Astros playoff hopes depend on Justin Verlander

The Astros need to get Justin Verlander back on the mound to have a chance in the playoffs.

The Houston Astros are trying to get Justin Verlander back pitching before the start of the playoffs. That plan had better come through. Their hopes of continuing their season depend on it.

Verlander was able to throw around 55 pitches off the mount on Saturday, according to manager Dusty Baker. He’s on track to face live hitters soon.

If all goes well, the AL Cy Young Award winner could make his first start since July 24 in the final week of the regular season.

The Astros are all-in on bringing Verlander back as a starter

Even though Verlander has been inactive with a forearm strain for the better part of the season, the Astros don’t plan to ease him in as a closer.

“There’s no better starter around than him,” Baker said. “It’s like making a major trade again getting him back. We’re knocking on wood and keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes well and there are no setbacks because we really don’t have the time for it.”

You can say that again, Baker.

Houston is six games back from Oakland in the AL West, but they will make the playoffs short of an epic meltdown. They can’t expect to remain in the postseason long without something extra propelling them through.

Zack Greinke and Christian Javier have held their own on the mound. The rest of the lineup has left something to be desired. The Astros will need another reliable arm to contend in the playoffs. And Verlander is far from just a reliable arm.

Last year, the 16-year veteran had a career showing. He went 21-6 with an ERA of 2.58.

The only concern is how he will pitch coming off a lengthy absence. His lone start this season was a good one. It was, however, almost three months ago.

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