Upcoming for Astros: A tough 15-game stretch

In late June/early July, the Astros faced what looked like a daunting 15-game stretch. It included 9 games against the best teams in the AL and NL (Yankees and Mets), three against the above .500 White Sox, and three against the Angels, who were lurking behind the Astros but always dangerous with Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and company. Well, the Astros roared to a 12-3 record during that stretch ending it with a season-high 13.5 game lead in their division.

Flash forward to today and coming out of the All Star break, and the next 15 games may have a lot to say about whether the Astros are going to coast to another AL West title or be in hand-to-hand combat down the stretch.

Their 13.5-game lead was shrunk to a still robust nine-game lead heading into the All Star break primarily due to a Mariners team with an active 14-game winning streak.

What the schedule looks like starting Thursday:

  • A doubleheader at Minute Maid against the Yankees. This is part of the “makeup” schedule caused by the extended lockout that canceled some early-season games. The Yanks have the best record in baseball at 64-28.
  • The Astros then have to fly out after the doubleheader to Seattle to start a 3 game series over the weekend. The red-hot Mariners (51-42) don’t play Thursday and will be sitting in wait for the Astros.
  • The three games at Oakland (32-61) might be expected to be a bit of a breather here, but the Astros just got done yakking up two out of three to the A’s at home.
  • The Mariners then come to Houston for a four-game series. The M’s have an easier travel situation as they are playing the Rangers at Arlington on Wednesday afternoon, while the Astros are finishing up in Oakland simultaneously.
  • The Red Sox (48-45) come to Houston next for three games and are a solid club in a tough division. They are in a bit of a tailspin in July, so maybe……

The Astros are hopeful of getting their best bat, Yordan Alvarez, back for this stretch and also hope that the walking wounded like Jose Altuve took advantage of the break and are ready to roll.

The worst-case scenario is that the Mariners use their seven games against the Astros to shrink that nine-game lead to a more manageable size. The best-case scenario is that the Astros use this opportunity to bury the M’s. And, of course, the most likely scenario is somewhere in between.

How are you feeling at this traditional slightly more than the halfway mark in the season?

59 comments on “Upcoming for Astros: A tough 15-game stretch

  1. We need to see play-off level baseball from our ‘Stros throughout this stretch. This gauntlet is like a play-off rehearsal before the play-offs.

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  2. I did not expect that 7-2 stretch against the NY clubs. Sometimes we underestimate our guys. But I’m sure both the Yankees and M’s are looking forward to these games coming up. We need to get through the twin bill tomorrow with the pen pretty much intact. Starters still TBD. Will Verlander go on 4 days rest or is he going to open in Seattle?

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  3. I’m hoping to see a .500 record in this stretch and get out guys back in the lineup and see if we can supplement the club with an addition or two at the deadline.

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  4. I would put our starter for the 1st two games in Seattle on a plane Thursday AM to make sure that they are rested and ready to go. Hopefully the bull pen will not be taxed to much.

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  5. A few things we don’t know as we head off into … the ‘Gauntlet’ …

    1. We don’t know if we’re going to get ‘healthy’ or ‘crippled’ Alvarez back;
    2. We don’t know if we’re going to get ‘healthy’ or ‘crippled’ Altuve back;
    3. We don’t know if Uncle Mike will be able to play – or even DH;
    4. We don’t know if Pena can control his footwork and throws to first;
    5. We don’t know if Maldonado got enough rest to quit letting PBs fly by;
    6. We don’t know if Korey Lee can catch a high-profile game respectably;
    7. We don’t know if the Jake M we get will be the ‘good’ Jake or the ‘bad’ Jake;
    8. We don’t know if we can keep Jose Siri and JJ Matejevich on the bench with a manager like Dusty Baker;
    9. We don’t know if our relief crew can stand up to relentless offenses without allowing big comebacks [see both the Yanks’ victories];
    10. We don’t know if Bregs and Gurriel are going to be contributors to our offense like they should be or rally-killers like they all too often have been this year.

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    • It might be the end. It doesn’t always end the way you want it too, with a retirement ceremony on the last day and a hat tip to the crowd, but DK should be proud of what is a good, solid major league career. The Astros got his very best at a discounted rate, then the Braves and White Sox paid him a lot of money during his descent, it couldn’t have worked out any better for the good guys.

      I also believe there is an option next year with a 1.5M buyout, which obviously will be bought out, but 1.5M is a nice consolation prize when you are probably going to be on to the next phase by then.

      Personally, he was the start of the rise. He won a Cy, and was a 2 time all star, and our best starter for 3-4 years. Next year there should be a Keuchel day at MMP, sign him for one day and let him tip his cap to the crowd that cares. Bobble head him. Let him retire an Astro. Of course, we don’t know how he would feel about it, maybe he is still disappointed the Astros didn’t fork out the big contract. But at least make the gesture.

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      • It is weird he has fallen so hard when he is only 34 years old, but his numbers last year were bad and this year insanely bad.
        Yes, he and Altuve were the first stars to emerge from the dark hole of the bad years. His Cy Young year was the main reason we made the playoffs in 2015 and he beat the Yanks in that Wild Card Game. He had the bad 2016 season when he was hiding his injury, but his 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018 seasons were good to excellent for us. He, along with Greinke were two of the best fielding pitchers we have ever seen with the Astros.
        This year he is walking guys and getting beat up on hits (13.5 per 9 innings).
        Can he reinvent himself? He was excellent in the 2020 short season which is not that long ago. But maybe his career which was always based on great control and deception has run its course. Or can he channel his inner Greinke….

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  6. For the doubleheader – we have Cristian Javier against TBD in the first game and Luis Garcia against TBD in the second game, so TBD should be pretty tired by the end of today.

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    • I hope TBD gets traded to the Mariners immediately after the 2nd game, and is then scheduled to start Friday night’s game for the Ms. The rest of those guys will be rested while we are flying in on fumes.

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  7. Montgomery pitching for the Yanks in the first game.
    No Yordan in the first game lineup

    Altuve 2B
    Pena SS
    Tucker RF
    Bregman 3B
    Diaz LF
    Gurriel 1B
    Dubon CF
    McCormick DH
    Lee C

    Note – for the active Yankees playing today – they have a total of 58 ABs against Javier with only 4 hits – one by Gallo and 3 by Kiner-Falefa who is not in the lineup

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  8. So Yordan swapped for Siri – Addition by addition tied to addition by subtraction
    No word on who takes Pressly’s place on the active roster. Enoli Paredes??

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    • This year in the minors Hunter has 72 IP, 97 Ks, 32 BBs, 1.11 WHIP, opp avg. 186. He’s been averaging 17.22 P/IP. He is as ready as he’s going to be.

      And Bielak … well, we’ve seen that act before.

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  9. Jake Meyers not being in CF the first day after a 3-day break could speak volumes about how the Astros view him. If we are going to upgrade a position without displacing an entrenched franchise hero [Gurriel, Bregman, Maldonado], CF is the most likely spot.

    Or, it’s just a double-header day, and Dusty is being Dusty.

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    • Another nail biter. I feel we were lucky. Just wondering. You PH Yordan and you know he’s going to be walked so why do that. Chaz swings at two out of the zone for a K (not smart) when King couldn’t find the zone. Fortunate that JJ hit the ball in the hole and nobody was around to cover 2nd.

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  10. Disaster averted. I don’t know how Javier got through 5 innings, but he did and that’s a sign of a maturing pitcher. Great pen work. Neris deserved a better fate. Pena played a young 9th inning. I love Yuli but that was a terrible at bat in the bottom half. We can’t keep waiting for him to hit. Chas I expect it from. James Click says he’s prepared to make our club better. I’m looking forward to it. How about a big game tonight from Luis?

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    • I suspect that if there is a bat out there that can be had w/o breaking the bank, Click will go for it. We may be seeing the last year for Yuli and Brantley. Let’s go for the DH sweep guys!

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  11. After as goofy a ninth inning as you are going to see top and bottom – it’s time to go for the sweep
    Garcia bringing his two step to the mound

    Altuve 2B
    Peña SS
    Alvarez DH
    Bregman 3B
    Tucker RF
    (And then the 4M end of the lineup)
    Meyers CF
    Matijevic 1B
    McCormick LF
    Maldonado C

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    • And I goofed up on German – he was so so last year – he has not pitched in the majors this year – it would be good to take advantage of that

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  12. Bielak did what he was supposed to do. Kudos to him. a couple of seeing eye singles and the mistake to Judge but he was out of gas. Glad we had a big cushion. Yankees are not going to roll over and play dead. A good 2 wins for us and Yordan is back!

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  13. I was looking at a possible bat for the trade deadline. I think its been mentioned but we should take a hard look at Benintendi of KC. He’s getting 8.5MM and was signed for just 2022. He’s hitting .317. You know KC is not going to be able to sign him for next year so he’s a good candidate. He’d be a good candidate to play left or center next year depending upon if Brantley’s able to go another year. Your thoughts? I hear the Yankees and Blue Jays are also looking at him.

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    • That would give us three lefthanded hitting outfielders, two of whom don’t hit lefty pitching very well. Now if Brantley is not going to get healthy, then Benintendi might be the rental we need to get us through the season.

      I’m still thinking big. Josh Bell at first. My longer shot would be Reynolds, but the Pirates are in no hurry to move him.

      Anyway, our tough 15 game stretch is now a tough 13 game stretch. Good start. Our pen picked up Daddy Pressly. But hurry back pops!

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  14. When Garcia’s pitch count ballooned early, it looked bad for the bullpen. But then along came Brandon Bielak. He pitched 3 strong innings against the best offense in baseball [of course, he actually was sent out to pitch a little more than that, but I blame Dusty, not him, for what happened in that ill-fated fourth frame]. I have to say, I was not expecting anything like that kind of contribution from Mr. Bielak. I am thoroughly impressed – and grateful; and I bet the rest of the pen, not to mention Dusty Baker, is as well.

    Good job, son. You’ve got game!

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  15. Thoughts
    – If you had told me that Garcia would only go 5 innings in the night cap after Javier had only gone 5 and we had to use Maton, Stanek, Montero and Neris in the opener with Pressly out….I would have been extremely worried, but Bielak did a great job until he ran out of gas. Yes, we had to use Montero twice, but it could have been worse
    – Matijevic’s “lucky single” was just what the doctor ordered. He did what Yuli and Chas did not do – put it in play. He also went the other way with it and put it in the perfect spot with the shift. The only real play would have been to third, but the third baseman went left to try and get the ball and by the time he stopped the runner was passing him. The shortstop had no shot at first and the second baseman never even tried to cover second. If you see where he was when the ball was hit, he was about as far from second as Yordan was and he was flat footed and Yordan was moving.
    – And if the Astros had to go to extra innings in the first game, they might have ended up burning Bielak. Again – a huge hit for the Astros.
    – Yordan – Yordan – Yordan – his hand looked pretty good. And whether it is his hand issue or adjusting to the pitching, this habit he has had lately of taking advantage the other way with the Crawford Boxes makes him extra dangerous
    – In about the last month (29 games) Bregman is slashing .308 BA/ .416 OBP/ .955 OPS with 18 runs/ 6 HRs/ 21 RBIs and more walks than Ks. He looks like he’s back.
    – Can’t be happier than to sweep the doubleheader and head into Seattle with a little steam behind it. It would be nice to beat the M’s in the opener with Urquidy knowing JV and Framber on ready for the weekend. Jose U – 6 or 7 innings would be real helpful here.

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    • Dan, if you want to know why the Yankees will lose again in October, your comment detailing Matijevic’s walk-off is the reason. Look at the close games, they are 29-21 in games decided by 2 runs or less. They are 35-9 in games decided by more than 2 runs. You have to give their offense credit – they came back to win 2 of those close games against the Astros in the late innings and managed to tie it up in the first game yesterday in the ninth, but in close games their hitters let the situation be bigger than them and their defense leaves a lot to be desired. I hope Aaron Boone doesn’t read this and continues to manage his team without any changes.

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  16. The Astros face Marco Gonzales, who has pitched better than his 5-9 record.
    He has faced the Astros three times already this season
    – 7 innings – 1 run allowed in a 11-1 Seattle win
    – 6 innings – 3 runs allowed in a 3-0 Astros win
    – 7.1 innings – 2 runs allowed in a 2-1 Astros win

    He is coming off a game against the Rangers where he gave up 11 hits and 5 runs in 6 innings, but the M’s still won 6-5

    Urquidy has not pitched well against Seattle this season
    – 4 innings – 6 runs allowed in a 7-2 loss
    – 4.2 innings – 6 runs (5 earned) allowed in a 6-0 loss
    – 4.1 innings – 5 runs (4 earned) allowed in a 6-3 loss

    Now since that third loss against the M’s, Urquidy has changed up his pitch choice – dropping his cutter (if I remember right) and he is 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA in his last 6 starts. They will need him to continue to show that improvement tonight and the Astros need to squeeze on Gonzales a bit too.

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  17. Those two pretty bunt singles to start game one yesterday showed the Astros are willing to play a different game when the time comes. The Yankees, while statistically are an excellent defensive club, are not very mobile. We got a big run on the board early and better, the Yankees, should they play the Astros again anytime soon, will have to keep that aspect of our game in mind.

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  18. Watching the MLB channel this morning and they were doing a Deep Dive on the Astros Yanks games and Mark DeRosa was highly complimentary of the Astros.
    – He loved the double bunt start to the first game taking what was given and getting the Yanks on their back foot – basically stealing a run from them before they were even into the game
    – Highly complimentary of the Astros’ bullpen without Pressly – pointing out how great they have been as a unit for the season
    – Spent a long section praising Yordan Alvarez and pointing out what the teams stats are with and without him – they score 1.6 runs more per game with YA in the lineup. DeRosa loves Yordan’s approach at the plate – his balance, his ability to go the other way, etc
    – Pointed out how Bregman is heating up
    – Gave Bielak big praise on his effort (while pointing out you can’t groove a fastball to Aaron Judge) – said he was so important to the team yesterday
    – Scolded Judge a bit for getting doubled off 1st with the bases loaded on the Carpenter liner (while acknowledging that 90% of the players in the league might get caught off in that situation)
    – Was saying how the analytics which led to the shift against Matijevic in the first game created a situation where they had a force at every base but had no way of getting a force at any base. Basically said that Matijevic is not Barry Bonds – why do you have the second baseman playing short right field where he has no chance to get to the bag for a force in that situation

    It was a fine segment and about as even handed as you will ever see with our team against the Yanks

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    • Someone can claim the shifting was dictated by analytics, but it would be akin to saying Glenn Davis always hit cleanup for the Astros because of analytics. There was no data suggesting an exaggerated shift on Matijevic made sense. It’s a small sample size, but for the season he’s roughtly 40/40/20 going to right/center/left. He isn’t making enough hard contact to justify removing fielders from their proper positions and the hard contact he has made has been to the outfield where the shift doesn’t help.

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      • For new guys, I’m pretty sure minor league data is used. But regardless, hitting against a shift more often provides a better outcome. The young guys that can learn to hit this way will be ahead off their peers. That’s why I don’t want our commissioner to make anti shift rules. Let the players change aggressive shifting by burning the shifts.

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  19. Astros put it all together and after an 8th inning that almost killed me – win 5-2.
    Altuve’s leadoff homer, Yordan’s almost daily homer, Maldy’s shot, Yordan long sac fly, Meyers big two out ribbie, Nice start by Urquidy – only complain about Maton who just drives me nuts.

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  20. Some thoughts:
    * Jason Castro went on the IL on July 1st.
    * In the month of July the Astros are 14-5 and Martin Maldonado’s slash line in July is .255 BA/.327 OBP/.617 SLG/.944OPS.
    * C/1B Yainer Diaz and Swiss army knife Enmanuael Valdez are having really good years in the Astros’ upper minors. I’m sure some teams are asking about them.
    *Shay Whitcomb was batting cleanup and playing 2B for Corpus Christi in their win last night over San Antonio. He was 0 for 5 with 5 strikeouts and a throwing error.

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