If the Houston Astros want to make the postseason, they’ll have to do it without top starters Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers.
At 79-71, Houston sits 3.5 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles for an AL Wild Card spot. The Astros are 9.5 games back of Texas for the division lead. General manager Jeff Luhnow spoke with Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle, revealing Keuchel and McCullers won’t be able to start for the rest of the season.
“At this point, neither could build up quickly enough to start in the regular season,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said on Monday.
“Whether or not either could be available to start in the postseason remains to be seen, (depending on) how deep we go and what kind of progress they’re making.”
Keuchel hasn’t started since late August, battling shoulder inflammation. The reigning AL Cy Young winner was 9-12 on the season with a 4.55 ERA. McCullers, meanwhile, has been out nearly two months with an elbow sprain. The 22-year-old was enjoying an impressive sophomore campaign with a 6-5 record and 3.22 ERA.
Houston’s rotation has been shaky without the duo. Doug Fister has imploded in his last seven starts, posting a 1-5 record with an 8.16 ERA. The Astros de facto ace is now Collin McHugh who’s been consistent yet unspectacular. Brad Peacock and Joe Musgrove were thrusted into the rotation with early promising results, but in a very small sample size. It remains to be seen whether the pair can be counted on to help Houston get into the playoffs.
Without Keuchel and McCullers returning in the regular season, Houston will need some magic to return to postseason play in 2016.