Astros have second-half opportunity

By now, the Astros are no longer a surprise. Sure, their a surprising contender in the AL West, an unlikely presence in the American League postseason picture.

But as the second half kicks in tonight, they’re not going to sneak up on anybody.

ESPN profiled their second-half hopes, so it must be legit, right?

To be honest, I’m feeling kind of 50-50 regarding the Astros’ hopes for the rest of the season. Obviously, they’ve put together a team with some talent and a group of players who produced pretty well over the first half … except for the six-game losing streak right before the All-Star break. The were in first place from Opening Day, right up to the last game when they slipped a half-game behind the Angels.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Astros. They’ve had key injuries (George Springer, Jed Lowrie). They’ve struck out a lot … really, a lot, liked leading MLB.

But they’ve had solid showings from established players like Jose Altuve, and they’ve benefited from great contributions from new additions like Carlos Correa.

If they can keep this up, if all of these guys stay on track and the injured players come back and perform, there’s no reason the Astros won’t be making postseason plans.

But …

I’m not so optimistic that I can ignore a nagging feeling inside that comes from knowing that it’s possible, possible I say, that the wheels could fall off. Young players could slump and struggle, other injuries could crop up, the pitching staff could come back to earth.

Hopefully, the Astros can get off to a quick re-start here and erase the memories of the six-game slide. I’d like to see them back in first, or at least fighting it out with the Angels. What I don’t want to see is them fall behind by five or six games and then start pressing. That sounds like a recipe for disaster.