As Aledmys Diaz limped off the field following the aggravation of his hamstring, a sinking feeling began to creep in for Astros fans. The team with the best record in baseball was beginning to feel the sting of injuries. Jose Altuve had already missed several weeks on the IL, George Springer recently was added to the injured list with a grade two hamstring strain of his own and even second catcher Max Stassi found himself out with a knee strain.
Of course, the team managed to keep winning. After dropping a series to the White Sox, they took two of three from the Red Sox and the first game of the series with the Cubs. In that game Monday, their vaunted lineup had been rather diminished with Springer, Altuve and Carlos Correa all out (Correa for a normal day off). Still, they managed six runs because the Astros keep on Astro-ing.
Fortunately, Altuve appears close to returning, Diaz didn't make his injury worse and just needs rest, and Stassi, it would appear, will take some time off for his knee to heal. Springer is the only one who will miss perhaps a month with his hamstring issue.
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For now, the Astros are in good shape. With a comfortable six-and-a-half game lead over Oakland, there is no rush to get anyone back. Titles aren't won in May and June, but they can certainly be lost with a serious long-term injury. Better to have everyone healthy in September than lose them for good in June.
Still, before the injuries, this was a team rolling over the AL thanks in large part to Springer and Altuve. Diaz, in fact, was outstanding as Altuve's replacement. Limping along is probably fine for a while, but it is bound to catch up with them at some point.
The schedule will help a little. After two more with the Cubs, they head on a west coast road trip with three against the streaking A's, who have won 10 straight, and the sinking Mariners who are 1-9 in their last 10, followed by a long home stand against the Orioles, Brewers and Blue Jays.
By then, they could be back to full strength and we'll all just keep our fingers crossed that they can continue to avoid the big injury to one of their key players. Injuries are the great equalizer in sports. This squad healthy is better than most other teams in baseball. Injuries can change all that very quickly.