STAR POWER

​If you’re feeling Astros déjà vu, here’s why

The Astros are crushing the baseball. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

No, MLB has not given the Astros permission to print World Series tickets just yet, and nobody's counting down their "magic number," but this way-too-early season sure feels like 2017 and 2019, the Astros last two trips to the Fall Classic.

Despite Monday night's late score, a 7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, the Astros are sitting at 4-1 on the year, including a dominating sweep of the defending American League West champs A's. That was a hell of a start on the road in Oakland. Only three other teams in history scored 8 or more runs in their first four games like the Astros did.

I remember that familiar feeling from 2017. I'd get home, turn on the TV and just assume the Astros would be up by a few runs heading into the sixth or seventh inning. That's one of the best things about baseball's crazy long 162-game season, there's rarely "nothing on TV" – there's almost always an Astros game.

Look at the top of the Astros batting order: Jose Altuve is back to being Jose Altuve slashing .381, Michael Brantley is crushing a ridiculous .667, Alex Bregman is at .471, Yuli Gurriel is at .500, supersub Aledmys Diaz is .375, Carlos Correa is back up to .273 and Yordan Alvarez is healthy and driving in runs at .273.

How have the Astros lost even one game?

The Astros are a mashing machine, racking up 42 runs in their five games. That's all-time record stratosphere.

The Astros swagger is back. It may (maybe not) have been unintentional, but recently tatted Correa was badass knocking A's All-Star Matt Chapman on his butt with a tag on a double play ball.

Like most fans, Alex Bregman put on the "COVID 15" pounds, except his is muscle. The Astros aren't trembling over fans' jeers. If fans in other stadiums want to bang trash cans, bang away. Scoreboard.

The Astros are doing this despite losing Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, George Springer and Josh Reddick over the past couple of seasons. Manager A.J. Hinch and g.m. Jeff Luhnow, too. They've reloaded.

Sure, not all is joy in Mudville. The Astros starting pitching has been concerning, only one quality start (six innings or more with fewer than three earned runs) – Zack Greinke on Opening Day. And he did it just barely, going six innings in an 8-1 Astros win.

While the top of the Astros lineup has been historic, the bottom of the order is a little like Little League with semi-automatic outs. Kyle Tucker is scuffling at .182, Myles Straw is struggling at .176, and Martin Maldonado is laying low at .063.

Still there's no getting around it (you can look it up), the Astros are scoring runs at a ridiculous rate. After five games, a small but significant sampling because they've been on the road against their two main AL West rivals, the Astros are averaging 8.4 runs a game. The Astros are a swinging team all right.

To place the Astros' run production in perspective, no team ever has averaged as many as seven runs a game over a season. The all-time bashing team was the 1931 Yankees, with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig both swatting 48 homers to lead the American League. That year, the Yankees averaged 6.97 runs per game. They also led the league in batting average, homers, on base percentage, slugging and stolen bases. Gehrig set the American League record with 184 RBI.

Now before we get too giddy over the Astros' fritzing out the scoreboard on a daily basis …

The 1931 Yankees finished in second place, a distant 13-1/2 games behind the Philadelphia A's.

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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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