The Houston Astros were a member of the National League since 1962, but all of this changed when Jim Crane purchased the Astros with an agreement to move them to the American League. When they moved leagues, the idea of pitchers hitting became an afterthought with the designated hitter. Too bad that the Astros were not in the AL when Carlos Lee played for the team because he would have been perfect for that role. Without the DH for the Astros, there would not have been room for a Chris Carter (turned into a decent first baseman) and Evan Gattis on the team.
When the Astros take the field tonight, they will do so without a designated hitter, old school. I hope Dallas Keuchel has been taking some batting practice, because he could help his own cause tonight with the stick. While this is not the first interleague series of the season, the timing is not that good for the Astros who are fighting to hold onto the second Wild-Card. With the Rangers beating the Angels last night, the Angels are now a game behind the Astros. The Twins also won as well, so they move to one game behind the Astros as well. With the stakes so high at the moment, the Astros really need all hands on deck. The good news is that the Astros are 6-1 in games this season without a DH, as shown in the Tweet below.
The Astros, who have been coined Crush City by Astros’ fans and media, will be without the services of the extra hitter in the lineup. The person who has occupied this position the most is Gattis, who leads the team in home runs and runs batted in 2015. Gattis has been the target of some criticism this season from fans, but his 27 homers and 87 RBI’s. Can the Astros get consistent at-bats from this lineup without Gattis in the starting lineup? We will see tomorrow versus the Diamondbacks.
How has the Astros done in 2015 in inter-league games this year? According to Evan Drellich, “it could be a blessing: The Astros are 14-3 in interleague play, which is the best record in the majors.” The Astros have a perfect team to play in the National League with our the players with positional flexibility. Marwin Gonzalez, Jed Lowrie, Luis Valbuena, and Carter are among the Astros who can play multiple positions. With the way that A.J. Hinch has managed the games recently, look for a lot of pinch-hitting during this series. Gattis would be a great bat off the bench in a tight situation, Hinch just needs to be patient and wait for the right moment.
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On the season, the DH has a slash line of .247/ .294/ .460/.753 with 28 homers, and 98 runs batted in (according to Baseball-Reference). This position has been the most clutch spot in the batting order on the season despite the low batting average and on-base percentage. There are some strong Gattis critics out there, but in my opinion he will be missed in the lineup. Gattis can still get some playing time in the outfield, just don’t look for him to start tonight with Keuchel on the mound and the importance of winning the first game of the series. The other hitters will have to take up for the slack without a DH, but this team seems to be balanced enough to win.
Should the Astros win the first two games of the series and the Angels lose tomorrow, they should be able to clinch the second Wild-Card Saturday night (maybe a tie-breaker game if my math is off). The Twins could insert their will in the Wild-Card hunt, but they would have to win out if the Astros win two games. This would be great for the Astros so they could start Dan Straily Sunday in a game that doesn’t matter unless the Minnesota Twins start challenging. The Rangers are doing us a favor right now, hopefully, they will continue to sink the Angels. The Astros need a better performance from the Indians.