The Astros should be getting the lift they've been missing all season in short order.
Jose Altuve begins his rehab assignment tonight with AAA Sugar Land.
The Astros second baseman hasn't played this season after fracturing his thumb on March 18 in the World Baseball Classic. Houston hasn't been close to the same without their lineup catalyst.
The Astros are hitting .238 as a team with a .672 OPS. Only Detroit and Cleveland have a lower team OPS than the Astros and their 33 home runs as a team are the 24th best in the game. This simply has not been the Astros offense we've come to know.
Their .739 OPS as a team last year was seventh best in the MLB in 2022. Their 4.51 runs per game in 2022 greatly trump the 4.35 they're averaging this season in light of the rule changes with pitch clocks and banned shifts.
With a return nearing for their future Hall of Fame second baseman, a return to form for the offense should be near. Altuve will supply home run pop atop the lineup. His .921 OPS last season was fifth-best in the game. His ability to get on base should provide plenty more RBI opportunities for lineup stalwarts Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker.
As Altuve goes, so go the Astros. Sitting 19-18 and four games out of first place in the division, Houston needs its cornerstone back. The face of the franchise makes them go. The Astros were 96-41 in games started by Altuve last season, a 113-win pace.
If Houston gets him back by the end of May, plenty of time remains for them to make a charge atop the AL West standings and never look back. Injecting some life in an offense that so desparately needs it will be a good starting spot.
If they can then get Michael Brantley and Chas McCormick back, the league will really be on notice.
Altuve will be in tonight's lineup as the Space Cowboys play host to the El Paso Chihuahuas.