that the pitching staff is missing him defensively and as a game caller here in September. His return is critical to their success. At this point, they really need no other injuries.
It is really too late to do anything about the front office inaction. The inaction highlighted here is of course their refusal to address the poor offensive performances of Chris Carter and Valbuena and in my mind Evan Gattis. Yes, they have rotated Marwin Gonzalez into 3B and 1B and Jed Lowrie into 3B and this has helped. But the team needed to do something sooner to have full effect. Not breaking spring training with Carlos Correa probably cost them a couple games. Not trading for or bringing up a better offensive 1B (Matt Duffy, Tyler White) probably cost them a couple games. It does not sound like a lot of help, but as the Astros are staring at a lead shrunk to 1 game (0 games in the loss column) two or three games would be huge.
The current road trip that has started off with two tough losses may tell the tale with this team. If they don’t turn things around they could be 3 or 4 games back when they return home next week. Every time this team has looked like it was about to collapse this season, they have bowed their backs and played better and the team(s) chasing them in the AL West have played a little worse.
The questions for you today:
- Will this team hold on and win the AL West?
- Why or why not?
- If not – will this team be a Wild Card play-in team?
- What is most crucial to this team down the stretch? Better Offense? Continued Great Starting pitching? Some help with the Rangers and Angels?
- Who will be the Astros hero of September? The goat?