ARLINGTON, Texas - The All-Star break is now officially over and Thursday night, the only game in Major League Baseball is in Arlington as the Astros and Rangers open a four-game series.
KPRC Channel 2 Sports and Click2Houston made the trip to DFW to cover the Astros' return to the diamond.
MLB hands down 2-game suspension to Marisnick; Astros OF appealing decision
We have made the trip to cover Thursday night's return and talk with the Astros about Jake Marisnick's two-game suspension that he has appealed along with the big picture of the Astros the rest of this season.
Let's start with Marisnick, who had a violent collision at home plate with Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy this past Sunday. Lucroy was injured and suffered a broken nose with the contact.
MLB's Joe Torre reviewed the play and ruled that Marisnick did not intentionally hurt Lucroy but ruled that a rule was broken when it comes to protecting catchers.
"I have seen a lot of takes on it and know down deep in my heart I had no intent to hurt or make contact with him," said Marisnick inside the clubhouse Thursday. "A player still got hurt. It's a brotherhood out here. We root and pull for each other, and anytime someone gets hurt, it's bad news."
"I've watched the play from different angles. From some angles, it looks bad," Marisnick said. "I would urge people to watch from our dugout angle and if you watch it, you can see the moves I'm talking about. The throw and play took him more inside that I anticipated. If you see from that angle, you see me try to get out of the way. I would like to talk with him further about this play."
Astros begin final stretch of 72 games
The team came back from the break in good spirits and ready to build off its first half.
"I'm excited about it and liked the way we played before the break," George Springer said. "This is a good division with Oakland, Angels, Rangers and Mariners and us. This is good to play in. There is not a lead that is safe. We just go out and do what we do as a team."
The Astros entered Thursday with a 7.5-game lead in the AL West over Oakland and nine games over Texas. They play the Rangers seven times between four in Arlington and next weekend at Minute Maid Park.
"It's big they are a really good team. It's a division game and we have to go out and play our game," Springer said. "There's a lot of guys that come to play every day while we had injuries for a long time and that's not easy to do. Kemp, Straw, Tyler White and others stepped up and carried the load. Our pitching staff has been phenomenal and held it down for us."
For Astros skipper A.J. Hinch, he believes special things are ahead for this team the rest of the season.
"The first half was outstanding and we battled through injuries," Hinch said. "I like where we are as a team. We are getting healthy and, of course, we have a pitching staff that's getting it done. We can't let up. We need to keep pushing."
Hinch added that the team should see both Aledmys Díaz and Carlos Correa by next week and start their work to get back.
Here are the top five keys to the Astros winning the AL West:
- Health of star players down the stretch.
- Starting pitching dominance and strong bullpen help.
- Return of Correa at shortstop.
- Can Yordan Alvarez keep producing?
- Trade deadline acquisition to bolster rotation.
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