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Inbox: When will injured Astros return to club?

Beat reporter Brian McTaggart answers fans' questions
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- After starting the season 42-16, the Astros have leveled out a bit, posting a 34-32 mark since June 6 as their injuries caught up with them. Still, Houston heads into Tuesday's series against the Nationals with a significant lead in the American League West and the best record in the AL.

The Astros-Nats matchup could be a World Series preview (assuming somebody is going to beat the Dodgers), but the two teams that share a Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., are both without their Most Valuable Player Award candidates -- Houston's Carlos Correa and Washington's Bryce Harper -- heading into this series.

HOUSTON -- After starting the season 42-16, the Astros have leveled out a bit, posting a 34-32 mark since June 6 as their injuries caught up with them. Still, Houston heads into Tuesday's series against the Nationals with a significant lead in the American League West and the best record in the AL.

The Astros-Nats matchup could be a World Series preview (assuming somebody is going to beat the Dodgers), but the two teams that share a Spring Training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., are both without their Most Valuable Player Award candidates -- Houston's Carlos Correa and Washington's Bryce Harper -- heading into this series.

With only 38 games remaining in the regular season, let's open up the Inbox for a late-August edition:

:: Submit a question to the Astros Inbox ::

What are the chances of Correa, Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, Will Harris and Lance McCullers Jr. all coming back before Oct. 1?
-- Thomas D., League City, Texas

Barring any setbacks, they should all be back by early September, if not sooner. Correa (left thumb) will take batting practice on the field Tuesday; Gattis (concussion), Harris (right shoulder), Tony Sipp (right calf) and Michael Feliz (right shoulder) will each rehab Tuesday at Double-A Corpus Christi; McCullers (back) threw a three-inning simulated game Sunday and could be headed out on rehab soon; McCann (right knee) should return this week. There's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Correa, McCullers closer to rejoining Astros

If McCullers isn't getting back to the Major League club until mid-late September, do you think manager A.J. Hinch and Co. will use him in the bullpen come October, and use Brad Peacock as the No. 3 starter?
-- Sean R., Houston

I think it's possible, but to me, a healthy McCullers is pitching in the rotation as long as he's effective. Peacock is going to have a big role in October. If it's not in the rotation, he could take an import long-relief role -- a role he performed well in early in the year.

Do you see this year's Astros eclipsing the franchise win total of 102?
-- David J., Spring, Texas

Hey, did you say something about an eclipse? … Seriously though, I don't see the Astros surpassing their 1998 team record of 102 wins. They'd have to go 27-11 the rest of the way. That would be a .711 winning percentage, which is a little bit less than the .724 ball they played in the first 58 games when they were fully healthy. And in reality, they don't need to win 103 games. If they go 19-19 the rest of the way, they'd win 95 games. The Red Sox would have to go 24-15 to catch them.

What's going on with the offense? Against the A's, the Astros scored eight total runs. Are we missing Correa that badly?
-- Doug T., Raleigh, N.C.

Yes, they miss Correa pretty badly. The Astros are 14-17 without him in the lineup, which isn't nearly as deep without him. When the lineup is fully healthy -- and that includes McCann and Gattis -- there are no easy outs. Without those three, the lineup isn't as long, and opponents can pitch around some of the big bats to get to more advantageous matchups. Houston had an .854 OPS and was averaging 5.9 runs per game before Correa was injured, and it has an .805 OPS and is averaging 4.8 runs per game since he went down.

Are there going to be any new arms called up in September, such as 23-year-old Cuban right-hander Rogelio Armenteros or 2016 first-round Draft pick Forrest Whitley, just to get them some experience in the Majors?
-- Aaron M., Houston

I don't think there will be any big surprises in terms of September callups. Armenteros -- who's struck out 134 batters in 110 2/3 innings this year between Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno -- or Whitley -- who just got his feet wet at Double-A with a dominating performance -- won't be with the Astros in September. We should see both of them at Major League Spring Training next year, followed shortly by their big league debuts.

What is the feel in the clubhouse now that we're a few weeks beyond the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline?
-- Nick S., Austin, Texas

There was some disappointment the Astros didn't add another pitcher while other teams -- such as the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers -- all made moves. But that was three weeks ago, and they've moved on. The players believe that once they get back to full health, they'll be able to do damage in the postsason. After all, they have had the best record in the AL all season.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

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