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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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