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Astros: Three players trending down as July comes to an end

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SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 6: Starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. of the Houston Astros kicks the rosin bag after giving up a run during the sixth inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 6, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 6: Starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. of the Houston Astros kicks the rosin bag after giving up a run during the sixth inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 6, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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The Astros haven’t played good baseball lately yet they still hang on to a four-game lead over the Mariners in the AL West.

The Astros haven’t played their best baseball as of late dropping five of their last eight after the All Star Break including being swept by their in-state rivals, the Rangers. At 67-40, they still lead the A.L. West by four games with a three game series against the team who is aiming to rip the A.L. West crown from the Astros, the Mariners. This will be the time to separate themselves as the season winds down to a close with only 55 games left.

The Astros were outscored 42-33 in these last eight games since play resumed and the dog days of summer have certainly hit the team. The injury bug managed to nip a couple players also. We all know the team hasn’t reached it’s full potential all season. Call it the World Series hangover or the sophomore slump. Whatever you dub it, this isn’t good baseball. While some players stand out week by week, others don’t. Lets dive into this week’s trending down list.

Trending Down: Josh Reddick

The bats have cooled off quite a bit. Reddick owns one of the coldest bats in the last week of work going 4-for-27 for .148 batting average, including four straight no-hit games. His season batting average has dipped to .247 the lowest its been since mid-June. Reddick also tallied seven strikeouts to just two walks and has driven in only two RBI. He did have one homer which came on July 21st, but Reddick has not been shut out in four straight games all season.

The Astros’ outfielder has a chance to turn things around staring tonight versus the Mariners. He is a career .245 hitter against them but hasn’t had much success against two of the three Seattle pitchers he may face in the upcoming series. He is hitless against both James Paxton (0-for-7) and Mike Leake (0-for-5). He has had success versus Wade LeBlanc (4-for-7). We’re hoping that the four game hitless streak does not extend further as this series gets underway.

Trending Down: Yuli Gurriel

Gurriel has been ice cold as of late. He has three hits in 33 at-bats in his last eight games since play resumed. That 3-for-33 totals a .091 batting average. This newest slump drags his season batting average to a .289 after a great start to July. In this frame, Gurriel drove in only two runs and struck out four times. He scored no runs during the lowly offensive output by the team this last week and his OBP is a .308. His offense wasn’t the only concern. His lack of defense was a factor in Sunday’s loss also committing a costly error.

Gurriel has seen time at second base as the team is shifting players around to cover duties for the Injured Jose Altuve. On the season, Gurriel has five errors and fielding at a .992 percentage. We’ll forgive him for that but the bat has to come alive. The ‘Stros are counting on him to be steady as Jose recovers and Carlos Correa set to return next week. Gurriel’s career average versus Seattle is .234, but like fellow teammate Reddick, he has had limited success with a combined 3-for-22 against the three opponents he will face. Maybe this will be the week Gurriel turns things around. Every time he’s on this list, he bounces back with a tremendous week. Hint hint.

Trending Down: Lance McCullers

McCullers  has dropped his last two starts bringing his season record to 10-6. He hasn’t notched a win since July 6th. McCullers’ ERA is now a 4.06, the highest it’s been since early-April. In his last two starts on July 22nd against the Angels and July 29th vs. the Rangers, McCullers allowed five and three earned runs, respectively. He allowed six hits in both games.  He was pulled early also going 4 1/3 innings against the Angels and 5 1/3 innings of work versus the Rangers this last week. His strikeout percentage was 59.7% and 70.9% in both games. Batters are now .220 against him on the season.

He did fan eleven batters on July 29th, but the costly errors and lack of defense lost the game. By that point, the damage was done as he already gave up four runs to the Rangers’ lineup. Just when we’ve seen him bounce back, it seems like McCullers has come back to earth a little bit. He had a stellar June and strung together seven solid starts, but in his last three outings he is 0-and-3 averaging Just four innings of work allowing five runs on six hits.

Next. Astros: Three players trending up as August approaches. dark

The season is long, but the whole pitching staff isn’t what it was when it started. There are 55 games left and a four-game division lead is crucial to build upon. All the Astros have to do is get to the postseason healthy. Then anything can happen. And I’d still take this pitching rotation over any other in the league when a title is on the line.

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