In case you hadn’t noticed, the Astros offense has been a little quiet lately. A power outage has sapped the life out of Houston’s bats over the last four games, as the team has managed just eight runs over that time.
On one hand, this is perplexing. The Astros can usually be relied upon to put up gaudy offensive numbers, and they’re receiving stellar contributions from George Springer, Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez, and a resurgent Alex Bregman.
On the other hand, the struggle to score runs shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise. The ‘Stros are playing without a trio of key contributors: Carlos Correa, Brian McCann, and Evan Gattis are all on the shelf with injuries.
There’s good news on that front. Star shortstop Correa, who injured his thumb in mid-July, has been participating in fielding drills before recent games, taking ground balls and firing across the diamond. On Sunday, he faced a high-speed pitching machine for a session of batting practice. The next critic al step? On-field batting practice against a live pitcher on Tuesday. If all goes well, Correa will join a minor league team for a short rehab assignment and make his way back into Houston’s lineup in another week or so.
Catching tandem McCann and Gattis may be even closer to making their returns. The pair faced live pitching on Sunday, and each could return towards the end of the week. Gattis is expected to report to AA Corpus Christi to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday, alongside relievers Will Harris and Tony Sipp. McCann may skip rehab altogether and rejoin the team ahead of Thursday’s game.
In an interesting piece of symmetry, Houston pitching has been every bit as stingy as its bats have been silent. Astros pitchers have stymied opposing bats over the last four games, giving up a total of four runs against Oakland, and four more against the Arizona Diamondbacks back on August 17. That’s a strong showing from a pitching staff many prognosticators felt was stretched a little too thin for the postseason chase.
The group is set to get even stronger sometime soon. Lance McCullers Jr., the 23-year-old curveball specialist who carved up major league lineups early this season before losing his mechanics and succumbing to injury, pitched a three-inning simulated game to Gattis and McCann on Sunday. His pitches moved well, and a rehab assignment shouldn’t be too far away. Expect the ‘Stros to be cautious here – a healthy, fully-rested McCullers could be a powerful weapon in the playoffs.
October In The Air?
The Astros hope to breathe some life into their offense this week at home against the Washington Nationals. They’ll need to – the Nats boast a strong starting rotation, fronted by perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer. The ‘Stros will miss Scherzer this time around as the dominant righty fights to overcome persistent neck inflammation. But Dallas Keuchel faces Stephen Strasburg in the series finale on Thursday. What could be better than a late-summer interleague showdown between a pair of division leaders? It wouldn’t be entirely surprising to see these teams line up in October. Score your tickets to the possible World Series preview here.