Sports

Astros Week: Air Yordan's Big Deal, Pressly's Brush Back

The Astros locked up Yordan Alvarez on a new six-year deal.
The Astros locked up Yordan Alvarez on a new six-year deal. Photo by Jack Gorman
Let's try to focus on the positive. Yes, there are plenty of complaints about the Astros bats. Some of it certainly warranted. But, it's a bit like complaining our wallets are too small for all our $50 bills and our diamond shoes are too tight.

As of writing this, the Astros sit 8.5 games ahead of the Angels and have one of the best records in all of baseball. They also have played more road games than ANY team in baseball to this point with no more three-city road trips for the rest of the season. They are 21-14 on the road, an extremely good number when you consider really good teams typically win about half their road games. Even better they are 14-6 at Minute Maid Park where they will spend the bulk of the rest of their season.

There are good reasons to think their bats will start to come around. Let's dig in.

Astros sign Yordan Alvarez to six years, $115 million.

Speaking of good news, the Astros locked up their star outfielder/designated hitter through 2028 for just (yes, I said just) about $19 million per season. Based on some of the insane contracts in baseball that is a bargain for one of the best power hitters in the game. Frankly, it's practically a steal given his age and his already prolific bat. He is clearly now the face of the franchise that is remarkably growing its talent about as well as any franchise in baseball.

Is Kyle Tucker next?

Reports are that Tucker and his team turned down an offer from the Astros around the same time they were negotiating with Alvarez. It's not as ominous as it sounds. Tucker isn't eligible for free agency until 2026, but no doubt the Astros want to get him inked to avoid arbitration in two years and, more importantly, to get a team friendly deal now before they are priced out of his market. Money should be on a deal getting done before any of that happens.

click to enlarge Ryan Pressly got tossed on Sunday for a brush back. - PHOTO BY JACK GORMAN
Ryan Pressly got tossed on Sunday for a brush back.
Photo by Jack Gorman
Ryan Pressly gets tossed over a brush back.

In Sunday's series finale in Kansas City, Pressly threw a pitch way inside the ninth guy in the KC lineup with just one out remaining. After conferring, the umpires warned both benches about pitching inside. Pressly became incensed and was tossed. Fortunately, the bullpen handled the rest, though with no help from a very shaky Phil Maton, but Pressly had a point. After the game, the officials explained that they believed the Astros were pitching inside, possibly trying to hit someone, in retaliation for KC plunking Alvarez and Jeremy Peña (twice) in the series. In the case of Alvarez, it was one inning earlier and took away his opportunity to hit for the cycle.

The team sort of admitted they may have been sending a message with Pressly's pitch, so the warning was probably justified and, in the end, it didn't really matter. But it does bring up, yet again, the issues with umpires, egos, strike zones and accountability. There is no point in going down that worm hole right now, but this was a night when none of it seemed particularly necessary.

Is what we are seeing from Yuli Gurriel just where he is now?

The Astros first baseman is not hitting well. This is not a revelation. But, he also looks uncomfortable at the plate. Despite the fact that he remains one of the most prolific doubles hitters in baseball, he is slashing .225/.268/.360/.628, all the lowest marks of his career including the awful pandemic-shortened 2020 season. In 2016, his first year with the team, he had as many home runs and RBIs in only 36 games as he's had in 48 so far this season.

That is all not good, but even more disturbing is that he is on pace for more than 80 strikeouts and just 27 walks. The strikeouts would be a career high — he's never eclipsed 70. The walks would send him back to his first few seasons with the team before his plate discipline because elite. With the team winning, even though the bats are struggling (we can talk about Alex Bregman next week), it's easy to overlook. But, eventually, something will have to give.

Series Previews:

Home again, the Astros have two three-game sets against the Mariners and Marlins this week. They hope to exercise a little payback against Seattle after dropping a pair against them on the road. The Marlins are terrible. As I mentioned last week, this is a very soft spot in the schedule and a good time for the Astros to rack up some more Ws and put more distance between themselves and the Angels in the AL West race.

In other news...

Jake Meyers and Taylor Jones are both doing rehab stints in Sugar Land with the Space Cowboys. Meyers would represent a fairly significant addition, at least offensively, in center field and Jones gives them another option to get rest for Alvarez and Michael Brantley. But, Meyers is clearly the story here. No timeline has been set, but you have to think it will be sooner rather than later.

Speaking of, Lance McCullers threw 30 pitches from the mound as he continues his rehab. It appears he is close to getting back into the rotation, which would give the team a glut of above average starting arms even if Christian Javier (who has been great lately) moves back into the bullpen.
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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