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| Sports |

Astros Reach Softer Stretch of the Schedule in Decent Shape

Michael Brantley has been on a tear since returning from an injury and the team along with him.
Michael Brantley has been on a tear since returning from an injury and the team along with him.
Photo by Jack Gorman
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The Astros emerged from a brutal stretch of games against some of the best teams in baseball at just over .500 for the run of 21 games, 11-10. It included series wins of the A's and Red Sox (twice), a split with the Dodgers and a shocking sweep at the hands of the Rangers. It didn't help that the team was forced to use a patchwork lineup thanks to some nagging injuries, and dealt with a serious downturn in an already beleaguered bullpen.

The returns of Jose Urquidy and the surprising surge of Luis Garcia helped as did moving Christian Javier to the bullpen. And toward the end of the run, it did feel like the team was turning things around.

Fortunately, they will play five of their next six series against the dregs of the American League. First up were the Twins over the weekend. The Astros took two of the three games including a 14-3 drubbing Sunday afternoon.

They will get a chance to exact some revenge on the Rangers in a quick two-game set at Minute Maid before the toughest series of this part of the schedule, a four-game series in Houston against the division-leading White Sox. That's followed up with the miserable Orioles, the Tigers and then the Orioles again.

While they limped through the 20-plus games prior to this, they did manage to keep up with the A's in the division race. Over the next 20, if they can regain some health and return a few players to the lineup, it could make for some feasting on lackluster teams as we inch closer to the July 31 trading deadline. No doubt how the team fares, particularly the arms in the pen, will determine how active and aggressive they will be.

There is still a ton of baseball to be played, but if the Astros are able to keep the faucet of runs that is currently flowing unabated turned on and find a way to patch up the bullpen, they have a great shot at running away with the division.

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