Josh "JR" ReeseBy Joshua Reese

CBS Houston – It’s not the official mid-point of the baseball season, but the all-star break while an unofficial half-way point has always been considered the truer of the two.

This time of year, teams have a real understanding of where they stand. They either know they are in the playoff hunt or they should start planning towards next season.

The Astros after a poor April and seemingly out of the playoff race are back and maybe better than ever. Since May 23rd the team has been playing over .700 baseball (.705, just barely but it counts) going 31-13 during that time.

“I like where our team is,” Manager A.J. Hinch said, “we always want to be a couple of games better and there’s certainly games in the first half where you look back and you go, wow we could be 10 games over .500 or 12 games over .500 if we had just played a touch better in certain spots, but the resiliency of that group and the competitiveness, the belief, the togetherness that’s going on with our team is something that could carry us for the rest of the season if we continue to play good baseball.”

Since the end of April, the Astros have put that awful start behind them. The team has only had one losing streak longer than two games during that time. The baseball the Astros are playing is good enough to get them to where they want to be, a playoff spot.

The Texas Rangers who are the front runners in the A.L West falling back to earth. The Astros were once looking at the daunting task of climbing the mountain that was an 11 game deficit, but that’s no longer the case it’s now been turned into a small hill with the team within striking distance now only 5.5 games back.

Dallas Keuchel with a strong last start on Sunday looks like he finally might be back. In his last five games, he has a 2.78 ERA, he seems to be coming around. Keuchel himself agreed that he is starting hit his stride, the Astros need him to be their ace and if he’s back it spells nothing but good things for the team.

With the Astros solidly looked into “contender” status either for the A.L. West crown or for one of the two wildcard spots, there is still some improvement that could be made to the team.

The Astros while it may be baffling to Hinch, just can’t seem to hit lefties. Even Sunday the team was held down by Oakland Athletics lefty starter Sean Manaea, the Astros pulled out the win after he left the game.

So is now the time you pull the trigger on Alex Bregman? In the minor league futures game (all-star game for the best prospects) he was a home run shy of a cycle and in triple-A, he’s almost no match for the pitching. It might be tough fitting Bregman on to the 25 man roster but as a right handed bat he should be able to help the team.

The team has very few needs but being able to hit left-handed pitching will continue to be a big deal after the break. Right now the Astros have very little flaws and while they aren’t a “dime piece” with a few small moves the team could become even better than last year’s squad.

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