Yulieski Gurriel is in the Houston Astros lineup batting sixth today.
Two days ago the Houston Astros season seemed liked it was over. They had just lost to the Orioles in Game One 13-5. Houston was only one game over .500 at 61-60. After all the fighting their way back into the playoff race, they were free falling. Two wins later, the hopes for the team have to be on the rise. However, do they have enough time left in the season to get back into the race?
If the Astros have any chance to make a comeback, they need all hands on deck for the stretch run. Yesterday, news broke that slugging third baseman Luis Valbuena could be done for the season. This news could be devastating for the Astros chances if they had any, to begin with. While the Astros offense has exploded the past few days, it was inconsistent before then.
A New Hope
Jeff Luhnow did not add a bat during the trade deadline because they felt like they already did when they signed Yulieski Gurriel. He was a Cuban superstar who defected in February. He has been regarded as one of the best players in the world for the past decade playing in Cuba. However, he’s not a young player at the age of 32.
Luhnow saw enough ability that they offered him a 4.5-year deal worth $47.5 million. He signed and obtained his work visa and then took a four-stop tour through the minor leagues. Gurriel played with the Gulf Coast League Astros, Jet Hawks, Hooks, and the Grizzlies. Hinch acknowledged before today’s game that they had moved him all over the country, but he is physically ready.
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Gurriel Strikes Back
Is Gurriel baseball ready? He didn’t impress Stros fans much through his stint through the minors with a slash line of .250/ .262/ .429/ .691. He had two homers with 14 RBIs while striking out 15 times, a 25% strikeout rate. Gurriel struggled with timing against the better quality pitching in the minor leagues. Maybe he will play better on the big stage.
Gurriel will make his debut versus the Orioles today, he will be the designated hitter and will be batting sixth behind catcher Evan Gattis. Not much has gone right for the Astros this year, so they are counting for Gurriel to add that veteran presence. Alex Bregman has taken over third base for his defense and offensive ability. But the Astros insist that they will get Gurriel the majority of playing time at third for the rest of the season.
Let’s hope that Gurriel is the missing piece to get Houston back into the playoff chase in 2016, but they sit 9.5 games behind the Rangers and 4.5 games behind the second Wild Card team Orioles. It will be a steep climb, but if the offense continues to produce consistently, the pitching should return to form soon.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***