It’s the Houston Astros and New York Yankees leading the American League… and all of the MLB really (along with the LA Dodgers). Looking for 80 wins by the end of the week, the 78-42 Astros are on a roll as we start to contemplate the postseason. They’ve won eight of their last ten games and don’t look to slow down any time soon. It took them until Sunday to lose their first August game! Of course, the Oakland A’s will be looking to close the gap in the AL West, but it’s going to take a lot of effort on their part with Houston’s new pitching acquisitions. Yes, we’ve still got a lot of baseball left to play before October, but here’s what the Astros are looking like right now (hint: unstoppable) and where you can buy cheap tickets to see them in action!
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The Astros are staring down a potential third straight division championship… and more. Some are saying this team might be better than the 2017 World Series team. Those are bold words, but even before July, the Astros had a cast of MVPs in the form of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman. They’ve also got those guys they smartly traded for, like Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel, and Yordan Alvarez (who is having one of the best rookie seasons in baseball).
And that’s without discussing perhaps their most dangerous strength… the pitching staff. Yeah, they’re certainly looking to #TakeItBack to Houston.
Trading for Zack Greinke and Aaron Sanchez
This was a big play by the Astros at the end of July. The Diamondbacks’ Greinke was the hottest pitcher to move at the deadline, and he wasn’t cheap. The Astros took on $54 million of what was left of his contract and gave away a group of minor league prospects, but the six-time All Star gives Houston one of the best rotations in baseball right now. Add Aaron Sanchez to the mix, and some are arguing that it might give them the best rotation of all time.
Just consider the ‘stros pitchers and their respective ERAs now: Justin Verlander (2.82 ERA), Gerrit Cole (2.87), Zack Greinke (3.08), Wade Miley (2.99), and Aaron Sanchez (5.62).
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If Greinke doesn’t rise to a new level in Houston, he’s still one of the most efficient pitchers out there… even if he did allow five runs in a win over the Colorado Rockies last week. Not the mind-blowing first performance fans were looking for, but they still got the W.
Aaron Sanchez from the Toronto Blue Jays, however, is more of a project for the Astros, who have a legacy of turning regular guys into Cy Young Award-winners. Their pitching staff has obviously seen something in him, so they’ll start molding him and his hideous 6+ ERA, 3-14 record right away. The right-hander already started things off on the right foot by throwing six scoreless, hitless innings on Saturday at home, striking out six. Hey, his ERA is already down to 5.62!
Along with Sanchez, the Astros also got reliever Joe Biagini from the Blue Jays.
Challenges for the Astros
Honestly, there aren’t many foreseeable obstacles standing in the way of the Astros’ postseason hopes and dreams… other than the Yankees, that is. And some folks argue that the Dodgers might have a similarly outstanding pitching rotation. But when they’re hot, the Astros are probably the hardest team in baseball to beat.
As for actual challenges, Gerrit Cole might be injured (hamstring)… but he doesn’t think it’s anything serious. He didn’t start Tuesday’s game against the White Sox as planned though, so we’re not sure. Instead, Chris Devenski started and the Astros lost. The Cy Young-contender is having a heck of a season with a record number of strikeouts (226) so the Astros want him healthy. Cole, 28, will be a free agent at the end of the season.
Slugger third baseman Alex Bregman didn’t play in either of Tuesday’s doubleheader games due to a sore shoulder after being hit by a pitch on Sunday. He’s just resting though, as the injury is considered minor and day to day. Good thing for the Astros too, because Bregman is an important part of their lineup; he’s responsible for 90 runs and 28 homers this season.
Obviously, health is something the Astros must keep in mind as we head toward October because, after all, it’s only August. They might have some of the best players in the game, but they need to preserve their bodies for the postseason. According to local Houston reporters, give these guys – particularly the stars and veterans – a day off here and there to rest, and if they can make it to October fully healthy, they’ll be hard to stop!
The Astros are coming off that loss to the White Sox on Tuesday, but they take on the Oakland A’s this weekend, a team that’ll be looking to make some headway in the AL West. Next week, it’s the Detroit Tigers and the LA Angels.
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