The Houston Astros (55-36) head into the All-Star break needing to recharge after a grueling first half of the season that saw the team go on a stretch of 20 games without an off-day. As it currently sits, the Astros are in first place in the American League West with a 3.5 game lead over the second-place Oakland Athletics.
Astros Mid-Season Report
The Astros had a wild first half of the season. There was much speculation about how the team would respond by having fans back in the stands for the first time since the scandal broke in January 2020. The team started the season off hot as they managed to own their division rivals, the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels, by jumping out to a sizable lead within the division. Like all hot streaks, there is always a cold streak to follow.
Their first homestand of the season did not go as planned. The club manage to drop the first two series of the season to the Athletics and Detroit Tigers. The Astros were hit with health and safety protocols. Several team members, including Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez, were all out for the mandatory ten days due to these rules.
During that stretch without their key players in the lineup, the Astros struggled mightily against their division foes. For the first time all season, the team was at the bottom of the division. Although it was only April, many Astros fans were already writing this team off. With the club slowly getting healthy, the Astros started to climb back into the division race heading into May.
The Astros started off the month of May on a decent note. The Tampa Bay Rays were the hottest team at the time, and the Astros managed to go in and win a series at Tropicana Field, a stadium where they frequently struggle. The Astros looked like they were starting to get back after going on a six-game winning streak before entering into one of the toughest stretches of the season, facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and Boston Red Sox to end the month of May.
With a series win against the Red Sox to kick off June, the Astros were back on track and sitting near the top of the division. The offense was consistent, and the starting pitching was dominant, lead by Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia. The bullpen, which has often struggled this season, was doing well with Brooks Raley, Ryne Stanek, and Ryan Pressly holding down the fort.
The Astros went on a tear in the middle of June, with the offense scoring runs at an astronomical rate. The team won 11 games in a row, only to have a dreaded weather postponement in Detroit that would derail the winning streak. The Astros closed out the month of June on a five-game losing streak, but the team would be looking to turn things around in July.
With the All-Star Game around the corner, Houston continued its offensive dominance with a sweep over the Cleveland Indians and a series win over the Oakland Athletics. Aside from taking the lead in the division, the Astros were also leading Major League Baseball with seven All-Star finalists. When the final ballot was released, only four Astros were selected to the mid-summer classic, Altuve, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, and Pressly.
To much surprise, Altuve, Correa, Brantley, and Pressly all opted out of the All-Star game, which leads many to speculate that the players did not want to deal with the backlash from the scandal. However, it is possible that sometimes health is just more important!
Second Half Outlook
The Astros are leading the division to start the second half of the season. With the trade deadline approaching, Houston will be looking to add a solid piece to their bullpen, which has been the Achilles heel for the team all season. The Astros are the best team in the American League and 96.3% to make the playoffs with a 16.2% chance to win the World Series. The only other team with better odds to win the World Series at 17.4% is none other than the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It will be a great second half of the season to watch the Astros make a push for October. This team will be exciting to watch as the team gets closer to getting healthy, especially in the bullpen, as some key pieces will be returning from rehab assignments.
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