ASTROS REPORT

Astros overpower weak foes en route to perfect week with 6 straight wins

Astros overpower weak foes en route to perfect week with 6 straight wins
Dallas Keuchel appears to be back in form. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Astros had a great opportunity this week to put the disappointing week prior behind them and feast on some weak teams. They did so, and here's how:

Tuesday, July 3rd: 55-31 Astros (Dallas Keuchel) vs. 38-47 Rangers (Austin Bibens-Dirkx)

Houston got the week started with a two-out RBI double from Yuli Gurriel to get the scoring started in Arlington in the top of the first on Tuesday night. After an Evan Gattis walk, Josh Reddick hit a double off the top of the right-field wall missing a three-run home run by only a few feet. Instead, it scored Gurriel to make it an early 2-0 lead. Max Stassi, who took over primary catcher's duties this week with Brian McCann heading to the DL after undergoing a knee procedure, was hit by a pitch in the first inning to his throwing arm and did not return to the game. Tim Federowicz took over to catch the game for Dallas Keuchel, who was on fire the first two innings retiring all six batters in order including five strikeouts. Keuchel had plenty of run support; Josh Reddick added another run in the top of the third with a solo home run to make it 3-0, followed by Tony Kemp with a two-run homer later in the inning to make it 5-0 to pour it on Austin Bibens-Dirkz. Keuchel allowed his first hit and eventually first run in the bottom of the third, making it a 5-1 game. Keuchel had another rough inning in the fifth, giving up a double then an RBI single to allow the Rangers to trim Houston's lead to 5-2. Despite the two runs, Keuchel still finished with a strong night, going seven innings allowing the two runs on 5 hits, striking out 7, and getting 10 groundball outs. Chris Devenski was first out of the bullpen for the bottom of the eighth but got only one out before loading the bases, resulting in a call for Tony Sipp to face left-handed hitting Roughned Odor, who grounded into a fielder's choice which scored a run to make it 5-3. Hector Rondon came out next to get the final out of the inning with runners on first and third, which he eventually after a walk to load the bases then a strikeout to end the threat. Rondon was back out in the ninth for a multi-inning save, which he accomplished to start the week with a win.
Final Score: Astros 5, Rangers 3

Wednesday, July 4th: 56-31 Astros (Gerrit Cole) vs. 38-48 Rangers (Mike Minor)

The Astros looked to be on their way to an Independence Day loss on July 4 with the Rangers getting a hold of Gerrit Cole early and tagging him with four runs over the first three innings including another home run allowed. Down 4-0, the offense got to work, starting with Josh Reddick getting a two-run homer in the top of the fourth, making it back-to-back games with homers. Alex Bregman trimmed the lead to one in the same inning with an RBI single, making it a 4-3 game. Yuli Gurriel tied the game in the next inning with a solo home run, erasing the early deficit and making it a new ballgame. Cole, after allowing the early runs, took 108 pitches to get through just five innings, setting up the bullpen to have an extended night. First out was Will Harris who worked around a couple of hits to get through the sixth. Next was Collin McHugh who continued his dominant work out of the bullpen this season and ate up three scoreless innings, leaving the game tied since Houston was unable to break the tie at the plate themselves. In the top of the 10th, the Astros finally got their first lead of the night on another RBI by Evan Gattis, a go-ahead sac fly to make it 5-4. Ken Giles pitched a strong bottom of the inning to notch another save on the year and complete another holiday comeback for the Astros.
Final Score: Astros 5, Rangers 4

Thursday, July 5th: 30-56 White Sox (Carlos Rodón) vs. 57-31 Astros (Justin Verlander)

Back at home on Thursday, the first game of the series with Chicago got off to a slow start on both sides with Carlos Rodón and Justin Verlander keeping the opposing offense at bay early. That changed in the bottom of the fifth, however, after a double by Alex Bregman setup a two-run bomb by Jose Altuve to give the Astros the 2-0 lead, giving Verlander some run support as he cruised along with just one hit through the first five innings. He would surrender that lead in the top of the sixth inning, allowing a solo home run and RBI double to tie the game at 2 apiece. Verlander was able to get through seven innings despite the two runs, finishing a strong night with 10 strikeouts. Chris Devenski was first out of the bullpen in the top of the eighth but surrendered a solo home run to give Chicago their first lead of the night at 3-2. That score held until the bottom of the ninth where a couple of pinch-hitters, Tony Kemp and Marwin Gonzalez, set up runners on first and third after a leadoff walk and single which George Springer capitalized for a slump-busting RBI single to tie the game. Alex Bregman worked a walk next to load the bases which finally set up the walk-off RBI single for Yuli Gurriel to keep the winning week going with a 4-3 victory.
Final Score: White Sox 3, Astros 4

Friday, July 6th: 30-57 White Sox (Reynaldo Lopez) vs. 58-31 Astros (Lance McCullers Jr.)

After battling with Chicago in the series opener in a game that was closer than it should have been, Friday night's game went much more as expected. In the early part of the game, this was due to a terrific start by Lance McCullers Jr. McCullers had his curveball working fantastically, so much so that he had a no-hitter working through five innings, during which he was given a 3-0 lead on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the third and two-RBI double by Tim Federowicz in the fourth. The White Sox finally broke up the no-no in the top of the sixth, then got their first run of the night to make it 3-1. Other than the one run allowed, McCullers had a near-perfect start, going seven innings with just one run on three hits while striking out twelve, making it one of his most dominant starts of the year. After seeing their lead trimmed to two runs, the offense got back to work and put things out of reach with Evan Gattis hitting an RBI double in the seventh to make it 4-1 before launching a three-run homer in the eighth along with RBIs from Alex Bregman, Josh Reddick, and Gurriel along with a run scoring on an error to make it 11-1. After being called from the bullpen for the eighth which he got through without any damage, Brad Peacock returned for the ninth and allowed three garbage-time runs before closing out the win.
Final Score: White Sox 4, Astros 11 

Saturday, July 7th: 30-58 White Sox (James Shields) vs. 59-31 Astros (Charlie Morton) 

Astros fans rejoiced as the news broke on Saturday morning: Jake Marisnick was sent down and the long-awaited call-up of Kyle Tucker had been made. He was immediately put in the lineup and made his debut on Saturday, joining a hot lineup that continued to put runs on the board that afternoon. They started with an RBI single from Max Stassi in the second to go up 1-0 before a three-run homer by Yuli Gurriel in the next inning made it 4-0. After a strong first three innings, Morton got into some trouble in the fourth, giving up the first two hits and run to the White Sox making it 4-1. Houston extended their lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the fifth on RBIs from Josh Reddick and Evan Gattis but would see that lead trimmed down to just one run with another bad inning from Charlie Morton who loaded the bases, gave up an RBI single, then a bases-clearing double to make it a 6-5 game in the top of the sixth. That would be as close as they would get to tying the game, though, with Alex Bregman knocking a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning making it 8-5. After striking out in his first three plate appearances, Tucker was able to record his first major league hit in the bottom of the seventh, before scoring on an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez to make it 9-5. Chicago got a solo home run off of Ken Giles in the top of the eighth, but Houston answered right back with a three-run inning of their own with RBI singles from Max Stassi and Yuli Gurriel and an RBI-walk from Kyle Tucker, another first in his debut. The 12-6 score held after a scoreless ninth by Joe Smith gave Houston their fifth straight win. 
Final Score: White Sox 6, Astros 12

Sunday, July 8th: 30-59 White Sox (Lucas Giolito) vs. 60-31 Astros (Dallas Keuchel)

After combining for 33 runs over the last two games, both teams were slowed down by good pitching on Sunday afternoon. Dallas Keuchel had a great start, working his usual method of inducing ground ball after ground ball to churn out innings and make opposing offense earn their runs. Lucas Giolito was having an equally good game, but that didn't stop Jose Altuve from rocketing a homer to left center to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Chicago did finally get a run off of Keuchel, a sac fly in the top of the seventh to tie the game 1-1. That would be Keuchel's last inning, finishing with seven innings pitched, one earned run on six hits, and getting 17 of his 21 outs via ground ball. Yuli Gurriel led off the bottom of the seventh with a double, tagged up to third on a fly out by Josh Reddick, then scored on a perfectly placed bunt by Marwin Gonzalez to give Houston the lead back at 2-1. Collin McHugh kept that lead in the eighth, setting up Hector Rondon for the save in the ninth including two big strikeouts, extending the winning streak to six and completing the season series sweep of the White Sox. 
Final Score: White Sox 1, Astros 2

Summary: Even without Carlos Correa, the Astros rebounded from a rough week prior by having a perfect 6-0 week this week led by an overpowering offense and strong pitching to beat up on weaker teams. Though not fully back to World Series MVP form, George Springer was able to get some hits this week to hopefully turn the tide on his recent slump, while the other parts of the offense continue to produce runs on a regular basis and contribute to the league's best run differential at +188. They hopefully improved even a bit more this week by replacing a weak link in Jake Marisnick with Kyle Tucker. Tucker may need some time to get up to speed at the major league level, but he has all the fundamentals and track record in the minors that he'll be able to earn himself a spot in this already potent lineup. Keuchel continued to rebound from his early-season woes with two strong starts and wins this week, joined by the other starters who may have allowed a few runs but otherwise continued to show they can be the best rotation in the league. It's no surprise that five members of this team: Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Gerrit Cole are all going to represent Houston on the All-Star game roster. 

MVP of the Week - Yuli Gurriel

Gurriel had another highlight-reel week offensively, going 9 for 21 for a .429 average and getting a hit in all the six games this week. This raised his season average up to .303, while he also raised his season total of RBIs to 46 with 9 this week including the four-RBI game on Saturday. He continues to perform well in the cleanup spot while Correa is out, turning many RBI opportunities into runs for Houston.

This Week:

  • Mon-Thu: (50-40) A's @ (61-31) Astros
  • Fri-Sun: (40-52) Tigers @ (61-31) Astros

Houston will finish the first half of the season leading up to the All-Star break by completing their current homestand with a full week of games. First, the A's will come in for a four-game series to start the week, then the Tigers will face the Astros in a weekend series. Oakland has been on fire recently, winning 8 of their last 10 games and 16 of their last 20, so that four-game series might not be as easy as it appears considering how well the Astros typically play against the A's. The Tigers, on the other hand, have been struggling quite heavily recently which should allow Houston a motivation boost heading into the break. 

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Reed Sheppard to Houston seems to be the common consensus. Composite Getty Image.

French 7-footer Alexandre Sarr has widely been projected to follow the footsteps of fellow countryman Victor Wembanyama as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

But Sarr isn't the only big man expected to have his name called.

Though the June 26 draft isn't loaded with bigs, it does have the two-time national college player of the year and a two-time national champion available.

UConn's Donovan Clingan won two national championships and could go in the lottery with his strong pick-and-roll skills and shot-blocking ability.

Purdue's Zach Edey is expected to go much later in the first round due to his lack of mobility and perimeter shooting, but he is the first two-time national player of the year since Ralph Sampson, so there's likely a place for him in the NBA.

This year's draft also includes Kyle Filipowski from Duke, Indiana's Kel'el Ware and Baylor's Yves Missi, so there will be chances for teams looking to add size.

Then again, some team may even take a chance on using a first-round pick on Southern California's Bronny James, son of NBA career scoring leader LeBron James.

1. ATLANTA HAWKS: Alexandre Sarr, center, France

Sarr doesn't have the all-around skills of Wembanyama, but then no one really does. He's still extremely talented, an athletic 7-footer who can wreck rims and the hopes of opposing shooters. Sarr's shot still needs some work, but he could end up becoming a franchise player in the next few years. Atlanta fans should love watching him throw down lobs from Trae Young.

2. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Zaccharie Risacher, forward, France

Many NBA mock drafts have Risacher going No. 1 — and for good reason. The 6-foot-9 forward has the skills of a guard and should be a perfect fit for today's NBA. Risacher is a superb catch-and-shoot wing who can beat defenders off the dribble and has a huge defensive upside with his length and athleticism. He may end up being the franchise player the Wizards need in their rebuild.

3. HOUSTON ROCKETS: Reed Sheppard, guard, Kentucky

The Rockets need shooters and Sheppard is certainly that. The 6-3 guard may be the best shooter in the draft — his 52% mark would have led Division I last season if he had enough attempts to qualify.

He has a high basketball IQ — both parents played at Kentucky — and averaged 12.5 points as a freshman.

Last week's mock draft also had Sheppard going to the Rockets.

4. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Stephon Castle, guard, UConn

The Huskies were loaded with talented players in their title defense last season and Castle had no trouble fitting in as a freshman. The 6-6 guard is a solid playmaker who can get his own shot and is a hard-nosed defender. His size and athleticism could end up making him one of the best players of the draft, particularly if he improves his outside shot. Even at 19, he’s already a proven winner.

5. DETROIT PISTONS: Matas Buzelis, forward, G League Ignite

Buzelis bypassed college basketball to play in the G League and improved his draft status by gaining muscle while rounding out his game. The 6-8 forward is an excellent playmaker who can see over defenders and finishes strong at the rim in transition. Buzelis will need to work on his perimeter shooting, though: He hit 27% from 3 for the Ignite last season.

6. CHARLOTTE HORNETS: Donovan Clingan, center, UConn

Clingan's a proven winner as the massive anchor to UConn's back-to-back NCAA titles. Though he doesn't fit the NBA mold of a perimeter-shooting big man, the 7-2, 280-pounder is a load for opponents inside at both ends of the floor and would be a great fit for a Charlotte team that was 25th in the NBA in blocked shots last season. Clingan also is excellent at finishing on lobs, which could be a great fit with LaMelo Ball running the point in Charlotte.

7. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Rob Dillingham, guard, Kentucky

Portland was last in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season and Dillingham's 44% mark in his lone season at Kentucky was nearly 10 points higher than the Blazers' percentage. Though small at 6-1, 165 pounds, Dillingham has a big game with an ability to score at three levels and has the quickness to beat defenders off the dribble. His size could be a liability on defense.

8. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Ron Holland II, forward, G League Unite

Holland could end up being the best defensive forward in the draft. The 6-7 forward has a nose for the ball defensively — he averaged more than 2 steals a game in the G League — and is excellent in the open floor. Holland can create his own shot, but needs to make more after shooting 24% from 3 on 3.6 attempts per game last season. The Spurs are at least in a position to wait for him to develop.

9. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: Dalton Knecht, guard, Tennessee

A knockdown shooter, Knecht could be a great complement to Ja Morant. The 6-6 shooting guard is superb at shooting off screens and can fill it up in a hurry, like he did while scoring 37 points against Purdue in the Elite Eight. Knecht is close to a finished product already, a 23-year-old who should contribute right away.

10. UTAH JAZZ: Tidjane Salaun, forward, France

Salaun can make it three French players as lottery picks in this year's draft. The 6-9 forward fits the NBA style of play. He can shoot it from deep and improved his game — not to mention his frame — while playing in the French LNB Pro A, the same league as Wembanyama before his move to the NBA. Salaun may be a longer-term project, but has massive upside.

11. CHICAGO BULLS: Cody Williams, guard, Colorado

He’s a thin 6-8, but has the size and athleticism to shoot over or get around defenders. Williams can create his own shot, is an excellent finisher and has good playmaking skills for a shooting guard. He shot a respectable 41% from 3 during his freshman season and has a huge defensive upside with his length and agility.

12. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: Ron Holland, forward, G League Unite

Holland could end up being the best defensive forward in the draft. The 6-7 forward has a nose for the ball defensively — he averaged more than 2 steals a game in the G League — and is excellent in the open floor, which would be a great fit in OKC. Holland can create his own shot, but needs to make more after shooting 24% from 3 on 3.6 attempts per game last season. The Thunder are at least in a position to wait for him to develop.

13. SACRAMENTO KINGS: Devin Carter, guard, Providence

The 6-3 guard has a massive wingspan and vertical leap, which helped allow him make a big jump from 13 points to 19.7 last season. Carter has a high basketball IQ, is a hard-nosed defender and an excellent rebounder for a guard. The son of former NBA player Anthony Carter, he was the Big East player of the year in a league that included Clingan and Castle.

14. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Ja'Kobe Walter, guard, Baylor

The 6-5 guard was not shy in putting it up from 3 for the Bears as a freshman, taking more than four a game while shooting 34%. His long wingspan and athleticism give Walter the potential to become a defensive stopper at the next level. Shot selection and adding a bit of muscle to his 197-pound frame will be the biggest adjustments in the move to the NBA, but he's only 19, so there's plenty of time.

15. MIAMI HEAT: Nikola Topic, guard, Serbia

At 6-6, Topic is a superb passer with great vision and size to see over defenders. He also has the strength to get into the lane and can finish strong at the rim, making him able to control a game even without being a great 3-point shooter. Would be projected to go higher — maybe with the Spurs’ first pick at No. 4 — but medical tests showed he has a partially torn ACL in his left knee, which he injured twice last season in Europe.

16. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: Jared McCain, guard, Duke

He was Duke's toughest competitor during his lone season in Durham and is an elite shooter who could fit in on any team. McCain is an excellent shooter off screens and in the pullup game, but can also run the point if needed. He has a high basketball IQ, so should pick up the NBA game fairly quickly.

17. LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Kel'el Ware, center, Indiana

The 7-footer with a 7-5 wingspan has the length and game to have an immediate impact in the NBA. Ware quickly moved up NBA draft boards during team workouts and is a strong rim protector. He's also excellent on lobs and shot 43% from 3 last season, making him the type of stretch big man NBA teams covet.

18. ORLANDO MAGIC: Carlton Carrington, guard, Pittsburgh

The player known as “Bub” gets buckets in bunches and loves the pull-up J. The 6-4 guard has good size to play point guard and, at 19, has plenty of time to develop. His biggest downside: perimeter shooting. Carrington didn’t lack for confidence in his freshman season, attempting 6.1 3s per game, but shot 32% from the arc.

19. TORONTO RAPTORS: Zach Edey, center, Purdue

Even with a lack of mobility and perimeter shooting, Edey was still the first repeat AP national player of the year since Ralph Sampson. At 7-4, 300 pounds, he dominated the college game and will be a handful even in the NBA. The Canadian would be a popular pick by the Raptors.

20: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Tristan da Silva, forward, Colorado

Any team could use a steady, do-it-all type of player and da Silva is just that. The 6-8 forward doesn't have eye-catching athleticism, but he is smart and has the size and strength to endure the rigors of the NBA. He also can guard multiple positions and may be the most NBA-ready player in the draft after playing four years in Boulder.

21. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: Isaiah Collier, guard, USC

While Bronny James got much of the hype in Southern California, Collier was the higher-rated prospect out of high school. Once projected as a lottery pick, his draft stock took a bit of a hit during an inconsistent lone season with the Trojans. Even so, Collier has the type of game and solid frame that could translate well in the NBA. The 6-3 guard plays hard with the strength and quickness to get past defenders, but needs to work on his perimeter game after shooting 34% from the college 3-point line.

22. PHOENIX SUNS: Tyler Kolek, guard, Marquette

The Suns have plenty of firepower led by Kevin Durant and Devin Booker but could use a true point guard to help get them organized. The two-time All-American can certainly do that and also provide points when needed, and should be a familiar name to new coach Mike Budenholzer from his time coaching in Milwaukee.

23. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: Yves Missi, center, Baylor

Missi knows his game and sticks to it. A high-motor 6-11 forward, he is a rim runner and shot blocker who didn’t even attempt a 3-pointer last season. The Cameroon native should transition well to the pick-and-roll game of the NBA and is a thunderous dunker, as he proved during his lone season with the Bears.

24. NEW YORK KNICKS: Kyle Filipowski, center, Duke

New York is loaded with Duke fans and Filipowski could be an instant favorite. The sturdy 6-11 center may not be an elite rim protector or a consistent 3-point shooter, but he has good footwork and plays hard. The Knicks had a solid run into the second round of the playoffs and Filipowski could be another piece to help push them deeper.

25. NEW YORK KNICKS: Terrence Shannon, guard, Illinois

Shannon can flat-out score and has shown he can do it in big moments. Sexual assault accusations might have made teams leery of taking the dynamic guard in the first round, but the Knicks might be willing to take a chance following a not guilty verdict earlier this month.

26. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Johnny Furphy, guard, Kansas

The 6-8 Australian has a smooth shooting stroke and gets his shot off quickly. He also has good touch around the rim and good instincts on defense, often leading to steals. Furphy is not much of a shot creator off the dribble and needs to work on his individual defense, so he could need a year or two of development.

27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: DaRon Holmes II, forward, Dayton

The 6-9 forward is good in the pick-and-roll game and a strong finisher at the rim. Holmes has improved his outside shooting, hitting 39% from the 3-point arc after shooting 32% the season before. He can defend multiple positions, but would be undersized as a center in the NBA. He also isn’t much of a shot creator, but his pick-and-roll skills may offset that.

28. DENVER NUGGETS: Jaylon Tyson, forward, California

Denver's bid to repeat as NBA champions hit a wall in the second round when its top players were stretched to the limit. Tyson could give them a solid boost off the bench. The 6-6 guard has good size, finishes strong at the rim and is a decent perimeter shooter. He increased his scoring average nearly 10 points to 19.6 last season, so has shown the ability to develop his game.

29. UTAH JAZZ: Bobi Klintman, forward, Wake Forest/Australia

The back end of the first round is typically filled with potential projects and Klintman is an intriguing one. The 6-9 stretch forward from Sweden has good length, both physically and shooting ability. Klintman moves more like a guard and is a good passer for a big man. He will likely need a few years of development before becoming ready, but is worth the risk late in the first round.

30. BOSTON CELTICS: Bronny James, guard, USC

The champion Celtics already have a loaded roster, so there's room to take a chance on LeBron's son. Bronny James has an incredible feel for the game after learning from his father and has a solid 6-4 frame. He had a so-so freshman season at USC, averaging 4.8 points and 27% shooting from 3-point range, but has the potential to be a solid pro. James also could come with a huge bonus if his father follows through with his intention to play at least one season with his son.

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