Fred Faour: The Astros are the best team in the American League. And there is reason to believe they will get even better by playoff time

HOUSTON, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 11: Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros congratulates Trey Mancini #26 after hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Minute Maid Park on September 11, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Fred Faour: The Astros are the best team in the American League. And there is reason to believe they will get even better by playoff time

In a long, 162-game season it is easy to lose sight of what a streaky game baseball can prove to be over time.

Remember earlier in the season when Alex Bregman was struggling and fans wondered if he would be Bregman again?

Fast forward, and the heart and soul of the Astros is doing just fine, hitting .268 with 21 HRs and 83 RBIs. The stare is back, the fun is back, Bregman is back, just in time for the playoffs.

Jose Altuve started slow. Don’t look now, but he is hitting .291 with 24 HRs and 52 RBIs.

As a team, the Astros run differential after Tuesday night was plus-181, third in baseball behind the Dodgers and Yankees. A lot of fans complain about the offense, Dusty’s decisions, inconsistent lineups. But it’s September. The goal is to have it clicking on all cylinders by the playoffs. And there are a lot of reasons to think that will happen.

To quote the great poets Shinedown: How about a better version of me?

Altuve, Bregman and Kyle Tucker (.258, 25 HRs, 93 RBI) are producing at a playoff level now. And all three could be even better in the postseason. But there are some key players set to crank it up for October as well. Yordan Alvarez (.293, 32, 83) has not been the beast he was before the All-Star break. But he has shown signs of busting out again. His wrist injury has slowed down his production, but he is stinging the ball again, just in time. A healthy Alvarez in the postseason will be a major weapon.

Trey Mancini has just been OK, but there is no reason he won’t hit better than .198 as an Astro moving forward. He is hitting .252 for the season overall and should get closer to that as an Astro by playoff time.

The real key is Yuli Gurriel. Last year’s batting champ has struggled all year, but he has had prolonged issues in the past and pulled out of it. He has quietly gotten his average up to .243, with 7 HRs and and 43 RBIs. There are signs that the hot streak is coming, and if it does, it will be at the perfect time. He was striping the ball Tuesday night, but due to some bad luck had only one hit.

Throw into the mix that Aledmys Diaz, who was productive at several positions all year (.252, 10, 32) is close to a return from injury, and you have another good option to boost the offense.

Even Chas McCormick, who also had his issues early on, is hitting just .236, but has 13 HR and 41 RBIs. He, too, has room to improve.

In the cases of Alvarez, Mancini and Gurriel there is every reason to believe there is an up arrow by their names. If even two of them can produce at a higher level, the Astros will be in serious business come playoff time. If they all do? The end goal of hoisting a World Series trophy will be much easier to achieve.

The Astros starting pitching is good enough. The bullpen is good enough. The lineup – as it stands now – is close enough.

But there is every reason to believe they can and will get better.

And that will be good enough.

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