Astros shine in the national spotlight, start second half with series win

George Springer finally got it going. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros were represented in both the Home Run Derby on Monday, the All-Star Game on Tuesday, then picked up the second half of the regular season over the weekend. They did Houston proud. Here's the breakdown: 

Monday, July 16th: 2018 MLB Home Run Derby

Just like any other season, the night before the All-Star Game saw the annual showcase of power hitting. With a few notable names like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton opting out, that left the playing field pretty wide open for anyone to take the trophy home. Alex Bregman was one of the eight contestants, and besides representing the Astros was the only AL participant, with the other seven coming from the NL. Bregman was matched up with Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs in the first round. Schwarber went first, setting a high bar at 16 homers, including some in bonus time he was awarded for hitting two longer than 440 feet in regular time. The bonus time was the difference maker, with Bregman taking a total of 15 into the final few seconds where he missed home runs on his last two swings by a matter of feet. Schwarber would go on to make it into the final where he would come up just short against hometown hero Bryce Harper who hit a home run in his bonus time to seal the win. 
Winner: Bryce Harper (Nationals)

Tuesday, July 17th: 2018 MLB All-Star Game - American League vs. National League 

The homers didn't stop on Monday night, with power bats coming alive Tuesday night in the spotlight of the All-Star Game. Aaron Judge was the first to strike, hitting a homer off of Max Scherzer to give the AL a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Mike Trout took Jacob deGrom long in the top of the third to extend the lead to 2-0, but Wilson Contreras cut the lead in half with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the third off of Blake Snell. The 2-1 score held for a while despite Jose Altuve getting his first career hit in the All-Star Game, but the ball started flying into the seats again late in the game. Trevor Story tied the game for the NL in the bottom of the seventh with a homer off of Houston's Charlie Morton, but Jean Segura answered right back for the AL, hitting a three-run homer which looked to be enough to put things away in the eighth, making it a 5-2 game. The NL got back to work, getting another homer off of Charlie Morton in the bottom of the eighth by Christian Yelich to make it 5-3, then Scooter Gennett launched the tying two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, sending the All-Star Game to extras. Alex Bregman, who had been put in the game in the sixth, was up first in the tenth inning to face Ross Stripling of the Dodgers, and as he has done so many times this year, came through in the clutch with a solo homer to give the AL the lead back at 6-5. George Springer was next, and in a fashion that brought back flashbacks of the World Series, joined Bregman to make it back-to-back Astros' homers off of the Dodgers' pitcher. The AL would go on to win the game in the tenth, with Alex Bregman earning a well-deserved MVP of the game award. 
Final Score (10 innings): American League 8, National League 6

Friday, July 20th: 64-35 Astros (Dallas Keuchel) vs. 49-48 Angels (Tyler Skaggs)

After the fun of the break, Houston got back to regular season baseball by kicking off the second half on the road versus the Angels on Friday night. Dallas Keuchel looked refreshed and dominant, so much so that he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning which arguably should have kept going if not for a line drive that clipped the top of Marwin Gonzalez's glove and went into the outfield for the Angels' first hit of the game. Keuchel would give up a true hit to lead off the eighth, which would end up costing him a run after Gonzalez had another blunder throwing a groundball to third instead of first with the runner safe with an easy out left at first. Keuchel's final line ended up being seven and two-third innings with just one run on two hits and five strikeouts; a dominant start to keep his recent hot streak going. That earned him the win with Houston getting three runs over the first three innings on RBIs from Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Josh Reddick. Those three runs would be enough with Colling McHugh finishing the eighth for Keuchel, then Hector Rondon notching another save to wrap up the win.
Final Score: Astros 3, Angels 1

Saturday, July 21st: 65-35 Astros (Justin Verlander) vs. 49-49 Angels (Nick Tropeano)

Justin Verlander was another pitcher who looked rested and in command, pitching a lights-out game on Saturday night. Verlander only had to pitch six innings, but he looked dominant in those innings with eleven strikeouts and no runs on five hits. The reason he didn't have to go deep into the game was thanks to the offense giving him plenty of run support, including RBIs from Yuli Gurriel in the third and Tony Kemp in the fourth to get a 2-0 lead. That was followed by a huge sixth inning which started with a solo home run by Josh Reddick before Houston loaded the bases, setting up George Springer for a grand slam to keep his recent success going and putting the Astros up 7-0. That score held through the end with the bullpen completing the shutout with innings by Joe Smith, Brad Peacock and Tony Sipp.
Final Score: Astros 7, Angels 0

Sunday, July 22nd: 66-35 Astros (Lance McCuller Jr.) vs. 49-50 Angels (Andrew Heaney)

After being shut out the night before and held to just one run so far in the series, the Angels couldn't stop scoring runs on Sunday against Houston's pitching. Despite J.D. Davis giving the Astros an early 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the top of the second, the lead would be shortlived and they would never come close to tying or regaining the lead. It started with McCullers, who gave up five runs between the second and fourth innings including a two-run homer. He wasn't the only pitcher with troubles, as it would take a total of seven pitchers to get through the game including J.D. Davis coming in for the ninth when the game was well out of hand. Cionel Perez allowed one, Will Harris four, Chris Devenski three, and Davis one which combined with McCullers' five led to a horrible 14-run day. Some futile runs by Houston along the way were a two-RBI double by Alex Bregman, RBI walk by George Springer, and a run scored on an error. 
Final Score: Astros 5, Angels 14


Although it ended on a severely sour note, the week overall for the Astros was positive. Even though Altuve was Houston's only starter, it was all about Alex Bregman Monday and Tuesday as he showed he could go toe-to-toe with the power bats of the MLB and the strongest arms too. If Correa could get healthy and back in this lineup, that top four would be the best in baseball with a resurgent Springer, unstoppable Bregman, consistent Altuve, and powerful Correa to punish opposing pitchers. Kyle Tucker is taking a while to acclimate to MLB pitching, but it's still too early to be making any real determinations about him, though it would be nice for him to have some more hits and RBIs under his belt at this point because he's had his chances, including going to the plate with the bases loaded twice just this weekend. Other than McCullers getting roughed up Sunday, this rotation is still very good and as long as they stay healthy are prime for a playoff run. Houston just needs to stay steady, get Correa back when he's healthy, and keep playing their game and before we know it it'll be September and we'll be counting down to another 100-win season. 

MVP of the Week - George Springer

We all know Alex Bregman could easily be plugged in here for his performance in the Derby and All-Star Game, but to be honest I've been waiting weeks to get the chance to say this: Springer is back. Not only did he come through on the big stage Tuesday night with a homer, but he also had a hit AND RBI in all three games this weekend. It looks like he's officially broken out of that slump and his bat is finding the ball again. In all across the three games versus the Angels, Springer went 4 for 10 with six RBIs, four of which coming on the grand slam Saturdaynight. Springer is a streaky player, but a hot streak starting right now could last the rest of the year, which would be great for this team.

This Week 

  • Tue-Wed:  (66-36) Astros @ (53-46) Rockies
  • Fri-Sun: (42-58) Rangers @ (66-36) Astros

Houston has an unorthodox schedule this week, getting an off day Monday to travel to Colorado for a two-game set against the Rockies before another off day on Thursday before facing the Rangers this weekend. Look for the Astros to score a lot of runs in the mile-high air of Coors Field and take that momentum home for the last three games against the Rangers this year.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Many of the games have been hard to watch. Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

They say that breaking up is hard to do, then comes the rebuilding, and that's where the real pain happens. Last week, the 4-9 Rockets lost a tough game, 103-91, to the very average San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. That night, Ben McLemore scored 21 points, while P.J. Tucker contributed four points.

Every other point for the Rockets was scored by a player who wasn't on the team last year. That's no way to build a fan base of young people, or older people, or anybody. Because of COVID restrictions, the Rockets can sell only 3,000 tickets to games, and they're still having to offer special deals like four tickets and four drinks (soda, water, wine or beer) for $79.

The night the Rockets fell to the Spurs, DeMarcus Cousins was out with an ankle injury (surprise), John Wall was out with a sore knee (shock), and Eric Gordon sat with a lower leg injury (stunning). They were not sidelined by COVID protocol, it was age creakiness. All three are on the other side of 30. All have a history of missing games because of injuries. Danuel House also missed the game because of a bad back and COVID protocol.

The Rockets took to the floor with able-bodied Mason Jones, David Nwaba, Rodions Kurucs, Kenyon Martin Jr., Jae'Sean Tate and Christian Wood. They're nice players, for sure, they're on an NBA roster. But the NBA is a megastar-driven operation. How many of them would you recognize if they were standing behind you at Costco? The way the Rockets sign, trade and cut players, many or most of the current roster won't be around next year. Becoming a fan of a current Rocket is like falling in love with the Rug Doctor you rented for the weekend at a supermarket. It's going back Monday.

Last year, the head coach was Mike D'Antoni, the general manager was Daryl Morey. Both are established and respected figures in the league. Would you recognize the Rockets new coach Stephen Silas? Can you even name the Rockets new general manager?

And that's how you sink to 14th place in the Western Conference standings, inevitably a lottery team, the end to the Rockets' eight-year run of making the playoffs … the longest current streak in the NBA. The 2021 Rockets aren't just a lousy product, it's worse, they're a boring team. Gordon and Tucker, maybe the two most popular Rockets veterans, are rumored to be traded soon. Fans will have abandonment issues.

Maybe the Rockets should offer something stiffer than beer on "Guys Night Out" next Thursday when the Portland Trail Blazers visit Toyota Center. Good seats available.

That's not what you want to see

Did you see where the New York Mets fired their general manager Jared Porter because he sent explicit, uninvited, unanswered text messages to a female reporter?. Porter absolutely deserved to lose his job. What he did was awful and cruel. More than just losing his job, he should be committed to a home for the terminally stupid. Who does something that moronic? So unconscionable and abusive, on top of being job-killing.

But not all junk shots are meant to be hurtful – here's one that's actually funny, and totally inadvertent and innocent. Several years ago, a local sportscaster not only took a photo of his naked, anatomically correct body, he posted it on Facebook for all of his friends, indeed the world, to see. I won't name the local sportscaster because he was the victim of his own innocent lack of focus. It could have happened to anybody. Not me, thankfully, but anybody else.

Here's how it happened. The sportscaster was taking a shower, and when he emerged, he noticed his kitten curled up in the bathroom sink. Aw, isn't that cute? The sportscaster grabbed his phone and took a photo.

And posted it on Facebook. He didn't notice that, in the background of the photo, in the mirror, was his naked body. You can't say he was butt naked because it was full frontal nudity. You can't say it was a wardrobe malfunction because there was no wardrobe involved. Fortunately his wife noticed the mishap and told the sportscaster to delete the photo.

Here's the real problem, and his solid alibi. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put huge, wide mirrors in the bathroom, especially opposite the bath tub? There's a good look, you're naked, dripping wet, with patches of soap you missed rinsing off. This should be a fleeting disturbing image, not one to be preserved on film or online. Solution: don't bring your phone, or any photographic equipment, into the bathroom. We've all taken accidental photos. Nobody needs to see a photo of your disgusting body. You are not Michelangelo's statue of David. I don't let my dog watch me take a shower or any other business conducted in the bathroom. There is a reason that bathroom doors have locks. Use them.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome