The Pallilog

Astros in great position after Game 4 win, but it is not over yet

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A slightly shorter entry this week as I type late late night in the Bronx. The desolate, despondent Bronx. The Astros aren't locks quite yet to be playing the Washington Nationals in the World Series starting Tuesday night, but there are a lot of fat ladies in New York warming up their vocal cords.

The Yankees won their first World Series in 1923. In every decade since until this one they have appeared in at least one Fall Classic. It certainly isn't their motivation but the Astros would be plenty happy to snap the Yanks' nine decade Series streak.

Going into Thursday night's American League Championship Series game four, George Springer was batting .121 this postseason, Carlos Correa .161. A three run homer later from each of them and it wasn't quite over, but a 6-1 lead that wound up an 8-3 win has the Astros one win from Taking Back the AL pennant. With the Yankees staring down the barrel at Justin Verlander in game five.

Thought I heard the gnashing of teeth all the way from Houston as Zack Greinke gave up a hit and walked three to put the Yankees up 1-0 in the bottom of the first. With two out and the bases loaded after back-to-back walks, Gary Sanchez could have opened things up for the Yanks, however, he'd been a bum this series and lived down to billing by pitifully flailing at an 0-2 Greinke pitch to end the inning. Greinke then cruised until the fifth. His start against the Rays was awful but he did his part in both starts against the Yankees. Those who fret a lot about Greinke are viewing him through the prism of Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander dominance.

It's not a miracle for the Yankees to beat Verlander and push the series back to Houston. If Minute Maid Park has a game Saturday it's a bullpen game for both teams unless A.J. Hinch crazily opts to go with Gerrit Cole in game six on three days rest. Winning it in five or six tees up Cole to start game one vs. the Nationals.

The Nationals have the starting pitching to go head up with the Astros. In fact, if you judge chain strength by the weakest link it's advantage Washington. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg can shut down any lineup, lefty Patrick Corbin is a solid third starter, Anibal Sanchez a capable number four. The Nats' bullpen was laughably lousy most of the season, been better in the playoffs, but still looks ripe for Astros' picking. The Washington offense is good not great, though Lamar high school grad and Rice-ex Anthony Rendon is great. He basically is an older Alex Bregman. A free agent to be, Rendon could get a contract in range of Cole's.

Gerrit Cole is presently a pitching God in our midst. But while the emotions we pour into sports reflect how much we love them, successful businesses rarely run on emotion. Logic, levelheadedness, and eyes on both the short run and longer term are essential. It's easy for those not directly coming up with the dough to go all Teddy KGB in Rounders saying "Pay the man." If Cole ultimately wants to sign somewhere home in California that's that. If not, the price of poker for the Astros could be six years 225+ mil. At this point seven/275 might be out there.

Big game for Texans

The Texans are rightfully on the back burner right now, but a win Sunday and that burner will be Battle Red hot. Last week's win at Kansas City was one of the best road wins in franchise history. Granted the Texans' cup doesn't runneth over with nominees, but that was a quality win, period. Following up with a victory lane performance in Indianapolis would have the Texans at 5-2 and in great position to chase the first first round playoff bye in club history.

Buzzer Beaters


1. Interesting and brassy of A.J. Hinch to go to Ryan Pressly in the fifth inning of game four. Trying to build confidence in him in a non-late inning situation paid off in spades with two huge Pressly Ks when the score was 3-1 2. I am a proud native New Yorker. But the casual loud profanity allowed at Yankee Stadium is ridiculous. Houston is the petroleum capital of the U.S. yet New York has more crude output. 3. Things at which Houston can't beat New York: Bronze-hockey Silver-pizza Gold-subway system


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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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