Jose Altuve first put on an Astros uniform as a 17-year-old playing in the Venezuelan Summer League ten years ago. He’d recently persuaded Astros personnel to tender him a professional contract despite concerns over his diminutive frame. The second baseman stands just 5’6”, about eight inches below the MLB average. The Astros handed him a check for $15,000—a drop in the ocean of their budget for international prospects—and silently hoped for a growth spurt. Altuve, perhaps playing with a chip on his shoulder, batted .343 in 64 games that summer.
For a first-place team, the Astros sure have been unlucky. That may sound glib in reference to the best team in baseball, but there aren’t many other ways to describe the litany of injuries that have beset the Houston starting rotation. At present, staff anchor Dallas Keuchel is keeping fellow hurlers Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh company on the disabled list. Meanwhile, Lance McCullers Jr. returned to duty just last week.
On May 27, the Houston Astros removed a struggling Mike Fiers from their starting rotation and deposited the 32-year-old veteran into the bullpen. It was, without doubt, a demoralizing blow for the right-handed hurler. Fiers has been a serviceable major league starter for the Astros in the past, and has even flirted with stretches of dominance. But after he limped to a 5.21 ERA and a major league-leading 18 home runs allowed to start 2017, AJ Hinch and the Astros had seen enough.
The Astros lost their series against the second-place Anaheim Angels and have now dropped four of their last six games. Ordinarily, that sort of development would cause plenty of concern. But Houston still holds a commanding twelve game lead in the AL West standings as they welcome the Rangers to Minute Maid Park. So why are Astros fans hanging their heads? Because the ‘Stros have lost yet another pitcher – this time young fireballer Lance McCullers Jr. – to the disabled list.
You wouldn’t know it by their 8-2 record, but the Houston Astros took a few lumps on their latest road trip. After soaring to an eleven-game winning streak, the ‘Stros lost star pitcher Dallas Keuchel to the 10-day disabled list for the second time in as many months.