Astros Week: Pain With Little Gain

Yordan Alvarez is looking at an extended IL stint.
Yordan Alvarez is looking at an extended IL stint. Jack Gorman
When you lose five of your last six games, nothing feels very good. Compound that with the loss of one of your best players to injury coming off 17 straight days of games, it's tough. That is where the Astros found themselves on Monday after a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Guardians and a long flight home.

During the next week-plus, the Astros will be at home with multiple days off, hopefully getting a little rest and re-assembling their bullpen and rotation back to a normal state. But, this is still a team in search of more than incremental gains with not a ton to show for it thus far.

Yordan Alvarez is out with no timetable to return.

Alvarez felt that dreaded Astros "discomfort" in his oblique muscle last week and has been shelved for at least a few more days before even testing it out. Unlike Jose Altuve's recent oblique issue, this seems to be of greater concern. With the amount of torque hitters put their bodies through, it's a wonder more don't suffer from strains to the muscles along the sides of their torso. In the case of Alvarez, it is two of the most important obliques on the team so no chances can be taken with their recovery.

Hopefully, this will mean a couple weeks out to rest and heal, but anything worse than that could be a massive blow to a team with an offense that has been mediocre, and that's being polite.

The Astros offense has been surprisingly good lately.

Having said that, the Astros offense in the last few games has been better. After they followed up an 11-run win against the Blue Jays with three straight games with two runs or fewer, they scored nine (in 14 innings) and six against the Guardians. On Tuesday night, they dropped six more on the Nationals, this time in a win. In his last seven games, Jose Abreu has slashed .310/.333/.552 with two home runs and seven RBIs. We can only hope this is a sign of things to come.

click to enlarge
Dana Brown has a very important trade deadline coming.
Photo by Jack Gorman
The Rangers are starting to show cracks.

Don't look now, but the Rangers have lost five of their last six games including a pair at home against the surging Angels. The Astros are now just three games back of first place in the AL West with a four-game set in Arlington at the end of this month. They have given up 31 runs in their last four losses and pitching is a concern, particularly in the bullpen. This would be a good time for the Astros to make their move. If they could go into the Rangers' ballpark even or just behind them in the standings, it would be a barn burner.

Will Dana Brown get a bat at the deadline?

The Astros GM has already indicated he is looking for a bat, preferably a lefty who can play infield and outfield. Simple, huh? The argument against a pitcher is that the rotation has been very good despite being held together with spit and bailing wire, and the bullpen continues (even with a few recent slips) to be one of the best in baseball. This is on top of the fact that Jose Urquidy will likely return in a few weeks even if Lance McCullers may not. Adding a bat to a lineup that is just starting to turn around could make a difference, but who it will be and how much it will cost is going to be the first real test of Brown's tenure as GM.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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