Astros Week: Injury Front, Hitting Coming Around, Angels This Weekend

McCullers is back to throwing on flat ground.
Photo by Jack Gorman
McCullers is back to throwing on flat ground.
There are signs. You never know in baseball. The season is SO long. But, there are signs. The Astros might be finally turning a corner. And it could not come soon enough with a supercharged offense in Arlington keeping the surging Rangers ahead in the standings. The offense, which has struggled mightily all season long, almost feels Astros-like.

It's not perfect. They were shut out twice in Milwaukee, but if you ignore those hiccups, the Astros have won five of the last six series and have a chance to notch another series win against the Twins tomorrow. In the five series they've won and the first two against the Twins, they are averaging nearly five runs per game not counting their 12-run outing in Milwaukee for their only win against the Brewers.

This is on top of yeoman's work from pitchers Brandon Bielak and J.P. France as well as pretty much the entire bullpen. There are signs. We'll see how it goes from here.

The injury front is not promising.

Unfortunately, there isn't great news when it comes to injuries. Lance McCullers, Jr., who has not pitched an inning this season, has stopped throwing from a mound, clearly a setback in his hopeful return from injury. Michael Brantley is now swinging a bat, but not hitting balls. Jose Urquidy just started light tosses in the outfield. And Forest Whitley, who may have been called up for this 17-game stretch, is on the IL with yet another injury, this time in his throwing shoulder.

We're barely in June with a lot of time left, but none of these sound promising.

A couple of hitters might be turning a corner.

On the other hand, Alex Bregman and Jose Abreu are starting to hit. The corner infielders have struggled for much of the season, particularly Abreu, who was signed to a three-year free agent deal in the offseason. In his last seven games, Bregman is hitting nearly 100 points higher in terms of average with a homer and six RBIs. Abreu's average is still lacking, but he hit his first home run and has been hitting the ball extremely hard.

Both are seeing the ball better and turning on pitches that caught them off guard earlier in the season. Bregman and Abreu are due for a hot streak. While Bregman is on one, Abreu may be right behind.

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Alex Bregman is part of an Astros resurgent offense.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Jose Altuve is legit back.

Since returning from injury, Altuve, a notorious slow starter, is doing pretty much the opposite. He is slashing .324/.425/.667/1.013 with a pair of home runs including a grand slam, the seventh of his career. Back in his leadoff role, he is thriving. More importantly, he seems to have help right the lineup overall with Jeremy Peña back to batting second, Bregman now cleanup and Abreu dropping to sixth. With both Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers hitting well at the moment, the bottom of the lineup is even giving Altuve RBI chances. The Astros needed him to come back strong and he has and then some.

Big series coming this weekend.

The Astros took two of three from the Angels on their recent West Coast road trip. Now, LA visits Minute Maid for a four-game tilt. That means we are likely to see Shohei Ohtani in both hitting and pitching roles over the weekend. The Angels are just 5-5 in their last 10 but they are a dangerous ballclub and the Astros need to push them even farther down the standings while they can.