Surviving is something the most battle-tested teams can instinctively accomplish. Sure, talent is essential to overcome early struggles, but success is rarely earned when one is perpetually in sink-or-swim mode. Even the best warriors need help in order to thrive. The Houston Astros have done an exemplary job at withstanding the initial onslaught of the 2024 MLB season and staying afloat.

But they are desperate for some reinforcements. Despite being 13-4 since June 19 and only two games out of first place in the American League West, the 46-44 team is not in the clear yet. Danger might still loom ahead for this injury-ravaged group, specifically the starting pitching rotation.

The best way to combat these potential roadblocks, which Houston has so brilliantly navigated to this point, is to either acquire additional arms or welcome back old ones. It is becoming increasingly stressful to rely on the latter, especially following the latest injury update on Lance McCullers Jr.

The two-time World Series champion and 2017 All-Star is not responding well after his recent bullpen sessions and is being shut down for the next few days, according to Chandler Rome of The Athletic. Manager Joe Espada and company will take some time to determine how to proceed following this discouraging setback.

McCullers missed all of last season with a forearm injury and ultimately underwent surgery to repair his flexor tendon and remove a bone spur. He was originally hoping to be ready for the start of the 2024 campaign before the expected return date was pushed back to late summer. It is unclear how this news will affect the timetable, but the veteran right-hander is surely exasperated by this lengthy rehab process.

Can the Astros keep overcoming injury issues?

Houston Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. warms up before the game against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

While this situation is obviously most devastating on an individual level, it is also a brutal blow for the club. Since signing a five-year, $85 million contract extension ahead of the 2021 season, McCullers has made just 36 starts. He is productive when available, but the Astros know by now that they cannot bank on the 30-year-old staying healthy.

And yet, they are running out of in-house options to fortify their pitching staff. Arguable All-Star snub Ronel Blanco and lefty Framber Valdez are doing their best to keep everything cinched together as both Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia work their way back from the injured list. Hunter Brown had been molten-hot until he was drenched with ice cold water on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins (seven earned runs on 12 hits in six innings).

To put it simply, there are an uncomfortable number of uncertainties that presently exist on this rotation. The July 30 MLB trade deadline will be a golden opportunity for Houston to shore up its depth in case their guys do not return at full capacity.

Houston might have to attack the trade market

The team's resurgence gives general manager Dana Brown the luxury to aggressively pursue AL Cy Young contender and Chicago White Sox ace Garrett Crochet, or another viable starter who can provide crucial innings for the postseason push. That way, if Lance McCullers Jr. does manage to make a complete recovery, the Astros might actually have an abundance of riches.

Hopefully, he is only being shut down temporarily and will be able to resume his prolonged comeback quest. McCullers has a 3.47 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 19 playoff appearances, so his value to the franchise should not be discounted.

In the meanwhile, Houston looks to continue its impressive climb back up the AL standings in a Tuesday night home matchup versus the lowly Miami Marlins (32-58). First pitch is at approximately 8:10 p.m. ET.