It has been a pretty tough start to the week for the Houston Astros. Not only did they get swept by the last place Oakland A’s, but also missed out on trade target Andrew Benintendi. While it was revealed that the Astros’ pursuit of him was never very strong, Benintendi would have filled a much-needed hole for the Astros with Michael Brantley’s status way up in the air, but now they will have to watch as he dawns the pinstripes of the New York Yankees. You know, the team that’s still two games up on Houston for the best record in the American League.
The good news for the Astros, though, is they start a seven-game home stand Thursday night as they take on the Seattle Mariners. Houston is in striking distance of taking over the number one seed and Seattle is trying to widen the gap in the Wild Card race, so this will be a fun series. For the Astros, they can do more than just feel good about themselves with a good weekend against Seattle.
Pitching Matchup to Watch: Logan Gilbert vs Jose Urquidy
The first game of this series should be the one everyone has their eyes on in terms of who is on the mound. Seattle’s ace Logan Gilbert is going to be looking for revenge after being outdueled by Justin Verlander just five days ago. The real story of this matchup is Jose Urquidy. Now that the Astros are seemingly open to trading him, what could this game do for his value? Urquidy is 9-3 with a sub-4 ERA, which is not a bad year for a No. 5 starter. Regardless of their stance on trading him, Astros fans everywhere should be hoping for a lights-out start from Urquidy: drive that value up and use that leverage in the trade market. Thursday could be Urquidy’s final start as an Astro.
Players to Watch:
–Kyle Tucker: If the Astros want to be the best team in baseball, they need Kyle Tucker to get out of this slump. Tucker is hitting just .192 in his past seven games, and really hasn’t been that great over the course of July. He’s hitting just .229 in July and it has been his worst month in terms of driving in runs.
Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez are going to continue doing their thing at the plate, but they can’t be the only ones. The Astros need Tucker to start stepping up and playing better baseball. The good news for Tucker is he can start a hot streak this weekend and turn over a new leaf just as the calendar flips from July to August.
–Jake Odorizzi: He’s currently listed as day-to-day on the injury report, but Jake Odorizzi is still listed as the probable starter for Sunday. I’m very interested to see how he’ll come out and pitch in the final game of this series. He had to knock off some rust returning in his first couple of starts this season but he’s really turned it on as of late, outside of a rough performance in Oakland earlier this week.
He’s 3-1 in his past seven starts and has been able to drop his ERA below four. The question is, can he keep this up? If he can be a consistently solid back end starter for this team, the rest of the league is in serious trouble. The Astros rotation is already insanely good, but Odorizzi being a real threat on the mound is the cherry on top.
The Astros can really gain some momentum heading into August if they play these next four games like they’re capable of doing. In August, the Astros only have three series against teams with records above .500. Plus, they’ll have a do-over against the A’s and have two series against the Rangers. August will be a huge month for them because I think it will go a long way in determining whether they secure home field advantage in the postseason.
While the Astros are playing the struggling teams, the Yankees have six series against real playoff contenders. If the Astros play like we know they can, home field could be theirs before they know it.