Astros get back on track with a much-needed win

Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa celebrating in game one of the ALDS
Carlos Correa in the leadoff spot paid off. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.
Are the Astros giving us a preview of October?

The Astros finished the first inning of the regular season Thursday night. 18 games out of 162, one-ninth of the schedule. Viewing the season in single game form, they're behind 2-nothing going to the second. A deficit nowhere near insurmountable, but not inconsequential either. An 8-10 record is not a big deal. Still, for late April this is an important American League West homestand with four against the Angels followed with four against the thus far spunky Mariners. It's not remotely make or break. A winning homestand and the Astros are just fine. A 2-6 or 3-5 mess? Wouldn't be catastrophic though even this early in the season, falling five, six, seven games behind three teams within the division would be a bona fide concern.

The Astros enjoyed a much-needed breakout game Thursday night in routing the Angels 8-2. They sure didn't want their stretch of brutally bad baseball to drag into the weekend. It's been a team wide affliction. In losing nine out of 10 games the offense had been generally comatose, just once scoring more than four runs. Ironically it was in the lone win that the Astros plated the smallest number, a 1-0 victory at Seattle. Astro pitching had been straight lousy, just once during the ten game stretch allowing fewer than six runs.

Dusty Baker makes the occasional dubious tactical decision, but props to him for slotting Carlos Correa in the leadoff spot Thursday with Jose Altuve still out. First time in his big league career Correa led off. It's simple. You want your best batters up the most. It doesn't matter how fast Myles Straw is. Until/unless he demonstrates something resembling competence as a batter no way should Straw ever be higher than eighth in the lineup.

Mike Trout's greatness

The Angels in through the weekend means the beyond great Mike Trout is here. Among the greatest center fielders of all-time Willie Mays was no greater than Mike Trout. Mickey Mantle was no greater than Mike Trout. At their individual peaks Mantle has the edge for greatest offensive player. Willie was 34 at the end of his last absolutely awesome season, Mickey was 32 at the end of his last. Willie had a great season in his last as an everyday player when he was 40! Trout turns 30 in August. It will be fascinating to see how long Trout sustains baseball God level of play. He's under contract for eight more seasons after this one at more than 37 million dollars per. Alas in baseball, even the greatest everyday player can only do so much toward team success. Trout has been to the postseason once in his career (2014). The Royals swept out the Angels in three straight. Trout went one for 12.

By the way, Ty Cobb was more statistically dominant than any of them but most of his career occurred during the dead ball era. Comparisons can be made but they're a little more apple vs. orange-y.

Rocket science

The Rockets are closing in on nailing down a finish of the worst three records in the NBA and hence maximizing their chances of keeping their lottery pick at 52.1 percent. The Rockets have to finish worse than Orlando or Detroit. Even if the Magic or Pistons lose all remaining games (except the game someone has to win when the Magic and Pistons play), the Rockets would have to win four more to rise above the bottom three. Yeah right! The Rockets' remaining schedule: Clippers, at Denver, Timberwolves, Bucks, Warriors, Knicks, 76ers, at Milwaukee, at Utah, at Portland, at the Lakers, Clippers, at Atlanta.

Sterling Brown is fortunate to not be in worse shape as he recovers from getting attacked outside a Miami strip club early Monday morning. What could have been a life or death matter takes on the most importance, but the Rockets should be concerned, distressed, and ticked that Kevin Porter Jr. was among those out with Brown in the wee hours. On the Rockets' lousy roster, Porter is one of the few beacons of hope. During his freshman season at USC Porter was suspended for misconduct. His behavior with the Cleveland Cavaliers led to the Cavs basically giving away a first round pick in his second season to the Rockets. Porter is now basically suspended because he breached NBA/COVID protocols. It was an irresponsible and lousy job of "mentorship" by Brown and whatever other Rockets were on hand ahead of a game upcoming in Miami that night. Brown was on the trip while not even available to play because of a sore knee.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Interesting timing by the Astros extending Martin Maldonado's contract through next season and giving him a 1.5 million dollar raise for it. Maldonado is batting .081. He's not here for his bat, but come on.

2. If the 49ers really traded their 2022 and 2023 first round picks plus a third rounder next year to swap up from pick 12 overall to third overall to take quarterback Mac Jones out of Alabama, they're nuts. Doesn't mean it can't work.

3. The next three (okay four) best center fielders ever: Bronze-Oscar Charleston/Ken Griffey Jr. Silver-Tris Speaker Gold-Joe DiMaggio

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Will all the Texans playmakers be satisfied with their roles in the offense? Composite Getty Image.

ESPN Texans reporter DJ Bien-Aime joined The Mina Kimes Show this weekand shared his thoughts on the Texans outlook this season.

When looking at the Texans offense, Bien-Aime pointed to Houston's play calling as being a possible issue in 2024. Bobby Slowik did a terrific job in his first season as an offensive coordinator. But he will have his hands full keeping all his playmakers happy with Stefon Diggs joining the team, and Nico Collins expecting a ton of looks after signing a massive contract extension.

Which got us thinking, are there enough catches to go around?

We took a deep dive into the 2023 numbers and here's what we found. CJ Stroud averaged 21 completions per game. And here's a breakdown of how many catches his receivers averaged last year.

Nico Collins 5.3 catches per game

Stefon Diggs (with Buffalo) 6.29 catches per game

Dalton Schultz 3.93 catches per game

Tank Dell 4.27 catches per game

Texans running backs 3.05 catches per game

If we add those up, the total is 22.84. Which means the Texans top receivers should expect a similar amount of production compared to last season. Of course, players like Noah Brown, Robert Woods, and Brevin Jordan will take targets away from Stefon Diggs and company from time to time.

But it's good to know that the Texans top pass catchers should produce numbers close to their 2023 averages. Which is a big deal for a player in a contract year like Diggs.

Another thing to note. We're factoring in that the Texans are expected to run out of 11 personnel most of the time. Which means Diggs, Collins, Dell, Schultz, and Mixon will be the only pass catchers on the field the majority of the time.

Are there concerns about the defense?

Both Kimes and Bien-Aime designated Houston's secondary as the big x-factor this year. Bien-Aime named cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. as the only player in the secondary that he truly trusts. Is he right?

Be sure to watch the video above as we react to Kimes and Bien-Aime's outlook for the Texans this year, and share our thoughts on the possible pitfalls the team will have to navigate in the short and long-term.

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