The Astros won another series over the weekend. Like many other series wins, it included the satisfying and the unsatisfying. Still, the Astros entered Monday with 20 games left on the schedule and a 6-1/2 game lead over not one but two division rivals.
So, what is on this writer’s mind as the team toddles towards another possible AL West pennant?
Running on Empty – The Astros have a guy on second in a tie game in the 9th inning of the most important game of the year. Their hitter lines one to center field, and there will be a play at the plate. Who do you hope is on second base? Alex Bregman or Michael Brantley? Brantley is sitting out a few games with a sore knee, which kind of explains why he has been running like a guy with a sore knee lately. After “recovering” from multiple issues like hamstring pulls and other ouchies, Bregman has been running like I did when I tried to play softball with a hamstring pull and a bad back. Very gingerly. I love both these guys, and they have certainly hit well this year, when well, but boy, I’d rather have Chas or Jake out there on second in place of either of them.
Innings Management – Is it OK that Jose Urquidy or Luis Garcia or (pick one starter) does not go six innings down the stretch if Dusty allows them to stretch it out in the playoffs? The last few weeks’ biggest concern has been shorter stints by the starters, which always puts a strain on the bullpen that is good and, at times, a little shaky. Is there a master plan? Me no know.
Those Erratic Bats – In their last 22 games, the Astros have scored in double digits four times, but two or fewer runs six times. In their 13 wins in that time, they have averaged over seven runs a game. In their nine losses, they’ve averaged less than two runs a game. They seem to pile on a lot better than they can score when it is late and close. In truth, their pitching has been more consistent than their hitting along the way.
What is the Dusty Plan – No, we are not talking about how he plans to rest his regulars or use his pitchers down the line. What is his plan for himself? At his age, he doesn’t have to keep managing, but it seems like he enjoys it, and it does not seem like the front office is interested in moving him aside for a more long term manager. Is it his decision to make or theirs?
That Bullpen – The good news is that the Astros’ bullpen is better than before the trade deadline. The bad news is that it is really not a shutdown part of the team. Of course, when you get to the playoffs, they may supplement the bullpen with two of the six starters. But which ones? Framber Valdez and Urquidy have done it before, but Framber is one of the top starters now. Lance McCullers and Zack Greinke are the most likely to stay as starters. Would they move veteran starter Jake Odorizzi to the bullpen? His recent statements about getting pulled early in a start would seem to show that is a no-go. Maybe it would be Urquidy and Luis Garcia, who seem to have the right makeup to make a move.
Now it is your turn. What are your Astro thoughts today?