HOUSTON -- The Astros are two games away from reaching their midpoint of the season and are still on a pace to win 100 games and win the American League West for the third year in a row. Slowly but sure, they’re getting healthy – George Springer will return Tuesday
HOUSTON -- The Astros are two games away from reaching their midpoint of the season and are still on a pace to win 100 games and win the American League West for the third year in a row. Slowly but sure, they’re getting healthy – George Springer will return Tuesday – and Yordan Alvarez has made a tremendous impact.
Despite losing three of four to the Yankees over the weekend, the Astros won the season series against the Bombers, 4-3, which could loom large in October. They lost the season series to the Twins, which means they’re done playing the two AL teams ahead of them in the standings.
OK, let’s open the latest Inbox:
Long term, what position will [Yordan] Alvarez have on the field, or is he potentially a career DH? -- @Jorvan54 via Twitter
Alvarez, who turns 22 years old on Thursday, is too young to be pigeonholed as a designated hitter at this point in his career. He’ll continue to get plenty of at-bats at DH while working on his outfield defense, which has been more than adequate. Alvarez is making the routine plays and throwing to the right bases, so the Astros’ public concerns about his defense might be much ado about nothing (or a convenient excuse to keep him in Triple-A past the Super Two deadline). Manager AJ Hinch insists Alvarez isn’t an option at first base, but don’t be surprised to see the Cuban slugger introduced to some first at some point early in his career. It would make sense.
It's still early, but what kind of moves do you anticipate around the Trade Deadline about the pitching staff? Bullpen or starters? -- @SportsStuff14 via Twitter
I could see the Astros going after any of the premier starting pitchers who will be on the trade market. Adding -- and I’m throwing out names here -- a pitcher like the Giants' Madison Bumgarner or Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman, or even Matt Boyd of the of the Tigers, would strengthen the rotation and allow either Framber Valdez or Brad Peacock to move back to the bullpen for the postseason. I wouldn’t rule out a trade to add a relief pitcher either, but I’d be surprised if Houston didn’t add a starting pitcher by July 31.
Has there been any talk about [Josh] Reddick, [Michael] Brantley or [Kyle] Tucker putting on a first-base mitt? Our outfield is crowded, but first base is our weakest position. Brantley could benefit the most in the long run. -- @Joshua_C_Hill via Twitter
Reddick worked at first base with Jeff Bagwell in the spring and has appeared in a game at first base this year, but that appears to be only an emergency option at this point. Hinch has said previously Brantley could play some first base, as well, but he hasn’t put on a first baseman’s mitt so far. If and when Tucker comes back up this year, I wouldn’t expect him to play first base. I think you’ll see Yuli Gurriel back at first base full time when Carlos Correa returns after the All-Star break.
How do you think the lineup will look when everyone is healthy? -- @reidjaco24 via Twitter
Deep and dangerous. Springer will lead off when he comes off the injured list Tuesday, and I think Jose Altuve bats second and Alex Bregman third. When Correa is back, will Hinch hit Alvarez fourth and Correa fifth so Correa breaks up the the left-handed hitters (Alvarez and Brantley)? After that, there’s Robinson Chirinos (.850 OPS) and Reddick (.778 OPS) in the mix. No matter how Hinch lines up the names, Houston's lineup figures to do some serious damage when everyone is healthy.
Why are [Verlander] and Cole giving up so many HRs this season? -- @umpblue65 via Twitter
Verlander said after his start on Tuesday in Cincinnati that balls were flying out at an “unprecedented level.” And he hasn’t been immune, despite a Cy Young-caliber first half of the season. Seventeen of the 21 homers allowed by Verlander this year have been solo shots, and that goes to show you how he’s been so good at limiting traffic. Verlander is a fly-ball pitcher in a year when home runs are being hit at a historic rate across the game. Similarly, Cole has been bitten by the home run bug as well. Cole has allowed 16 in 96 2/3 innings heading into his start Tuesday against the Pirates, his former club, after allowing only 19 last year.
Will the Astros ever look into having their old timers day? -- @TheLANation via Twitter
They will have a Hall of Fame Weekend later this year, when many of the team’s former great players come back for the club’s inaugural Hall of Fame class induction. That should be a treat for every longtime Astros fan. I would love to see some of the club’s former greats get together and play a game, but no one can approach what the Yankees do in terms of history and legends. The Astros are making strides, though, in terms of embracing their history with the new Hall of Fame Alley in left field. Hall of Fame plaques for each of the Class of 2019 inductees will be revealed Aug. 3 during Hall of Fame Weekend in a special pregame ceremony.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.