THE PALLILOG

Astros are hitting dingers at a historic pace, and we're here for it

Jose Altuve is crushing the baseball. Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

The Astros and White Sox playing through the weekend at Minute Maid Park is their most interesting series since the 2005 World Series the ChiSox won in a sweep. Both are clear 2021 World Series contenders. We already know the Astros won't get swept four straight this time as their mashfest at the plate continued in Thursday's 10-2 coast of a series starting victory. So far in June the Astros are a spiffy 11-4. And have lost ground to American League West leading Oakland. The A's are 12-2 this month and take a two game division lead into the weekend.

The Astro offense is humming and then some, leading Major League Baseball in runs scored per game, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. The runs per game gap between the Astros and second-best Los Angeles Dodgers is larger than the gap from the Dodgers to 10th best. The Astros have hit at least two dingers in their last 10 games. That ties the MLB record set two years ago by an atrocious Orioles' squad that finished 54-108.

Jose Altuve's days of being a .340 hitter are almost certainly finished, and he has a paltry six doubles so far this season. But it's not like a .298 batting average is feeble, and with his home run surge at eight homers in his last 10 games Altuve is now on pace to hit 38 homers this season. 38! His career high of 31 was set two seasons ago. The single season record for a second baseman is 43, hit by Davey Johnson in 1973.

Michel Brantley is a .340 hitter this season. .342 to be exact going into Friday night. Since coming off the injured list he is hitting a mere .532 with 17 hits in 32 at bats. He's been a doubles machine though with diminished home run power. So naturally Brantley belted a three run shot in his first at bat Thursday, snapping a drought of 99 homerless ABs.

Losing Alex Bregman to a quad muscle pull for likely multiple weeks is a blow but if it had to happen this isn't the worst of times for it. Bregman is 0 for his last 19, and over his last 18 games hit just .174. In his first game replacing Bregman Abraham Toro homered and knocked in four.

While the offense can be overpowering it certainly isn't carrying the team. Over the last 18 games Astros' starting pitchers have a 2.38 earned run average.

Rockets looking to win the lottery

The NBA Draft lottery is Tuesday night. Hakeem Olajuwon will represent the Rockets on the freaks and geeks stage of non-playoff teams. The moment of truth for the Rockets is when the fifth pick envelope is opened. If it's a Rockets card it's a horrible blow to the pace of rebuilding efforts because the Rockets would lose the pick to Oklahoma City and in exchange get the 18th pick from Miami. When "The Athletic" asked General Manager Rafael Stone if dropping from top four to 18 would be a set back to the Rockets' rebuild, he absurdly said "not really." Either Stone was spinning in a spirit of optimism, or the Rockets have a not very smart guy as GM. He gets the benefit of the doubt toward the former. The Rockets have a 52.1 percent chance of keeping their pick.

The NBA coaching carousel is spinning hard. Seven vacancies, with another one or two possible. Rick Carlisle's sudden resignation in Dallas makes the Mavericks' opening the clearly best available gig. The Mavs have 22 year old superstar Luka Doncic and that's that. The Mavericks haven't won a playoff series since winning the NBA title back in 2011.

Doc Rivers's coaching job is presumably safe in Philadelphia but after blowing a 26 point lead at home to go down three games to two in their series vs. Atlanta, if the 76ers are taken out Doc adds to the worst gag job resume of any coach in NBA history. Three times Rivers has coached a team that blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven. No other coach has twice lost a series after leading 3-1. The Rockets did it to Rivers's Clippers in 2015. The Nuggets did it to Doc last year ending his tenure with the Clippers. Back in 2003 Doc was coaching Tracy McGrady and Orlando when the Detroit Pistons rallied from three games to one down and make the Magic disappear.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Rather cool and coincidental that the giveaway at Sunday's Astros-White Sox game is a Father's Day Carlos Correa jersey. Carlos and wife Daniella announced this week that they are expecting their first child.

2. If the Hawks eliminate the 76ers Clint Capela would be entitled to a hearty chuckle at Daryl Morey's expense.

3. With apologies to Starburst, Best fruit candies: Bronze-Chuckles Silver-Skittles Gold-Fruit Slices

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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