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 get back on track with lopsided win

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 11-2 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With two of their worst pitching performances behind them from Monday and Tuesday nights, the Astros had Gerrit Cole on the mound on Wednesday to try and right the ship. Here is a recap of the third of four games in this series:

Final Score: Astros 11, Angels 2.

Record: 60-37, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Gerrit Cole (10-5, 3.12 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Felix Pena (7-3, 4.92 ERA).

1) Overpowering offense makes it easy for Houston's pitchers

Houston's openers and primary pitchers put up disappointing numbers the offense could not overcome the previous two nights. Houston's bats flipped the script on that, taking control of the game on Tuesday night to make it less stressful for Gerrit Cole and the bullpen.

They started with a three-run first inning, getting a one-out single by Jose Altuve who would score on an RBI-double by Alex Bregman before a two-run homer by Michael Brantley in the next at-bat. They continued scoring in the next two innings, getting a run in each. Jose Altuve notched an RBI-double in the second, then Yuli Gurriel led the third inning off with a double before scoring on a wild pitch later in the inning.

They nearly doubled that 6-0 lead in the top of the fifth, getting four straight two-out hits. It started with a single by Robinson Chirinos to move Michael Brantley, who was hit by a pitch earlier in the inning, over to second. Tyler White was next with another RBI in this series, getting a single to score Brantley. Jake Marisnick was next, and he came through with an RBI-double before George Springer would clear the bases with a three-run dinger to make it an 11-0 game.

2) Cole gives fans a breath of fresh air

As mentioned, Astros fans were desperate for an efficient pitching performance after the woes of the last two nights. Gerrit Cole delivered, rebounding from his previous start, which was a drop-off from his usual numbers and having a more typical night.

Cole allowed only a handful of hits and a walk over the first four innings, keeping the Angels off the board until the fifth. They would tag him with his near-daily home run in that inning, a solo shot to make it an 11-1 game, the only run he would allow on the night.

Even with his pitch count in the 90s after six innings, the Astros trusted him to come back out and eat another inning. He did so, getting a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh on three strikeouts, bringing his total on the night to eleven. Cole's final line: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 1 HR.

Cole's excellent performance meant only two innings of relief needed from Houston' bullpen. Joe Smith provided a scoreless eighth, then Ryan Pressly wrapped things up despite allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth to make it 11-2.

Up Next: The Astros and Angels will conclude this series tomorrow with the finale of the four-game set starting an hour earlier at 8:07 PM. The expected pitching matchup is Wade Miley (7-4, 3.32 ERA) for Houston going up against Matt Harvey (3-4, 6.88 ERA) for Los Angeles.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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