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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Luis Garcia played his part in a pitcher's duel with Carlos Rodon on Friday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With an impressive offensive onslaught to overpower Chicago in game one of this series, the Astros entered this second of four games hoping to keep their momentum going. After an impressive pitcher's duel left the game tied late into the game, Houston would edge out the win with a big walk-off in the ninth.

Final Score: Astros 2, White Sox 1

Astros' Record: 41-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryan Pressly (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Garrett Crochet (2-3)

Garcia matches Rodon in a pitcher's duel

Both starting pitchers were very effective, save one inning, in their respective seven innings of work. For Luis Garcia, he had his struggles in the top of the first to start the game, allowing a one-out double and single to put runners on second and third, setting up an RBI single to give Chicago an early 1-0 lead.

He limited the damage to that one run, both in that inning and the rest of his night, as he would follow that with six straight scoreless frames. Once he found his groove in the fourth, he would retire 12 of 13 batters he faced over that span to get through seven one-run innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 96 P.

For Houston, it took until one out into the fifth inning to get a hit and their first baserunner against Carlos Rodon. That sparked an opportunity to grab a lead, as they would go on to load the bases still with one out but would get just one run out of it with a two-out RBI walk by Martin Maldonado to tie the game up 1-1.

Astros walk it off in the ninth

Ryne Stanek was first out of Houston's bullpen in the top of the eighth, erasing a one-out walk for a scoreless inning to keep things gridlocked. Still in a stalemate in the top of the ninth, the Astros opted to bring in closer Ryan Pressly to try and keep it tied to set up a potential walk-off. He was perfect, striking out Chicago 1-2-3 to send it to the home half.

In the bottom of the ninth, Yuli Gurriel got the winning run on base by hitting a one-out single. That brought Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who got the walk-off hit, roping a ball into the right-field corner deep enough for Gurriel to hustle from first to home to win it for Houston, 2-1.

Up Next: Now having won five in a row, the Astros will try to lock up this series in game three of four on Saturday at 6:15 PM Central. Lance Lynn (7-2, 1.51 ERA) will try to get a win for the White Sox, while Framber Valdez (3-0, 1.42 ERA) will look to continue his 2021 success for Houston.

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