Looking good in Vegas

MLB projected win totals are coming out and the Astros sit alone at the top

Vegas thinks the Astros will be celebrating again. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Does Vegas know something that we don't? Or better yet, does Vegas know something that we are hoping for, that the rest of MLB might not yet be aware of? With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Spring training in less than a month, Sportsbooks and Vegas insiders are starting to come out with their predictions and projections for the upcoming season. Caesar's was the first to release their team by team win/loss totals and the Astros were at the top of their list with 97.5 wins, more than any other team in baseball. Shortly after Caesar's released its best guesses, BetOnline.ag came out with its predictions for the season and although it had Houston at 96.5 wins, it was still good enough for the top spot in all of MLB for their final outlook as well. Roto Champ had the Astros a league-best 98-64 and winners of the A.L. West division. The experts have spoken and your Astros are the talk of prognosticators who predict Major League Baseball.

Not only is it a good sign that Houston is being pegged for the best record in baseball, but it's an even better signal that Alex Bregman is going to be OK and on schedule to return from his arm surgery. I say that because two of the three services that made the Astros their top dog, did so after Bregman's surgery was announced. It also says something for what might still be coming Houston's way in free agency and maybe via trade. We all know there are plenty of good players that remain out there on the open market in free agency and with spring training right around the corner, time is running out and deals need to be made. There are also several talented and proven veteran players that are being shopped in potential trade discussions. The fact that Jeff Luhnow and his staff are not only in the mix on almost every big named starting pitcher in both of those categories, but also for guys like all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto and all world outfielder Bryce Harper. Whether they land any of those possibilities or stand pat, the future looks very bright for the hometown nine this coming season as long as they are healthy.

The only thing that seemed to prevent the Astros from repeating last season was a series of injuries to their "core four" late in the year. All those ailments seem to be in the past as the squad prepares for 2019. Jose Altuve and his knee, George Springer and his thumb, as well as Carlos Correa and his back are all expect to be 100% when they arrive at camp next month. Bregman may need a little more time but fully expects to be ready when the games count to start the season. With that potent lineup back at full strength and the additions of all-star outfielder Michael Brantley and former Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos, they should have more than enough offense to instill fear in opposing pitchers all season long. With Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole at the top of the rotation and Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna in the bullpen, if Luhnow can add another starter or two this team should be more than ready to live up to the high expectations and predictions our friends in Vegas have put out there. I can't wait for opening day. Let's play ball!

Astros drop their third straight game

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 4-3 loss

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Looking to end their two-game skid, the Astros sent their ace Justin Verlander to the mound to try and get back in the win column on Tuesday night against the Reds. Here is a recap of the middle game of the series:

Final Score: Reds 4, Astros 3.

Record: 48-26, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Anthony DeSclafani (4-3, 4.22 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.59 ERA).

1) Offense comes up just short again

After finding themselves down three runs early, the offense had trouble putting any big innings together to threaten to take a come from behind lead. They didn't get on the board until the top of the sixth, trimming the lead to two runs on an RBI-double by Yordan Alvarez.

Down 4-1 in the top of the eighth, the Astros would have their best inning offensively, getting a leadoff walk to set up a two-run home run for Alex Bregman to make it a one-run game. Brantley would hit a no-out single next and move to second on a wild pitch but would be left stranded to keep them behind in the game. They would come up empty in the top of the ninth to drop their third straight game.

2) Early homers haunt Verlander

Justin Verlander continued to struggle with home runs in his start on Tuesday night, allowing a solo and two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning to put Houston in a quick 3-0 hole. Though Verlander would rebound well from those early runs, his offense would be unable to get him off the hook.

He'd go on to allow just two hits over the next five innings, but with his night nearing an end with two outs in the seventh, would get dinged with one more home run to extend Cincinnati's lead back to three-runs at 4-1. Verlander's final line: 7 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 3 HR.

Chris Devenski pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but there would be no bottom of the ninth with the offense going down 1-2-3 in the top half of the inning, ending the loss for Houston.

Up Next: Houston will wrap up his series with Cincinnati tomorrow with an early game starting at 11:35 AM. The pitching matchup for the finale will be Gerrit Cole (6-5, 3.67 ERA) for the Astros going against Tyler Mahle (2-7, 4.33 ERA) for the Reds.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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