Sports

Astros Week: All-Star Selections and Grades at the Halfway Point

Kyle Tucker got the nod as a reserve in this year's All-Star game.
Kyle Tucker got the nod as a reserve in this year's All-Star game. Photo by Jack Gorman
After the mid-season test in New York, the Astros pushed through the official halfway point of the season against a pair of bad division rivals in the Angels and A's, and an additional against the Royals. They won all three series with relative ease. The AL West isn't exactly Murderers Row and KC isn't a world beater. And there is a LOT more series against those kinds of teams to come in the second half of the season, and most of those at home.

Mid-season means the All-Star game and everything that surrounds it. The Astros have five players in the Midsummer Classic (more on that below), and that's great. The Astros have dominated All-Star selections over the last two decades not surprisingly. No doubt they'll be more concerned about what's to come after that.

Astros net five All-Star selections.

Jose Altuve was the only Astros position player (his team-record eighth appearance) to make starter (Yordan Alvarez was robbed, if we're being honest), but Valdez (DH) and Kyle Tucker (OF) made the reserves list. Alvarez is unlikely to play sitting out with a hand injury (see below). Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez were selected to be among the AL pitching staff. We had hoped to see a nod to Ryne Stanek for his stellar work this season, but it's tough for non-closer relievers to get chosen. The All-Star game is July 19 in Los Angeles.

Grading the first half.

The truth is, the Astros get an A in the first half overall. They deserve it. They have the second best record in the majors behind only the Yankees, remain one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball and are among the top two or three teams in defense. The only thing that has kept them from an A-plus is their offense, which is finally coming around. That will happen when two of your most reliable bats in Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel finally start hitting. When Michael Brantley and Alvarez return from the IL, assuming no additional injuries, they appear to be heading for A-plus-plus territory in the second half.

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Michael Brantley is one of the injured Astros that should have a big impact down the stretch.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Injury updates.

Alvarez is experiencing swelling in his right hand, the same hand that caused him to miss a game a couple weeks ago. He was visiting with team doctors on Monday, but there are no indications the injury is serious. Manager Dusty Baker said it had been getting progressively worse over the last couple weeks. Color us slightly skeptical, but it seems convenient that the Astros face off against two bad teams and then have the long All-Star break ahead. It is also assumed that Brantley won't return until after the break. If they need rest, they are both going to get it.

Jake Odorizzi looked more like the guy we saw in the first half throwing seven innings of one-run ball on Sunday. That comes after a rough first game back. Once Lance McCullers does return, probably in early August, who is going to the bullpen?

Series Previews

The Astros visit Anaheim for three games against the Angels, who they recently swept in dominating fashion. After that, they head home before the break for a three-game set with the A's. Not exactly the creme-de-la-creme of the league, but they will need to close out strong. They come right out of the break with a pair against the Yankees at home.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke