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Starting Nine: What does September hold for the Houston Astros?

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It wasn't long ago that September was a month of very little interest for Astros fans.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

All there was of much interest was hoping that some C+ prospect who had put together a nice season in Triple-A got a September call-up and looked like someone who might be at least a passable starting player for next year's club. I can't be the only one who used to listen to Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends" when this time of year came around.

How times have changed. As of this posting, the Astros are just one game out of a Wild Card berth, and while Texas has a big 8.5 game lead in the division, Houston will play three of its six remaining tilts with the Rangers this weekend. Stranger things have happened than a historically-lucky team falling apart down the stretch and giving way to their superiors. But the Astros will have to win it.

Still, the Astros actually have that chance. They're in that conversation. Time will tell if they can do it...but we'll tell you now! I asked the TCB staff for their thoughts...

It's now September and the Astros are in the playoff hunt. Do you think they make it? Wild Card or Division? And who do you want called up as a September call-up?

CRPerry13

The Astros, according to Baseball Prospectus projections on Monday, had a 19% chance of reaching the playoffs. Because the odds are against them and I hate being wrong, I'll play the safe bet and say that the Astros will fall just short. But in a season during which the home team misses the playoffs, it's hard to complain about a projected 2nd place finish with a .527 winning percentage, behind only the team with the best record in the American League.

It's a tough year to play in the AL. The Astros are on pace for a identical record as 2015, but will probably miss the playoffs. However, it's easy to see that the end-of-2016 Houston Astros is a much stronger club than the end-of-2015 one.

In September, there aren't many players left on the 40-man roster who aren't already up and who figure to contribute much. James Hoyt will be back up to spell the bullpen, and perhaps Jandel Gustave. Tyler White will likely be back up to finish out the season as a pinch-hitter and to get him more time with the ML coaching staff. I don't think the fans will get to see any exciting debuts, like David Paulino's. Realistically, the rookies currently on the 25-man roster, Gurriel, Bregman, and Reed, need to play. Any batter who gets called up will be bench depth only -- in case of emergency, break glass. That sort of thing.

pmattern77

Yes, the Astros will make the playoffs. The slide that Baltimore is currently undergoing (5-9 in their last 14 games) likely isn't going to get much better. The O's have outscored their opponents by just seven runs for the entire season and team has pitched to a 5.43 ERA in the month of August (both stats through games played on the 29th). After Chris Tillman was rocked by Houston, he hit the disabled list, and now the only starter the team can trust is Kevin Gausman. Other than Brad Brach and Zach Britton, the bullpen is in shambles.

The Tigers have cooled off and are .500 for the month, while continuing to be a bottom five team in fielding and base running metrics. Seattle is doing that thing where it forgets how to hit again (94 wRC+ as a team in August). The Yankees aren't going to have Gary Sanchez hit 11 more home runs in his next 23 games. That leaves those bleeping Royals, which pitched to an MLB-best 2.56 ERA in August. However, let's remember that Kansas City has posted an 88 wRC+ as a team for this season and has been outscored by 15 runs this season. September won't be the same as August for the Royals.

That leaves Houston, which has the best run differential among all of these teams, and is getting extra help at the right time in the form of Alex Bregman and Yulieski Gurriel. As far as call ups go, I'd like to see Hoyt back in the bullpen (minus high leverage situations). Perhaps Kevin Chapman can provide lefty help? Tony Sipp certainly hasn't gotten the job done. And although he's not on the 40-man, it wouldn't shock me to see Francis Martes start a game at some point. Simply, the Astros are the best team among this bunch and will turn that into a wild card berth at the end of the season.

Irish Pete

Yes. They will make the playoffs. They will win the 2nd Wild Card. They will proceed to go to Fenway and win on a late homer that just gets inside of Pesky's Pole that's hit by our own Colby Rasmus. They will go Globe Life Ameriquest Stadium at the Ballpark next to Jerry Jonesland and lose the first 2 games handily to the Rangers and the Astros fans gnashing of teeth will be heard from Brownsville to Beaumont. Then, the Astros will knock Derek Holland out of the game in the 2nd inning and never look back, taking the series from a 2-0 deficit. The Astros will do this with a negative run differential in the series and the Rangers fans will cry salty tears at the merciless hands of regression.

Josh W.

Well...I was going to add my two cents, but Irish Pete did the job far better than myself!

For real though, I know I've flipped on this team at times. I remember thinking to myself during our horrid July, "Well, were weren't REALLY supposed to contend until next year anyway." I also remember thinking the exact opposite during our incredible win streak earlier in the season.

I guess I'm trying to say that the Astros remain inconsistent. That being said, the addition of Yuli and the incredible hitting by Bregman point to, at the moment, the Astros surging at the "right time." We'll see how it plays out over the next two weeks, however I think the Astros will end up nabbing a wild card spot.

Copycat fully engaged, it seems.

Brian Stevenson

Baltimore is starting to fall off, thanks to their mediocre pitching suffering another injury. Detroit is kind of a similar team; shaky pitching but a really nice lineup. With Gurriel and Bregman both hitting, I really don't think our lineups are much worse than those clubs, our rotation is at least a little better, and our bullpen definitely is (despite Zach Britton being a monster). Seattle isn't bad but I think we're clearly better and we have six more games with them.

I think the real question is whether we can survive the first two weeks of September. If we do, a WC spot might be a lock, considering how soft the schedule is after that. Ultimately, I think we find a way. You have to believe the Rangers will eventually regress to the .500 club they are. Why not this weekend?

Bullpen help will be coming up from AAA, Hoyt and Gustave being the main guys. 40-man roster considerations will eliminate much chance for moves beyond that.

Dave Spradley

As much as I want to see them make the playoffs I think they'll fall just short. They've been playing very well recently and I that's encouraging, but statistically it's still unlikely they'll make it.

Outside of a couple of bullpen guys like Hoyt and Gustave everyone that they think can contribute is up already. I believe that the Astros have more rookies (and good rookies) on their roster than any other contender at the moment. The youth movement is in full swing. It's time to see if the kids can make it.

HOF4BGO

Sit back and enjoy the ride gentlemen. The Astros will capture the top AL Wild Card spot and I am greatly looking forward to these next 13 games, as should you. That's right. I don't care what the projections say. I'm sick of hearing how great all the other teams we play are. Guess what? We're 64-45 since May 1st and haven't had a losing record for any given month in FOUR STRAIGHT MONTHS. Bad teams don't do that. Playoff teams do that. You know what else playoff teams do? They pummel the Royals for 2 games in a row at Kauffman Stadium. They win 6 out of 7 games against the Baltimore Orioles. They beat up on Corey Kluber en route to winning 2 of 3 against Cleveland. They walk off on back-to-back home runs against one of the best closers in the game.

Oh, but the Astros went 7-16 for a stretch from late July to mid-August. Yeah, not sure what could have caused that. Maybe it was the fact that half of the key players got injured at the same time, a rookie got a rude awakening to the big leagues, 4 of the 9 hitters in our lineup were rookies, and all of that happened while we were playing good teams. Just a thought.

Alex Bregman figures out how to hit big league pitching, Yulieski Gurriel has shown that he can hit baseballs in America, Colby Rasmus is throwing out runners and hitting majestic HRs again, our bullpen doesn't have any key guys injured or on paternity leave, and the Astros have suddenly won 9 of their last 11. Oh yeah, and they have the 2016 MVP playing second base for them. So maybe it's time the other teams start shaking in their boots. Looking at you Arlington. Bring it.