THE PALLILOG

Let's discuss 6 Astros that could be headed to All-Star Game

The Astros' lineup is stacked. Photo by Getty Images.

Good news: for the second time in just over a week the Astros had a chance to complete a series sweep of the Boston Red Sox. Bad news: for the second time in just over a week the Astros failed to sweep. Earlier this season they had chances in three consecutive series to polish off sweeps only to lose the finale. The good news outpaces the bad on this, meaning the Astros won all those series. The A's lost Thursday as well so the Astros enter the weekend one game behind Oakland in the American League West, two and a half back of Boston for the top wild card spot.

The Astros spend the weekend in Minneapolis for a three game set with the Twin, who have been the biggest flop in Major League Baseball to this point in the season. After an off Monday the Astros are scheduled to play 20 consecutive days. That would be four full turns through a five man starting rotation. With Lance McCullers expected to rejoin the big club after a successful four inning recovery start for the Sugar Land Skeeters Thursday, how will the Astros play it? Zack Greinke lacks the consistent excellence of an ace but obviously has a secure spot in the rotation. Framber Valdez has been tremendous in his first three starts. Luis Garcia has won his last five starts, demoting him to the pen now would be stupid. Jose Urquidy seems on safe ground. That leaves Jake Odorizzi.

The MLB All Star Game is a month from Sunday. Fortunately the outcome no longer dictates homefield advantage for the World Series, so who makes it and how it goes really aren't a big deal other than the fun of debate and for players with All Star bonus clauses in their contracts. It will be interesting to see how Astros fare in the balloting, both among fans and by their peers in the player vote. More than half the Astros' lineup has good All Star cases, but no one who clearly deserves to start. At first base Yuli Gurriel is having a sensational bounce back season, but right now Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is clearly the guy who should start. At second Jose Altuve isn't the player he was in 2016 and 2017 but has been plenty good, but Marcus Semien has been as good if not a little better and played in 10 more games. At shortstop Carlos Correa has come on very strong the last month to make it a good battle with Xander Bogaerts. At third Alex Bregman has been very good though not up to his 2018 or 2019 standard, with Rafael Devers, Jose Ramirez, Yoan Moncada, and Joey Wendle all ahead of him in Wins Above Replacement. At designated hitter while not matching his extraordinary Rookie of the Year level Yordan Alvarez is still a force, but J.D. Martinez has been better. Among pitchers Ryan Pressly has a shot pending how many relievers get taken.


So the Texans canceled their minicamp scheduled for this coming week. They must have looked awesome at OTAs! Um, yeah. If the Texans cling to any hope of mending fences with Deshaun Watson, no minicamp means Watson can't be a no-show, which means the Texans can't fine him 95-thousand dollars and hence more gasoline on the fire. Of course, the relationship already seems burnt to a crisp, irrespective of whether Watson will be eligible to play come September 12 and the season opener vs. the Jaguars.

The more the merrier?

There was never any chance that the College Football Playoff would remain at four teams. Just follow the money trail. The proposed jump to 12 teams is too much for my taste. I'd go eight with no byes. If the 12 plan with the top four seeds getting byes to the quarterfinals is going through, I do like that the first round games matching 5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, 8 vs 9 would be home games for the higher seed. The idea that in December Florida could play at Penn State, Texas at Wisconsin, USC at Ohio St., among others, has appeal.

NBA playoffs

The NBA playoffs have been by and large lousy thus far, certainly relative to the NHL playoffs. Maybe Thursday night was a turning point, with Milwaukee rallying to get within two games to one of Brooklyn. Utah and Phoenix are on course for what would be an excellent Western Conference Finals matchup. The Suns have looked great, but Suns should be graded on a curve having dispatched the diminished Lakers and being up two-zip on the Jamal Murray-less Nuggets.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. If Hell is a thing, sounds like Bo Schembechler should be roommates with Joe Paterno.

2. Softball's Women's College World Series is a lot of fun to watch.

3. Desert island Mexican food items: Bronze-Tamales Silver-Fideo Gold-Fajitas

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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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