Welcome to the second half of baseball. The All-Star Game has come and gone (the AL won on a thrilling home run by Seattle’s Robinson Cano), and teams across the league have their sights set on the July 31 trade deadline as they look to upgrade their units for a postseason run or sell off stars in return for minor league talent.
The first half of the 2017 baseball season is in the books – and it was one for the books. In splitting a four-game seesaw series against the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Houston Astros secured their sixtieth win of the first half. Only five other teams in the Wild Card era have matched that accomplishment.
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.
Astros skipper AJ Hinch is a lucky man. His club has been the toast of Major League Baseball this year. He draws rave reviews from a dynamic young clubhouse. He also possesses an elite bullpen weapon in the form of fireballing sophomore Chris Devenski. Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether Hinch knows how best to use that weapon.