THE PALLILOG

Making this tactical adjustment could pay big dividends for Astros

The Astros should consider dropping Alex Bregman lower in the batting order. Composite image by Jack Brame.

While having World Series games in Houston has become a delightful every other year tradition the past half decade, Friday night's game three in Atlanta is the first Fall Classic game there since 1999. After swapping easy wins that have the series level at a game apiece, how about some close games? Sports at their best are about tight competition that brings out the best on both sides.

With the scene shifting to the National League stadium for games three, four, five, Dusty Baker has a decision to make with no designated hitter at his disposal. Is there really a decision? That Yordan Alvarez has only played left field in two of the Astros' 12 postseason games is less than ideal, but how do you sit his bat? Alvarez is not a strong outfielder, but was no disaster over the 39 games he started in left this season. Truist Park is not a tricky outfield with nooks and crannies or an unusual outfield wall. Kyle Tucker in center with Michael Brantley in right definitely makes for a weaker outfield than Tucker in right with either Chas McCormick or Jose Siri in center, but not so much weaker as to make sitting Yordan in any of the three games the right call. If Dusty Baker wants a "true" centerfielder, Brantley is the guy who should go to the bench. Glass half full, the Astros will have a potent pinch-hitting option. The ideal is build a working lead and defensively sub for Alvarez in the last inning or two.

The decision Baker should make is dropping Alex Bregman lower in the batting order. Bregman was merely pretty good this season. Not close in quality to Tucker, Carlos Correa, or Yuli Gurriel. Bregman should be slotted seventh behind all of them. The microscope of scrutiny in the postseason does lend itself to overreaction. Jose Altuve's recent bad stretch lowlighted by his atrocious game one against the Braves did not mean there should have been any consideration to dropping him (think George Springer in 2017). But Bregman was last a big time hitter in 2019. While he could come alive and have a huge few games (nature of the beast), he clearly should be batting behind three guys who were vastly superior over the course of the season, and in the cases of Gurriel and Tucker been swinging it in the playoffs.

Defense (apart from pitching) is still often underrated. "D" is another great strength of the Astros. Gold Glove voting has a history of some preposterous outcomes, but the Astros having a whopping five American League finalists at their positions is on point. Martin Maldonado and Correa seem good bets to win. Maldonado would get a companion for his 2017 Gold Glove. Correa nabbing his first would be one more feather for his free agent cap. Gurriel is an excellent first baseman, Tucker the same in right field, Zack Greinke ditto on the mound. Greinke is a six time winner.

Texans host the Rams

The travesty that is the Houston Texans likely absorbs its latest beating Sunday with the Los Angeles Rams in town. The Texans' offense is sub-pathetic. The roster is overwhelmingly bereft of young players of meaningful promise. Unless kinfolk or close friend of someone involved with the team, why would anyone subject him or herself to watching much the rest of the season? Organizationally they're not trying to win (and doing a heck of a job of it). On the plus side Head Coach David Culley seems a genuinely nice man! The NFL trade deadline arrives Tuesday. Is Deshaun Watson dealt? Only an idiot would give up the Texans' supposed still asking price of three first round picks plus a couple of other assets. Supposed most ardent suitor Miami is where the Texans play a week from Sunday. Not that Watson would suit up and play so quickly for the Dolphins.

The presumptive Texans' loss Sunday would sink them to 1-7. The Rockets may be hard-pressed to be any better in the record department after their first eight games. Utah obliterating them at Toyota Center Thursday night sags the Rockets to 1-4. Now they hit the road for consecutive games at the Lakers, then stops at the Suns, Nuggets and Warriors. Sheesh. Maybe they can get one from the Lakers. LeBron James has missed games already this season with an ankle injury, while Russell Westbrook is thus far bricking away for his latest new team.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Bummer scheduling that has Saturday's football game with 6-1 UH home vs. 7-0 SMU starting at 6, with Astros-Braves starting shortly after 7. With a win the Cougars likely crack the top 25 for the first time since Major Applewhite's final season as head coach.

2. The Braves should not be promoting use of the Tomahawk Chop.

3. Vegans feel free to skip this one… Best chops: Bronze-lamb Silver-veal Gold-pork, when done right-i.e. Perry's

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Jae'Sean Tate had himself a night. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

No Christian Wood. No Kevin Porter Jr. No Jalen Green. No problem. Jae’ Sean Tate became a complete superhero for the Houston Rockets versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

He recorded 32 points, 10 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 5.0 blocks, and 2.0 steals and shot 73 percent from the field. With that stat line, he joined former Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon and other historic big men from the past, which Tim MacMahon reported.

Tate is known for his leadership and the ability to be humble. When a reporter asked Tate about the stat line, he said, “How many turnovers? Nah, 25 assists, that’s what sup! Can’t be mad at that.” An expression like that shows the importance of putting his teammates first before taking all the shine. Tate is providing more passion with communication and being the rock that the "Baby Rockets" can lean on.

Coach Silas' confidence in Tate is something built from last year and it shows. Those two have constant dialogue throughout the game, and it’s seen before the huddle or when Silas is standing on the sideline before he calls a play. Silas has run consistent sets for Tate, as he did that within the 15-game losing streak. He dialed up an out of bounds action with 33.4 seconds left, so Tate could make a clutch layup towards the rim.

“Long, long, long ago in his rookie year…we definitely have a bond and with those two guys out, we needed some scoring,” Silas said. “He was the guy who was playing the hardest from start to finish and down the stretch we ran that elbow iso for him. And he just went through his defender and finished. And he made some huge plays in the 4th quarter, which is what you need. Yeah, I trust him as much as anybody else, and he has earned that, and he deserves it.”

“That just shows the confidence Coach Silas, and my teammates have in me,” said Tate. “We lost some of our primary guys tonight. And not only me, but everybody also stepped up.”

His usage rating is slowly going up, which is posted at 18.9 percent per NBA stats. In isolation, Tate is averaging 1.00 points per possession, which puts him in the 75th percentile(!) per NBA stats. Tate is seeing more action out of the corner, so it can allow him to get to his left hand on offense. The elbow iso action is a play that Tate has run since high school, college, overseas, and in the NBA now. He mentioned that the set allows him to get comfortable when his number is called.

“That’s not my primary role and I think everyone knows that,” Tate said. “I am very confident [in] what I bring to the table offensively. Not only scoring wise but seeing the floor and being able to make [a] decision in space. And that kind of helps me when they overlook the scouting report.”

“[I've] been running that play since I was [in] high school. At Ohio St. I ran that. Even when I was overseas, Will Weaver, that was a play he put in. To have that called tonight, it felt familiar and it’s one of my strengths. And playing in the mid-post area and getting to my left hand.”

Tate was excellent for the Rockets on both sides of the ball, as he had a 116.9 offensive and 108.5 defensive rating with an 82.5 percent in true shooting versus the Thunder. Hopefully, Tate can be the leading catalyst again, as the Rockets face the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans, which are winnable games. It should become a six-game winning streak, as John Wall might play if his condition is right.

Up next: The Rockets face the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

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