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


Alvarez is the third in franchise history to get the award

Astros' Yordan Alvarez wins AL Rookie of the Year

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

As expected, the MLB announced on Monday that the winner of the 2019 American League Rookie of the Year Award is Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros. It comes as no surprise, considering Alvarez's performance since being called up on June 9th of this season was powerful, to say the least. He beats out the two other finalists: John Means of the Baltimore Orioles and Brandon Lowe of the Tampa Bay Rays.

After dominating at the AAA level for the Round Rock Express where he led the minors in home runs (23) and RBIs (71) while hitting for a .343 average and 1.184 OPS over his 56 games before being promoted to the major leagues, he brought the same power to Houston's lineup. He wasted no time showing what he was capable of, notching his first career home run in his second at-bat at Minute Maid Park in his debut game.

He followed that by hitting home runs in four of his first five games and going on to slash .317 / .406 / .733 for a 1.139 OPS from his debut through the end of June, tenth best in all of the majors over that span. Though he finished the month with seven homers in just 60 at-bats, he also maintained his ability to drive in runs, notching 21 RBIs in his first sixteen games. He slowed down slightly in July, banging just five homers in 75 ABs to go along with 15 RBIs, though increasing his average to .333.

He picked the power back up in August and September, though, finishing the final two months of the regular season with a combined 15 home runs and 42 RBIs over 178 at-bats. That ended his regular season with 27 homers, 78 RBIs, a 1.067 OPS, and .313 average, a line that would have been decent for a full season, much less one that started in early June. One of the shining moments of his debut year came in the matchup with the Orioles on August 10th, a night when the Astros put up a franchise-record 23 runs, seven of which came off the bat of Alvarez on a three-homer night including a grand slam.

Although not factored into the voting, Alvarez did contribute in the postseason for Houston, though not at the same level as his regular-season numbers. He had just one home run in the playoffs, a two-run blast in World Series Game 5 against the Nationals in D.C. to help Houston take that game 7-1. He had just one other RBI in October, in ALDS Game 1 against the Rays, giving him just three total along with the one homer to leave his postseason stat line as something to improve on.

Nonetheless, Alvarez's power is something that Houston will gladly put in their DH spot as long as he can continue to drive in runs and be a difference-maker in a game with one swing of his hefty bat. Yordan is the third player in franchise history to win the Rookie of the Year award, joining Jeff Bagwell, who took home the honor for the National League in 1991 and Carlos Correa, who also won in the American League in 2015. The future is bright for this left-handed slugger and the Houston Astros as a result.

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