Astros cruise past the Royals for series sweep

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 3 hits from the 12-3 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With the series victory already in hand, Houston looked for a sweep to continue decreasing their magic number as well as keep pace with the Yankees in the fight for postseason home-field advantage. Here is a quick rundown of the series finale with the Royals from Kansas City:

Final Score: Astros 12, Royals 3.

Record: 98-53, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wade Miley (14-5, 3.71 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jakob Junis (9-14, 5.24 ERA).

1) Miley gets back on track

Considering his last two starts which ended in disaster, the Astros needed a confidence boost in Wade Miley on Sunday, as he probably needed himself to get back on track. Although he allowed a run in the top of the first to put the Royals up 1-0, sparking memories of his inability to get through the first inning in recent starts, he would get through the inning.

While his offense built up a big lead behind him, Miley looked much more like his usual self in the rest of the start, getting through the next three innings scoreless. The Royals would get a few hits and another run off of Miley in the bottom of the fifth, but Miley would still finish six strong innings. His final line: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR.

2) Houston's offense gives him plenty of room to work with


One reason that Miley may have been able to relax and manage his game better: lots of runs behind him. Houston immediately erased the 1-0 deficit in the top of the second, getting a three-run inning on a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel and RBIs from Abraham Toro and Michael Brantley, going up 3-1.

Toro would account for two more runs in the next inning, getting a two-RBI double to extend the lead to 5-1. Josh Reddick added two more runs with a two-run homer in the top of the fifth, pushing the advantage to six runs at 7-1.

3) Houston's bullpen finishes off the sweep

Kansas City cut the lead to 7-2 in the bottom of the fifth off of Wade Miley, but Houston would get some traffic on the bases in the top of the seventh to set up an RBI-groundout by Aledmys Diaz to make it 8-2. Josh James was first out of Houston's bullpen to take over for Wade Miley in the bottom of the seventh, and he worked around a leadoff single to maintain the six-run lead.

Kyle Tucker took advantage of a leadoff walk in front of him in the top of the eighth, blasting his second career home run to give Houston double-digits at 10-2, then later in the inning Myles Straw hit a pinch-hit RBI-triple then Josh Reddick recorded his fifth hit of the day on another RBI to make it 12-1.

Chris Devenski came in for the bottom of the eighth and was able to erase a two-out single to move the game to the ninth. Framber Valdez was brought in for the ninth to finish things off and despite allowing a run would complete the series sweep.

Up Next: Houston will travel back home and receive a day off on Monday. They'll resume play on Tuesday as the Rangers come to town for the final two games of the season series. In the first of the two games, the expected pitching matchup is Justin Verlander (18-6, 2.58 ERA) for the Astros and Lance Lynn (14-10, 3.72 ERA) for the Rangers.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

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