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Astros unthinkable circumstances, unlikely hypothetical, and one hilarious answer

Astros unthinkable circumstances, unlikely hypothetical, and one hilarious answer
Hunter Brown looks like the real deal. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Let’s say you’re the general manager of the Houston Astros, and by general manager I mean owner Jim Crane. It’s the New York Mets calling.

“Hear us out, what do you say to a trade – we want Hunter Brown and we’ll give you back Justin Verlander, plus we’ll pay most of Verlander’s salary for this year and next. Waddya say?”

Crane would say, “Waddya nuts? Heck no! JV is all yours. We’ll see you in the World Series … if you make it that far.”

Wednesday night Brown threw a modern day masterpiece – seven innings, two hits, eight strikeouts and no runs – against (for the time being) the best hitting team with the best record in all of baseball. It was the third time this season that the rookie righty has gone seven innings – one of only two pitchers in the bigs to do so (the other is Astros teammate Framber Valdez).

The Astros won Wednesday night’s game 1-0, their second consecutive shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays, who had set all sorts of hitting records for the start of a season and were undefeated at home until the Astros rolled into town.

Brown is 3-0 with an earned run average of 2.37. Verlander? He’s been on the injured list all season. When will he take the mound for the Mets? He gave another clubhouse interview Wednesday and repeated his mantra, “I’m close.”

You know what else is close? The month of May.

Verlander is 40 years old and with a medical rap sheet that typically strikes pitchers his age. He missed almost all of 2000, then all of 2001 and part of 2022 with injuries. And he’s started 2023 on the injured list.

Verlander makes $43 million this year.

Hunter Brown makes $750,000 this year.

I don’t believe salary should enter the debate of “who’s better?” It’s not our money, at least not directly, until teams raise ticket prices. But the difference between Brown and Verlander’s paychecks is noteworthy.

While Mets owner Steve Cohen has a bottomless bank account, he’s paying an aging pitcher with recent injury history who limped to the finish line last year.

You don’t need to go on Antiques Roadshow to know that Verlander is not worth 57 times (!) more than Brown this season.

Brown has more wins than Verlander (no wins) and the Mets other $43 million pitcher Max Scherzer (two wins and currently suspended) combined.

I know it’s early, the season has miles to go, but 25 games in a decent sample. The Astros are 14-11 and breathing down the necks of the American League West-leading Rangers at 14-10.

With all the buzz over the NFL draft, the Rockets hiring a new coach, the NBA playoffs and the Roughnecks going for the XFL title, the Astros have quietly and confidently rebounded from a disappointing start of the 2023 season, when they lost games they should have won against beatable opponents like the White Sox, Tigers and, we thought, the Rangers.

But the past 10 days, the Astros have dominated the Blue Jays, swept the National League’s best Braves and silenced the Rays. The Astros are back, baby. There is no doubt who’s the face that runs the place now. It’s the World Series defending champion Houston Astros.

And all this with Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Chas McCormick and Lance McCullers out with injuries. Altuve will be back in a month or so. Brantley is already on rehab assignment in Sugar Land, McCormick is taking batting practice and McCullers, well, Magic 8 Ball says “reply hazy, try again.”

Fun fact: it is against TSA rules to bring a Magic 8 ball on an airplane. That’s because it’s filled with liquid. Snow globes also are not permitted in carry-on bags. Both are allowed in checked bags, however.

Next up for the Astros are series against the sputtering Phillies, Giants, Mariners, Angels, White Sox, Cubs, A’s and Twins - all winnable opportunities. That will take the Astros into June when the dust will be settled, the lineup will be at full strength and fans can start thinking post-season and gambling whether to buy a Temper-Pedic mattress.

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Braves beat Houston in extra innings, 5-4. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Marcell Ozuna hit his major league-leading eighth homer and Orlando Arcia’s RBI single in the 10th inning lifted the Atlanta Braves to a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

It completes a three-game sweep of the struggling Astros and is Atlanta’s fourth straight victory.

The Braves scored two runs in the eighth inning to tie it at 4-4. Michael Harris II started the 10th as the automatic runner on second and there was one out in the inning when Seth Martinez (1-1) intentionally walked Matt Olson.

Ozuna lined out to right field to send Harris to third base. Arcia then singled on a ground ball to left field to score Harris and put the Braves on top.

Pinch-runner Jake Meyers was on second when Kyle Tucker walked with no outs in the 10th. Meyers moved to third on a fly out by Yainer Diaz but Jeremy Peña grounded into a double play to end it.

A.J. Minter (3-1) got the last two outs of the ninth for the win and Raisel Iglesias earned his fifth save.

Reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. added his first homer of the season to help the Braves to the victory. Ozuna also leads the majors with 23 RBIs and he extended his hitting streak to 16 games, which ties his career best and is the longest active streak in the majors.

Yordan Alvarez and Mauricio Dubón both homered for the Astros, who fell to 6-14 and are last in the AL West.

There was one out in the first when Alvarez connected on his homer to the seats in left field to put Houston up 1-0.

Ozuna opened the second with his 432-foot shot to left field, which bounced off the wall and tied the game.

Acuña put the Braves up 2-1 when he sent the first pitch of the fifth inning to straightaway center field.

The Astros tied it on an RBI single by Alex Bregman in the fifth and Kyle Tucker’s RBI double came next to put the Astros up 3-2.

Dubón hit his first home run of the year off Jesse Chavez to start Houston’s sixth and push the lead to 4-2.

Harris singled to start the seventh before a ground-rule double by Austin Riley. Olson reached, and Harris scored on a fielding error by first baseman José Abreu when he couldn’t grab a routine ground ball.

There was one out in the inning when Riley scored on a sacrifice fly by Arcia to tie it at 4-all.

Houston starter J.P. France allowed four hits and two runs in five innings.

Max Fried gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings.

UP NEXT

Braves: Atlanta is off Thursday before opening a series against Texas on Friday night with LHP Chris Sale (1-1, 4.58 ERA) on the mound.

Astros: Houston is also off Thursday before ace Justin Verlander will make his season debut Friday night against Washington. The three-time Cy Young Award winner opened the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder.

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