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Springer, Altuve bombs, Verlander bullets, slay A’s, 4-2

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Astros take series, 7.5 game lead over Oakland

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Any casual baseball fan from outside of Houston would be completely unsurprised by today’s headline. Of course, who else would win a game for the Astros? Who else but George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Justin Verlander?

Yeah, we know this team has tons of other weapons, but with all the time the Astros have spent this year without that original core, Springer and Altuve, it’s great to see them back and bashing.

And Verlander, although still a leading contender for the Cy Young Award, seemed very shaky for about a month from mid-June into July. But for the last three games, and especially today, he’s announcing to all baseball: “Fear this.”

The A’s lineup is no bunch of pansies, but Verlander mowed them down today like a tractor. He surrendered one (totally) unearned run in six innings, allowing only two hits and two walks. Elite WHIP my friends. His, at 0.84, leads the league. And there’s no one else even close. He struck out eleven en route to his league leading thirteenth win. His 2.86 ERA and 183 strikeouts are second in the AL pending tonight’s results.

But for four games, from June 18th - July 5th, Justin was showing a little fatigue. His ERA was 5.19 and he surrendered nine home runs. In the three games since he has only allowed four earned runs and three homers, seeming to tame that home run dragon that has abused him all year.

Offensively, the Astros have been a little cold the last two games, getting only 14 hits in nineteen innings. But today, two long balls were all that the Astros needed behind Verlander’s shutdown performance.

George Springer opened the scoring in the third with a smash just beyond the fuel pump in left center field, scoring Robinson Chirinos.

In the fifth, Altuve hit the batter’s eye in center field, scoring Chirinos again. Jose was 3 for 4 today with a double and a single to go with the dinger, his 15th of the year.

Both Altuve and Springer, with 23 homers, have exceeded their totals from last year.

Yuli Gurriel extended his hitting streak today to 13 games.

Before going onto the IL Jose Altuve was in probably the worst prolonged slump of his career. On May 10th his BA was only .243, although a power surge of nine home runs kept his wRC+ a respectable, but low for Altuve, 115.

After last off-season’s knee surgery and this season’s early struggles, it is a relief to see Altuve playing like his former self. Since his return from IL he is hitting .323 with a 130 wRC+ (not including today’s performance) with six home runs. He is running the bases as fast and as confidently as ever.

Great news.

Now let’s get Alex Bregman out of his slump. He’s one for his last twenty plate appearances, with two walks. In time for the return of CARLOS CORREA on Friday against St. Louis.

YEAAAAAAAA.

The Astros are a fun team. Here’s rookie Myles Straw making fun of Chris Devenski before the game.

Final notes: Roberto Osuna was shaky again today as closer, after losing last night’s game in the eleventh inning. He allowed another run in the ninth today, but still managed to survive with his 23rd save of the year.

Astros are off tomorrow before heading off to St Louis for a three game series.

Box score and videos HERE.