THE PALLILOG

Here's why we could be watching a historically great Astros offense

The Astros are crushing the baseball. Photo by Getty Images.

Mashing the A's the last two days has the Astros back in first place and rolling into their weekend series at the American League West cellar dwelling Texas Rangers. Last weekend the Astros swept the Rangers four straight at Minute Maid Park. Put most simply, the Astros are good the Rangers are bad.

The top five hitters in Dusty Baker's batting order are all hitting over .300: Jose Altuve .314, Michael Brantley .307, Alex Bregman .324, Yordan Alvarez .338, Yuli Gurriel .333. It's even more impressive in this thus far depressed hitting season. The batting average for all Major League Baseball is .236. If it stays there (unlikely) it will be the lowest season batting average in the history of the sport.

The "Murderers' Row" 1927 Yankees lineup stood taller over its competition than any other ever. Among players with the required plate appearances to be eligible for the batting title the '27 Yanks had five .300 hitters. The 1976 Cincinnati Reds offense dominated its league like few others. The "Big Red Machine" had five .300 hitters. The 1999 Indians are the only team in the last 70 years to score more than 1000 runs for the season. They had four .300 hitters. The '95 Indians had six. The 2017 Astros' offense that was way better than any other in the AL (in contrast with the '19 team which was basically even with the Twins and Yankees) had four .300 hitters.

Another no-no?

The Rangers were no-hit this week. Again. It's the second time in their first season with fans allowed to watch the Rangers in their new billionaire playpen that is Globe Life Field. No team in big league history has been no-hit three times in a season. Among the absurd six no-hitters already thrown in 2021 the Rangers, Mariners, and Indians have each been victimized twice. The modern era (since 1900) record for no-hitters in a season is seven.

Corey Kluber owning the Rangers Wednesday had to sting a bit extra for the Arlingtonians. Last season the Rangers paid Kluber about seven million dollars (a short season trim from what otherwise would have been an 18 million dollar guarantee) to pitch one inning and be done for the season with an arm injury. The Yankees took an 11 million dollar flier on Kluber for 2021, so of course in his first game against the Rangers he no-hits them. On a night the Rangers gave out Corey Kluber bobbleheads! They were clearing inventory of some stuff they never had the chance to give away last year. The Astros are doing the same thing.

Exciting homestand on the horizon

What a fun homestand upcoming for the Astros. First the reigning World Series Champions are here for two. The Dodgers starting pitchers should be Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer. Then the Padres are in for three, led by spectacular shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Then the Red Sox are in for four. Good timing for the Astros to be opening up Minute Maid Park to full seating capacity. However…

It is lame if the Astros will continue to require ticket purchases to be all digital, in the process forcing fans to pay the obscene tack on fees. I'm all for safety, but if it's okay to pack the ballpark it certainly is okay to sell tickets through a glass partitioned window.

NHL and NBA playoffs

The National Hockey League playoffs have started sensationally. Of course they have. The NHL postseason is the most relentlessly intense in all pro sports. We'll see starting Saturday how the NBA playoffs go. No Rockets involved for the first time in nine years, but the Western Conference matchups are fantastic. If you're a Rocket fan there's a good chance you despise the Lakers. If so you have additional incentive to root against the defending champs. The '95 Rockets won their back-to-back championship as a sixth seed. No one has matched that much less surpassed it. The Lakers are the seventh seed. Via the betting odds the Lakers are favored to win the West. James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets are favored to take the title. The Rockets meanwhile rue their own plight, and perhaps start gathering good luck charms for the draft lottery which is one month from Saturday.

Denver's Nikola Jokic clearly should win the NBA Most Valuable player award. Any opinion that Jokic is unworthy is stupid. But a vote for Stephen Curry is certainly justifiable.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. More exciting quarterback signing for the Texans: Ryan Finley or Jeff Driskel? I'm calling it a tie.

2. Other than that he's really rich I know next to nothing about the guy paying some 400 million dollars to become the lead owner of the Houston Dynamo and Dash. Ted Segal can't help but be better than the outgoing cheapo regime.

3. Greatest sports Teds: Bronze-Lindsay Silver-Hendricks Gold-Williams

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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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