The moral of this 6-3 road trip is that Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez can’t return quickly enough.
Honestly, I shouldn’t complain too much about a 6-3 road trip, other than the Rangers adding a game to their division lead at the same time. But there are instances when criticism is warranted. For example, I think the experiment of Mauricio Dubón hitting leadoff mercifully needs to end.
Since June 11, entering July 23 (122 PA): .210/.230/.319, 1.6% BB%, 47 wRC+
Dubón has been a great story for the Astros this season. His presence, specifically with the glove, has been positive. I mean, his defensive prowess is a real asset.
He was also a spark plug offensively earlier in the season. For a club lacking reliable infield depth, Dubón has produced enough to help ease the sting of losing Altuve for multiple weeks at a time. Alas, Dubón’s offensive production for the past six or so weeks has increasingly become a liability. It is one thing when his contact is generating hits. But it is another issue when his entire offensive skill set primarily hinges on contact with little power. Ironically, Dubón’s solo home run in the top of the ninth inning was the deciding factor in Sunday’s finale.
Talking about hitters who are struggling, we’re approaching some tricky territory with Jeremy Peña. Much like Dubón, Peña’s offensive production from June onwards has cratered (49 wRC+ since June 1). Fastballs, in particular, have become one of Peña’s weaknesses at the plate, in addition to those pesky sliders. That’s not a great development.
On the plus side for the lineup, even with a worrisome 2.9% walk rate, Yainer Díaz demonstrated again why he should remain in the lineup for most games. Whether that occurs when Alvarez returns remains to be seen, but I, unfortunately, don’t hold out much hope on that front.
In terms of pitching, Hunter Brown had arguably his best start in nearly a month, limiting the A’s to two earned runs across six innings. He allowed six hits and two walks while striking out four. But the lack of swing-and-miss stuff from Brown is a concern. Even if Cristian Javier rebounds, it feels like a stretch that the Astros can depend upon Brown and José Urquidy for high-leverage innings come September and possibly October. Another starter at the trade deadline could go a long way. Thankfully, the bullpen also did its job Sunday, allowing no runs, although Héctor Neris created another jam he wiggled himself out of. Seth Martinez and Bryan Abreu each also threw a scoreless frame.
Looking ahead, the Astros have a tough road ahead, with a nine-game home stand against the Rangers, Rays, and Guardians. Arguably the most crucial homestand of the season. A successful homestand likely solidifies their standing in the AL playoff picture. If not, it could make for a stressful final two months of the season.