The Pallilog

Astros still clicking along at a strong pace plus news on Keuchel, NBA Finals and Carson Wentz

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Just what the Astros wanted before a long flight home: a 14 inning five hour six minute game Thursday in Seattle. They won it, though If Justin Verlander finishes this season as a 19 game winner, Thursday's no-decision will be one to really rue. A.J. Hinch lifted Verlander after six and a third innings and just 94 pitches with the Astros leading 5-1. Will Harris, Ryan Pressly, and Roberto Osuna have all been excellent overall this season but they all failed and gave up runs as the Astros blew the lead. The first of the three earned runs charged to Verlander was tainted. In the bottom of the first with two out and nobody on Jake Marisnick and Michael Brantley combined to botch a routine fly ball which they let drop for a bogus double. A looping single by the next batter delivered the run.

No doubt Verlander would have preferred to stay in the game when hooked, but it wasn't an awful Hinch move. With the Astros a virtual postseason lock Hinch is rightfully mindful of the long game. In his prior start Verlander threw a season high 114 pitches. Conserving some pitches in Verlander's 36 year old arm from time to time is sensible. Under the same game circumstances in October, there is basically no chance Hinch takes out Verlander when he did Thursday.

The Astros certainly are not a flawless team and when the playoffs get here any opponent they face will be capable of beating them, but it seems as though the Astros are basically toying with the American League. Altuve out, Springer out, Correa out, and the Astros complete a 6-1 road trip to Oakland and Seattle. The A's are decent, the Mariners are horrible.

Just about 40 percent through the regular season the Astros are 43-21. En route to winning a franchise record 103 games last season, the Astros were 39-25 after 64 games.

Magic number

40 years ago (41 actually) Meat Loaf released "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." In Major League Baseball, winning two out of three on a regular basis is fantastic. Do it over a full season and a team wins 108 games. That's how many the Astros are on pace to win this year. For American League teams the regular season schedule expanded to 162 games in 1961, when expansion grew the AL to 10 teams. The National League went to 162 the next year, when the Colt 45s and New York Mets started play. So that's nearly 60 years of the 162 game schedule. Only eight teams have won as many as 108 games. For what it's worth, six of the eight won the World Series.

The Baltimore Orioles own two of those 108 win seasons, posting them back-to-back. The 1969 Orioles won 109 games but lost the World Series to the Miracle Mets. In 1970 the O's won 108 and did win the Series. These days the Orioles are a joke. Last season they finished 47-115. They're not pacing much better this season at 19-43. The Astros should whip up on them this weekend at Minute Maid Park.

Keuchel finds a home

Dallas Keuchel to the Atlanta Braves. He should be a good fit. Not knowing the market for his services would crash, Keuchel passed on a 17.9 million qualifying offer from the Astros, then on a reported 15 mil offer from them this spring. Keuchel will make 13 mil from the Braves (pro rata from a 20 million dollar annualized salary) then be a free agent again. No pity party is necessary but Keuchel and agent Scott Boras began free agency seeking 150 mil. They overshot the runaway a bit.

On the NBA

With the champions injury-addled, the NBA title is there for the Toronto Raptors' taking. Up two wins to one the Raptors face a still Kevin Durant-less Golden State squad in game four Friday night. Klay Thompson gives it a go after missing game three with a hamstring strain. If Thompson can't make a meaningful contribution the Raptors should win again and then have a chance to win the championship in Toronto Monday night.

The one year attendance ban imposed on the rich turd Warriors' minority owner who pushed Raptor guard Kyle Lowry along the sideline Wednesday night seems fair. It wasn't assault but it was a way beyond unacceptable jackass move.

Big deal for Wentz

Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Carson Wentz is three seasons into his NFL career, the last two of which included season ending injuries. The Eagles have agreed with Wentz on a four year $128 million dollar contract extension, $107 million guaranteed. 107! The clock ticks on the Texans as Deshaun Watson enters the third season of his career on a bargain contract.

Buzzer beaters

1. The Rockets have refreshed their secondary logo and are tweaking their uniforms. That's some nice sizzle. We'll see about the steak after the offseason. 2. Five games played in this year's Stanley Cup Final, four have been phenomenal. 3. Best Robert Redford movies: Bronze-All The President's Men Silver-The Natural Gold-The Sting

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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