Fans have rea­son to be ex­cited about the surg­ing Astros, who could use some re­in­force­ments at the trade dead­line PUTTING ON A SHOW

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - COMMENTARY | BASEBALL - JENNY DIAL CREECH jenny.creech@chron.com twit­ter.com/jen­ny­di­al­creech

The feel­ing was im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore on Fri­day night.

Nearly ev­ery seat at Minute Maid was full. Orange and blue T-shirts and ball caps painted a pic­ture of a city wrapped into July base­ball.

Anx­ious about and ex­cited for their Astros.

The team was back af­ter a road trip and All-Star break.

The en­ergy sur­round­ing the home team was pal­pa­ble this week­end. The con­ver­sa­tions through­out the ball­park on the sunny evening in down­town Hous­ton were ones full of hope.

It’s no longer just spec­u­la­tion or “what-ifs.”

The Astros are le­git­i­mately one of the best teams in base­ball and have a chance to be the last team stand­ing.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to watch the Astros and not think that way.

More wins, Oc­to­ber base­ball, the World Se­ries. It makes sense. With a lit­tle less than half the reg­u­lar sea­son re­main­ing, the team does have a long way to go. And with a cou­ple of weeks left be­fore a lin­ger­ing trade dead­line, they do need to con­sider what can get them to the end goal.

This is the year

A lot goes into ev­ery ac­qui­si­tion in ev­ery pro­fes­sional sport, but the one an­swer that seems crys­tal clear for the Astros right now is to go all in. This is the year. This is the time. This is the team that can get to the end and win.

The Astros should do what­ever they need to do to strengthen their pitch­ing ro­ta­tion this month.

It might be the dif­fer­ence in push­ing them over the top and into the World Se­ries.

Be­fore Satur­day’s game, ace Dal­las Keuchel, who is re­cov­er­ing from a neck in­jury, said he would be­gin a mi­nor league re­hab as­sign­ment Mon­day night in Cor­pus Christi. Collin McHugh, who suf­fered an el­bow in­jury, will throw in Cor­pus on Sun­day.

The news for both is promis­ing for an Astros pitch­ing staff that has ma­neu­vered through an on­slaught of in­juries this sea­son.

The ad­di­tion of a healthy McHugh strength­ens the Astros. The ad­di­tion of a healthy Keuchel takes the team to an­other level.

While both say they are feel­ing good, there are still ques­tions as to when they will be back in full force. With the trade dead­line loom­ing on July 31, though, it’s tough to sit back and just hope.

Mak­ing a move

Names are be­ing thrown out, most no­tably Oak­land righthander Sonny Gray, who won’t come cheap. The Astros will have to be will­ing to give up some­thing.

But when the World Se­ries is a very re­al­is­tic pos­si­bil­ity, mak­ing the moves to strengthen the one part of the team that needs it most is worth it.

What we’ve learned about the Astros this sea­son is that they have a su­pe­rior of­fense. Fri­day night was a re­minder of how stout the lineup top to bot­tom can be.

Ev­ery starter recorded a hit as the Astros fin­ished the game with 14 in the 10-5 vic­tory over the Twins to kick off the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

Ge­orge Springer has been phe­nom­e­nal all sea­son — the team’s MVP among three or four you could also make a case for.

He’s come up big time af­ter time, has blos­somed into one of the best play­ers in the league.

Car­los Cor­rea has lived up to ev­ery ounce of hype since the day he was drafted.

Jose Al­tuve has been the heart of this team for years and now stands out for his play and lead­er­ship.

Mar­win Gon­za­lez has been a timely and ex­cit­ing hit­ter.

The list goes on.

Dreams be­com­ing re­al­ity

When the Astros scored eight runs in Fri­day’s sec­ond in­ning, the sta­dium was elec­tric.

The cheers, the fists pump­ing in the air, the high-fives among strangers were filled with more than ex­cite­ment about one good in­ning in one good game.

Ev­ery­thing the Astros are do­ing now rep­re­sents more.

Ev­ery Springer home run, ev­ery high­light-wor­thy Al­tuve catch, ev­ery McCullers strike­out is an­other rea­son to talk about what the Astros have built. About how strong this team has be­come. About how re­al­is­tic it is to pic­ture them play­ing in the World Se­ries.

The Astros have a lot to be ex­cited about. There aren’t many holes to poke in the team.

If they can get an­other start­ing pitcher to strengthen the ro­ta­tion, they will be do­ing them­selves a big fa­vor and giv­ing them­selves a bet­ter chance to live up to the lofty goals they set be­fore the sea­son.

Talk­ing about the World Se­ries now makes per­fect sense. The Astros have played their cards per­fectly in the first half of the sea­son and are now in the po­si­tion to have an his­toric fin­ish.

If the ball­park has this much en­ergy and ex­cite­ment in mid July, just imag­ine what a Fri­day night in Oc­to­ber will feel like.

If all goes well with the Astros be­fore the trade dead­line and with the re­hab of a cou­ple start­ing pitch­ers, we won’t have to guess.

Karen War­ren / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Astros short­stop Car­los Cor­rea has lived up to the hype since he was se­lected No. 1 over­all in the 2012 draft. He’s now ex­celling at an All-Star level in his sec­ond full sea­son in the ma­jors.

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