It took some very weird bounces, a bunch of walks and a late-night second game of a double header for the Astros to snap a six-game losing streak in Oakland. The big question going forward is, will it matter?
The Astros are favorites to make the playoffs thanks to the expanded postseason in this bizarre, pandemic-mangled season. Eight teams from the AL will go and the Astros remain one of those likely teams. But, getting there is not really the matter at hand for a team with higher expectations. And given how bad they have been lately, a first-round bounce doesn't feel like much of a consolation prize.
This is a team that was a game seven win away from a second world championship last season. And despite losing Gerrit Cole and some key pieces to the bullpen, they appeared solid heading into 2020. Then, the pandemic hit, the season was delayed and, ultimately, the injuries began to mount.
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Looking at a lineup filled with guys who have had their first major league opportunities, many of whom never played Triple A ball, it's no wonder. Tuesday night, they started Chase DeJong, a pitcher they acquired from the Sugar Land Skeeters. That is not a typo. DeJong hadn't started a game in the majors in two years. He managed two good innings and one nightmare third.
With Lance McCullers, Jr. now on the injured list along with Justin Verlander, Yordan Alvarez (gone for the year) and Jose Altuve, it's only because of their depth they have managed to remain over .500, if only barely. Alex Bregman finally returned from his hamstring pull, but it is difficult to expect much in the batters box from players like Miles Straw and Abraham Toro, or on the mound from pitchers like Blake Taylor, Brooks Raley and Brandon Bielak.
Even with surprising seasons from some of the youngsters, the Astros are headed toward the playoffs limping badly. Unlike a normal season when the team might have another 100-plus games to work things out, make some trades or get healthy, this season is nearly over.
On Tuesday, Zack Greinke, ever the no-BS interview, said, “It doesn’t matter. Everyone makes the playoffs." He's probably right and the Astros will likely get to the postseason regardless of how they are playing right now. In that sense, it really doesn't matter. But if the Astros are playing like this once that day arrives, it most definitely will.