Despite tough week, Astros should cruise into postseason

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Welcome to summer! In sports that does mean the dog days, as for the next two months-plus baseball is the only mainstream major team sport in season. Despite stinking this week and losing five games in a row, the Astros are wonderfully worthy of having the stage to themselves until late-August. Think what a depressing sports stretch this is in Baltimore, Kansas City, or Miami, where the baseball season has been effectively finished since Easter. Heck, it was utterly miserable here for several years running before 2015.

Big series between Astros and Yankees

The Astros-Yankees series this weekend could certainly wind up being a precursor to them meeting in the American League Championship Series matchup for the second time in three years. The Astros should cruise into the postseason as the winner of the AL West. The Yankees are in a battle for the East with the Tampa Bay Rays, and the reigning World Series Champion Red Sox are definitely within striking distance.

Before this week's hiccup the Astros had rolled on despite the extended absences of Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa. The Yankees have rolled just as well, and their injury toll this season makes the Astros look like they've been a paragon of health. Giancarlo Stanton has played in five games. Aaron Judge just 20. 2018 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar played only 12 before being lost to season ending shoulder surgery. Their best starting pitcher each of the last two seasons was Luis Severino. He hasn't thrown a pitch in 2019, neither has four-time All-Star reliever Dellin Betances. Domingo German leads the Yanks with nine wins, now he's on the IL.

We'll presume that Jose Altuve has plenty of good baseball ahead of him. With five years 151.5 mil kicking in next season the Astros darn sure hope (pray?) so. It's extremely likely that Altuve's best seasons (2016 and 2017) are behind him. The Altuve of 2014, 2015, and pre-injury 2018 is an outstanding player, but not worth 31 mil per season.

Rockets spectators at NBA Draft again

When the highlight of an NBA team's draft night is unveiling revised uniforms, you know draft night was a dud. Behold the Houston Rockets who had zero picks. It's the fourth year in a row the Rockets had no first rounder. This year was a straight salary dump, the pick a necessary attachment to get Cleveland to take Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss off of the Rockets' hands. Last year's pick was a piece of the Chris Paul trade, the 2017 pick went to rent Lou Williams. The 2016 pick given up for Ty Lawson is the one that smarts most in hindsight. Lawson stunk, the Rockets finished 41-41 making the pick number 15. Among the players who went later than 15th in 2016 before the Rockets selected Chinanu Onuaku and Zhou Qi in the second round: Malik Beasley, Caris LeVert, Pascal Siakam, Dejounte Murray, and Malcolm Brogdon. Oops.

Who knows what to believe about the extent of hard feelings between Paul and James Harden. Of course the Rockets are doing to deny, deny, deny that it's messy or problematic. Especially as they try to find a dumping ground for Paul's contract. There may not be one. Paul is still a capable NBA point guard but his superstar days are done, making the three years 124 million left on his deal a nightmare. Ask Tilman Fertitta.

Clown show tendencies on display for Texans

When, as Clay Walker sings, it's football time in Houston, what will the Texans look like? The answer should be at least a decent team. Though the last couple of weeks they made themselves a punch line. Two weeks ago they fire general manager Brian Gaine, trying to bury the story best they could when they did. Then they target New England Patriots exec Nick Caserio for the job. They evidently clumsily and ignorantly make their move, resulting in the Patriots filing a tampering charge against the Texans, then two days later the Texans humiliatingly announce they are dropping their pursuit of Caserio. You wonder if the Patriots also took the Texans' lunch money, or maybe gave them a wedgie.

The Texans have never been a top tier football organization. They have never sustained excellence. They have rarely achieved excellence. But they have not been an incompetent clown show of an organization. Clown organizations don't win five division titles in eight years, regardless of softness of the division over some of those years. A clown organization doesn't go a full decade without having back-to-back losing seasons. Through this episode the Texans have looked like a clown organization.

Winning big is the best deodorant in sports. This coming season the Texans better win big or the sentiment of many around here will be that they stink, even if they don't stink.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Zion Williamson averages 18 & 10 as a rookie. 2. Properly grilled corn-on-the-cob needs no butter, no salt, no pepper, and NEVER mayo. 3. Greatest "Summer" athletes: Bronze-Champ Summers Silver-Pat Summerall Gold-Summer Sanders

Astros win another against the Rangers

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 4-1 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Astros, after a day off on Monday, were back in action at home on Tuesday night for the two-game conclusion of the season series with the Rangers. At 98 wins, and with their magic number down to four, it was a timely night to get Carlos Correa back in the lineup and have Justin Verlander on the mound. Here is a quick recap of the game:

Final Score: Astros 4, Rangers 1.

Record: 99-53, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (19-6, 2.50 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (14-11, 3.77 ERA).

1) Verlander goes six scoreless

It was a stout pitching matchup early in Tuesday's game, with both Justin Verlander and Lance Lynn tossing scoreless frames through the first half of the game. Verlander would win the battle, shutting out the Rangers through six innings while Lynn would allow three runs over that same span.

Although Verlander had managed his pitch count well through his six innings, he would not be asked to extend himself as Houston gears up for the postseason. That didn't keep him from putting up more strikeouts and efficiency to his season totals, though. His final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 0 HR.

2) Houston backs up JV with 3 home runs while the bullpen finishes it off

Meanwhile, Verlander's offense provided him with three runs of support. The first came on a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel to start the scoring for the night in the bottom of the fifth. In the bottom of the sixth, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez hit two solo home runs as well, back-to-back shots to extend the lead to 3-0.

Hector Rondon was the first out of Houston's bullpen to take over for Verlander in the top of the seventh and would allow a solo home run to cut the lead to 3-1 before getting out of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Robinson Chirinos hit a blooper into left field that the Rangers converged on but could not catch, and with Chirinos not stopping on the bases, was able just to beat out the tag for a triple. He would score on an RBI-single, pushing the lead back to three runs at 4-1.

Will Harris was the next pitcher for Houston and recorded a 1-2-3 inning to maintain the lead headed to the ninth. Roberto Osuna would enter in the top of the ninth, and he was able to close out the three-run lead to reduce Houston's magic number to three and move them to 99 wins on the year.

Up Next: The final game this season between the Astros and Rangers, since Texas has already been eliminated from playoff contention, will take place on Wednesday night at 7:10 PM. Kolby Allard (4-0, 4.34 ERA) is expected to get the start for the Rangers while Gerrit Cole (17-5, 2.62 ERA) will be on the mound for the Astros.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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