Helpful advice. Because I thought The Plan was to lollygag it until August 26, and then win out.
ANYway, Fox Sports' Sean McAdam lists the four teams that need to win now. The Astros are one of them. The other 26 teams can win later, it doesn't matter.
Somebody else — Cubs? Brewers? — was supposed to run off ahead in the National League Central. Instead, it's the most crowded of the game's divisions, with five teams within five games of first place.
The Astros used second-half rebounds to make the playoffs in 2004 and 2005 and made late-season runs at the postseason in 2006 and 2008. Do they have the right stuff to make a fifth second-half surge in six seasons?
Houston put itself in good position by going 25-16 over the last six weeks. The trick will be keeping it going. The top half of the rotation — buoyed not by Roy Oswalt, but instead, Wandy Rodriguez — has been a positive, but the Astros could use some help from the likes of Brian Moehler and Russ Ortiz.
After a slow start, stalwart Lance Berkman has been typically immense and the Astros have gotten much more offense from Pudge Rodriguez than they could have possibly dreamed. Both Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn have also contributed significantly.
Two series with St. Louis and one each against Milwaukee and the Cubs — all before Aug. 9. — will determine whether the Astros have yet another late-season run left in them.
I would disagree a little bit with some points here. Over the last six weeks Roy has been more valuable than Wandy. It's a stretch to say that Pudge has put up dreamy numbers (I would also point out that Bourn has probably been the one to put up dream-like numbers). But it's true, we'll know about the rest of '09 before we get too far into August.