After losing seven straight games last week, the Houston Astros get a change in health.
George Springer returns from missing three more than a month due to a Grade 2 right hamstring strain. Springer, who had been out since May 24, returned to the lineup Tuesday against the Pirates. The two-time All-Star will provide a much-needed boost to a slumping hitting group. Springer had hit .309 with a .389 on-base percentage, 17 home runs and 45 RBIs before the injury. The 29-year-old showed he has plenty of pop during his rehab stint with the Corpus Christi Missions by hitting two home runs on Friday and garnering a single, a walk and an RBI on Sunday.
The Astros have badly missed their leadoff hitter. Those who have replaced him atop the order have combined for a .167 batting average, .268 on-base percentage and .323 slugging percentage. Overall, Houston has a .326 on-base percentage since Springer went down. Their luck in close games ran out last week as they lost three straight by one run at Cincinnati, putting their record in that situation at 12-9.
Collin McHugh was back on the mound Tuesday. McHugh, who had been out since May 18 with right elbow discomfort, is not the most crucial part of the Astros’ rotation with a 6.02 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings, but a needed return since their pitching staff had been strained with Lance McCullars out for the season due to Tommy John surgery. Manager A.J. Hinch needs all the capable arms he can have to minimize pressure on the team’s top two starters, Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole.
On the other hand, Carlos Correa will not return before the All-Star break, according to the Houston Chronicle. Correa, who went out with a cracked rib following a May 28 massage mishap, was originally slated to miss four to six weeks, but has not healed as quickly as hoped. Correa performed reasonably well through 50 games before the rib cracked with a .360 on-base percentage and .547 slugging rate, signifying a solid rebound from last year when he reached base at a .323 clip while slugging only .405. If Correa comes back in the form he showed during the first two months, he will be a solid aid in the second half push for the top playoff seed. The Astros’ losing streak put them three games behind the Twins for the AL lead. Being as near full health as possible in the second half gives Houston a solid chance at a third straight 100-win season.