The Astros completed a sweep of the Angels on Sunday 3-1. It was the first game since Jose Altuve returned from his stint on the DL where the team didn't reach double digits in hits. But, the bats have legitimately come back to life as players like Altuve and Correa have reentered the lineup.
In their last 10 games, the Astros are 7-3 and have scored fewer than three runs only once. In those other nine games, they are averaging nearly seven runs and 10 hits per contest. They have outscored opponents in those games 61-32.
And it can't come too soon as they hold onto their tenuous one-and-a-half game lead over the A's who visit Minute Maid for a three game set beginning Monday. It's the last time the two teams fighting for the AL West will square off this season.
In addition to the players who have already returned, George Springer, who has been suffering with a strained quad, pinch hit in the ninth on Sunday and should be in the starting lineup against the A's, a team he has played very well against. Jake Marisnick and Brian McCann are both not too far off from returning, as is Chris Devenski. Within a couple weeks, the team should be at near full strength, the one glaring absence being Lance McCullers, Jr., who remains out with a forearm strain.
We have yet to see the kind of offense the Astros produced in 2017, but they are a game ahead of the pace of last year's team at 80-50. Their offense remains very good and their pitching continues to be outstanding. Whatever struggles they may have had, and as good as the A's have been, the Astros remain a very difficult team to beat, even with a rookie on the mound.
Framber Valdez, in the 24-year-old's first start, went five innings allowing only one run on two hits and three walks. It was his second win of the season after a relief outing victory last week in Seattle. Pitching Valdez gave the Astros an extra day to rest Gerrit Cole, who will go Monday night followed by Charlie Morton Tuesday and a resurgent Dallas Keuchel on Wednesday.
With only 32 games remaining, the Astros are in a dogfight with the surprising A's who took three of four from Minnesota. Last season, the Astros were double-digit leaders in the AL West by July. This year, they will have to earn a second straight division crown.
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