I think that if this was a few years ago, the big setback of this weekend for the Astros might be just...dropping two to Baltimore.
I mean, then, it'd be an 'oh no, what are we coming to when we can't win 2 against a last place AL East team', but now it's 'a dramatic square-off between a potential playoff team gaining momentum with a young core', like...we're talking about the same Orioles, right? This is a team that signed Jordan Lyles just so they could have a starter with a winning record. And here they are, looking genuinely amazing and taking two from the best team in the AL.
Let me just state for the record that I like this. I like this a lot. Please keep having teams like the Orioles take 2 from the Astros. It gives me life.
But my point is that any other recent season, blowing some games against the Orioles would be the frightening takeaway of the last weekend of August. But not this year. Because this year, the frightening takeaway of the last weekend in August is that Justin Verlander was removed from today's start after 3 innings.
Verlander has spent the last two seasons struggling to recover from injuries. He comes back in full force this year, produces a gem of a season with a chance to win a Cy Young, and now...I don't know what the injury prognosis is right now, but even if it didn't show in JV's work from today, it's enough to pull him before five innings. So it's likely something pretty serious.
Best case scenario, it's something small that makes him miss maybe a start. Likely scenario is he goes on the 15-day IL and he's back by October. Worst case scenario he's out for the rest of the year. The Astros have had tremendous luck all year, and this may be the one thing they weren't prepared for.
And it's not that this is a real dealbreaker for their rotation or anything. Without JV, the Astros' rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Lance McCullers, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier. That is still pretty damn good, guys. Even Javier, who got the shaft once McCullers returned, still has a 2.97 ERA and a team-leading 150 strikeouts. Luis Garcia, despite a 4.14 ERA, still has an 11-9 record and 132 strikeouts. And Jose Urquidy has been heating up in the last month or so, with a 12-5 record and a 3.69 ERA.
And while Verlander is still a very big personality to fill, McCullers has done a great job filling it over the last few seasons. In his first 3 starts since coming off the IL, McCullers has a 1.69 ERA and 13 Ks. Even without Verlander, I think they definitely have some aces between McCullers and Valdez.
The Astros are looking very good heading into the last month of the season, and are working on taking that first seed and first round bye in the playoffs. Considering that the Astros have been unbeatable in the past few playoff seasons, I'm thinking they'll be even more of a force this year, and hopefully one of their AL competitors will be able to take them out before they threaten us with another boring World Series win.
Coming Tomorrow- A second baseman who took a few years to develop but is now a trusted starter for an excellent team.