THE PALLILOG

Here's what to expect from the Astros new-look bullpen

Kendall Graveman is having a career year. Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images.

Astros' General Manager James Click did fine work this week in trading for two boosts to the Astros' very shaky bullpen in acquiring Kendall Graveman from Seattle and Yimi Garcia from Miami. Graveman especially. He has pitched well over his head this season but that's what "career" seasons are about. A 0.82 earned run average is obviously attention grabbing. The mere eight walks he's issued in 33 innings is a big part of that and a sight for Astros' fan sore eyes that have watched just about all their relievers not named Ryan Pressly struggle with control. 2021 Graveman is a clear upgrade over Ryne Stanek as the number two weapon in the Astros' pen. One question to be determined about Graveman is how he fares under the pressure of big late season and postseason games. He's yet to throw a big league pitch in one.

Garcia from the Marlins has been more or less average. Average is an upgrade over the work of Stanek, Joe Smith, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb, Brandon Bielak, Bryan Abreu, and Brooks Raley.

Click gave up nothing of consequence to acquire either guy. Abraham Toro could develop into a decent regular with the Mariners, but other than occasional power he didn't show much over parts of three seasons with the Astros. The occasional power does include one moment many Astros' fans will remember. Justin Verlander sure will. A couple of years ago in Toronto it was Toro's top of the ninth two run homer that provided a 2-0 lead ahead of Verlander finishing off his third career no-hitter. If the Astros have Carlos Correa to replace after this season, it is unlikely that Alex Bregman slides over to shortstop. So other than via injuries to others Toro had no path to starter status here. He should have a shot in the Mariners' weak lineup.

The balance of the top six in the Astros' lineup is amazing. I'm thinking unprecedented. None is among the top 10 in the American League in OPS but all are in the top 20. Yordan Alvarez enters the weekend at .867, Yuli Gurriel .861, Jose Altuve .860, Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker .856, Carlos Correa .849. Alex Bregman should rejoin the party next week.

Football time in Houston

Texans' training camp is underway with Deshaun Watson on the team and on hand, and that's about it. He's not taking part in full, with new Head Coach David Culley offering silly explanations about Watson missing all the offseason work. Culley is in a tough spot but come on. As if a few OTA practices were a big deal. Mandatory minicamp was so important the Texans cancelled it. Plus, the Texans aren't installing a new offense. Coordinator and Watson endorsee Tim Kelly was retained. We'll see how this plods forward.

Don't know if Texans' GM Nick Caserio sent Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers a thank you note but he should. Pouty Rodgers wanting wide receiver Randall Cobb back with the Packers gave the Texans a millions of dollars saving escape hatch from the absurd contract Bill O'Brien signed Cobb to before last season. The Texans had to send the Pack three million to close the deal, so the Texans take a five million dollar dead money charge on Cobb this season. That's a lot better than the more than ten million dollar cap figure Cobb carried if here. The Texans are in all likelihood going to stink this season, so taking all the dead cap hit this year (especially with it cut roughly in half) is a boon ahead of 2022.

Rockets draft reaction

Jalen Green in Rocket Red. Or white, silver, black, powder blue, or whatever else they plan to wear. The 19-year-old Green was widely considered the most explosive offensive talent on the board this year. At number two overall, Green is the Rockets' highest choice since Yao Ming. Green is the Rockets' first first round pick period since 2015 (Sam Dekker). Qualitatively if Green becomes what Yao did they nailed it. Quantitatively it's a disappointment if Green doesn't go beyond Yao. The only other time the Rockets made the second overall selection was 1970. The San Diego Rockets drafted Rudy Tomjanovich. That worked out fairly well. In all the Rockets' haul was four first rounders. Six foot 10 Turk Alperen Sengun is an interesting choice, but what Jalen Green becomes ultimately defines the Rockets' Class of '21.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Simone Biles had every right to make the decision to drop out of Olympics events if she felt doing so best for her mental health. That needs to be respected and treated sensitively. However, is it so unfair to wonder if Biles had been performing up to her previous standards would the pressures have felt so intense and would she have dropped out? Seems a chicken or egg situation.

2. Possible World Series preview this weekend with the Astros at San Francisco for three. The Giants have been shockingly good this season. Best record in Major League Baseball and on pace to win 101 games good, leading the mighty Dodgers by three games in the National League West.

3. Greatest ever Giants: Bronze-Andre The Silver-Lawrence Taylor Gold-Willie Mays

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The NASCAR Cup Series heads for Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers 400. MIS is one of the fastest racetracks in the country, as cars are capable of reaching speeds of 201-205 miles per hour. Hopefully, we will see a safe race considering the speeds we see here. We will more than likely see a race that is vastly different from what we saw last here when the drivers utilized the draft to pass around this track. This year, the cars are less aero-dependent and will be much more spread out. The drivers will need to continue to manage their tires as they have been doing all year.

Last weekend at Indy, Tyler Reddick captured his second victory of 2022 in dramatic fashion. The race came down to numerous restarts where drivers would drive way too deep into the first corner and run into each other each time. This was the central theme of the race, as restarts pretty much decided everything. We saw drivers like AJ Allmendinger, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney get swept up in wrecks in turn one. On the final restart, Ross Chastain decided he didn’t want to be a part of these shenanigans and took the access road that skipped turn one. This moved catapulted him to the lead with Tyler Reddick as the two battled for the lead in a two-lap shootout. When the dust settled, Reddick came away victorious and Ross Chastain was black flagged for shortcutting.

The finish of this race sparked a serious debate among drivers and fans alike about ditching the Indianapolis road course and returning to the oval in 2023. Personally, this doesn’t make any sense to me. While yes, turn one is difficult to maneuver, it’s mainly because drivers all decide to send it as deep as they can, not because of the racetrack configuration. It’s also a bit disingenuous as for years, drivers and fans have been saying they don’t want to see the oval and that the track is designed for IndyCar. If I had to choose, I would say NASCAR just stop going to Indy and go to the short track down the road at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. We have seen so many great races there, and I think the Cup Series would be perfect for that track. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how NASCAR responds to this and what they decide to do for next season.

Kurt Busch will be out for the third consecutive week as he continues to recover from a concussion. This has been tough to hear about, and now there are legitimate concerns that he will not return to racing. There is a good chance however that 23XII could be saving him for the playoffs which are coming up.

For now, Ty Gibbs will continue to fill in for Busch. In his two starts the young phenom has performed extremely well, finishing 16th at Pocono and 17th at Indy. It’s clear that this young man can drive these cars, the only problem is finding a place for him to run next season.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. By any other standard, the season that Truex is having has been great. Constantly up front, leading laps and just overall contending. Unfortunately for him, 2022 hasn’t been just any average season. With 14 winners and Truex not being one of them, he is on the playoff bubble even though he is fourth in points. While his playoff future maybe uncertain right now, there are some good racetracks he is going to where can easily get that first win, and Michigan is one of them. Over the last four races here, he currently has the highest average finish, the highest percentage of laps led, but no victories. I see that changing this week. Toyota and Gibbs have been fast this season as Truex’s teammates have all punched their tickets to the playoffs. Look for Truex to be next in line.

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