If the Astros have been overlooked this season, the return of Alvarez and Altuve could change that

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve reacts after he lined out during the fifth inning of the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, June 23, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (Jae C. Hong, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In a week when their division rivals made big moves prior to the trade deadline, the Houston Astros added some key players from within when Yordan Alvarez and Jose Altuve returned from the injured list.

They've already made their presence felt.

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Alvarez has a hit in all four games since his return, including a home run Saturday, and Altuve had six hits in a three-game series against Tampa Bay. The Astros are still applying pressure to AL West-leading Texas. The Rangers lead Houston by a game.

It's been easy to overlook the Astros despite the fact that they're the defending World Series champions. There's been no shortage of remarkable stories in the American League this year, from Tampa Bay's terrific start to Baltimore's wealth of young talent. Even in its own division, Houston has been overshadowed a bit by the Rangers and their aggressive front office, as well as the amazing Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels.

The stretch run, however, should be fascinating for the Astros, who are close to the top of their division but also not that far from being out of playoff position entirely. They're tied for the second wild card with Toronto, and Boston is 2 1/2 games back of those two.

Texas acquired Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery to help its rotation this week. The Angels added right-handers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López, then traded for C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk to bolster their offense as they try to make the postseason before Ohtani can become a free agent.

Houston still has time to make its own moves before Tuesday's deadline, but Altuve and Alvarez are nice additions. They were both out with oblique injuries, and Altuve began the season late because of a broken thumb.


The Astros have been to the League Championship Series six consecutive seasons. That's a record unless you count Atlanta's streak of eight in a row from 1991-99, which was interrupted by the 1994 strike that wiped out the postseason.

Aside from the Astros and Braves, which three teams have made the LCS at least four years in a row?


The Chicago Cubs may have come to life just in time to avoid a deadline sell-off. Their eight-game winning streak was snapped Sunday, but they're now only four games out of first place in the NL Central and 3 1/2 behind a wild card.

Only the Braves, Rangers, Rays, Dodgers and Padres have a better run differential than Chicago's plus-57, so the potential for improvement was always there for the Cubs. (And San Diego just swept Texas, so perhaps the Padres still can't be counted out either.)


It's been a swift decline for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who led the NL West by three games July 3 but have gone 6-15 since. If the postseason began today, the Diamondbacks wouldn't even merit a wild card.


Will Ohtani ever run out of unprecedented feats? He pitched a one-hit shutout in the opener of a doubleheader at Detroit on Thursday, then hit two homers in the second game.

Tigers right-hander Matt Manning said it may have been the greatest day of baseball anyone's ever seen.


Down by four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night against Toronto, the Los Angeles Dodgers stormed back and tied it on a two-out, two-run single by Chris Taylor. James Outman won it 8-7 with a 10th-inning double.

The Dodgers had a win probability of 1.2% at one point in the ninth, according to Baseball Savant.


The Oakland Athletics from 1971-75, the New York Yankees from 1998-2001 and the St. Louis Cardinals from 2011-14.


Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister


AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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