The Pallilog

Astros increase their wow factor by dealing for Greinke

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

Zack Greinke, Houston Astro. Zack Greinke, Houston Astro! Imagine that the Texans had a General Manager capable of Jeff Luhnow's work quality. Or, just imagine that the Texans had a General Manager.

A la the Justin Verlander acquisition two years ago, Luhnow again struck like a cobra just before the trade deadline, dealing for the Diamondbacks' ace to give the Astros a Verlander-Gerrit Cole-Greinke 1-2-3 starting pitching punch that is unmatched in the Major Leagues. Add in Wade Miley and it's the best 1-2-3-4 punch.

The rest of the American League postseason contenders aren't going to cancel the rest of their seasons. Any of them can beat the Astros in a three out of five or four out of seven playoff series. It's simply how baseball works. But man has those other contenders' task gotten tougher.

The 1971 Orioles had four 20 game winners. And lost the World Series. For years the Atlanta Braves had a future Hall of Fame starting pitching trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. They won one World Series, and over their last seven seasons together, reached only one other World Series, and got swept in it. The 2010 Phillies had Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, then traded for Roy Oswalt from the Astros. They lost the National League Championship Series. The next year they added another stud in Cliff Lee, won 102 games, and lost in the Division Series.

Postseason baseball results aren't random but chance plays a role and the truly better team doesn't always win a series. The better team within a series wins a series. The job of a General Manager is to plausibly build a team with the best chance of competing to win it all. Luhnow has done that. Again.

Greinke is signed for two more seasons. So is Verlander. What about free agents-to be Cole and Miley? I wouldn't fret about them until after the season. But know that keeping both would have the Astros 2020 payroll ballooning toward 250 million dollars. Incredible.

When Jim Crane and his partners bought the Astros and gutted the payroll to about 25 mil, Crane said when the time was right the Astros would carry a payroll somewhere from fifth to tenth among the 30 franchises. He couldn't have walked the walk any straighter in support of the talk he talked. The Astros were top 10 in payroll last year, are again this year, and next season could wind up with the biggest payroll in all of Major League Baseball. Incredible.

The Astros acquired Greinke for his pitching talent, but every little positive piece makes for a better puzzle. Greinke is a five time Gold Glove winner. He's an excellent hitting pitcher. Good enough that if the Astros indeed reach their second World Series in three years it will make sense to slot Greinke to start in the National League park. So if the Astros meet the Dodgers with L.A. having homefield advantage, Greinke should go in game two and then in a possible game six. If the Astros have homefield, Greinke should go in game three, which then means the start in a decisive game seven.

Texans should make moves

Of course the Texans should be inquiring about a trade for holdout Washington left tackle Trent Williams. Until proven otherwise the Texans' offensive line still stinks. It does not excite that first round draft pick Tytus Howard seems to be slotted at left guard. That means incumbent Julie'n Davenport (regularly overmatched last season) or Matt Kalil (played zero football last season) at left tackle. Williams has his own question marks (two substance abuse suspensions, six games missed to injury in 2017, three in 2018) but the 31 year old would be a serious talent upgrade. If Washington decides its Williams impasse is unsalvageable, the Texans should negotiate from an offer of a third round pick for him. The Texans have salary cap space galore to take on Williams's roughly 11 million dollar contract for 2019. Next year he's due 12.75 million. Williams wants a new contract with a lot more guaranteed money. The Texans shouldn't go there. Watch the Patriots trade for him.

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon has asked for a trade. He's evidently upset the Chargers have offered him only 10 million dollars per year. Gordon is two years younger and certainly better than Lamar Miller. Both are in the final years of contracts. If you'd be willing to lavish millions upon Gordon, and willing to deal Miller and a 2nd round pick for him the Chargers would have to at least listen.

I'm sure the Texans' GM is kicking the tires on this stuff. Well…

Buzzer Beaters

1. In Astros' history, at the time of the deal the Randy Johnson trade still had the biggest WOW! factor. 2. It's still quite a WOW! to drop the Rockets getting Russell Westbrook to number two on the July Houston sports WOW-O-METER. 3. Greatest players ever traded (greatness at time traded): Bronze-Alex Rodriguez Silver-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Gold-Wayne Gretzky

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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