ASTROS WIN BIG!

Here's an over-the-top prediction after Astros' Game 1 drubbing of White Sox

Here's an over-the-top prediction after Astros' Game 1 drubbing of White Sox
Game 1 was just the start! Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

John McEnroe was asked, "What's your expert analysis of this match, who's going to win, Roger Federer or the lucky loser qualifier?"

McEnroe answered, "I could go into a hundred factors, forehand, backhand, etc. But Federer is going to win for one reason … he's better than the other guy."

It's the same deal with the Astros v. White Sox in the American League Divisional Series. I could go all Geoff Blum on you, comparing wRAA (weighted runs above average), BAPIP (batting average on balls in play), wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), and IR-A% (inherited runs allowed percentage). But the Astros are going to win for one reason … they're better than the White Sox.

A whole lot better. The Astros' 6-1 drubbing of the White Sox Thursday was just the start. The Astros will wash, rinse and repeat Game 2 on Friday with Framber Valdez on the mound. Then on to Chicago to finish off the White Sox mercifully.

Let's go around the horn. The Astros are better at first, I'll take Yuli Gurriel over Jose Abreu. The Astros clearly are better at second with Jose Altuve, short with Carlos Correa and third with Alex Bregman. The Astros are better in left field with Michael Brantley and right field with Kyle Tucker. It's not close at designated hitter with Yordan Alvarez. I move the couch back five feet in my living room when Alvarez bats. Of the eight position players plus DH, the Astros have the edge seven times.

The starting rotations are a push, and I'll give the White Sox the nod with their bullpen. It won't be enough for the White Sox. Astros manager Dusty Baker is living in the moment, on top of things. He's geared-up like he's coming in as a defensive replacement in the ninth. White Sox skipper Tony La Russa is so old school I half expect him to write Shoeless Joe Jackson on the lineup card. Over here, Tony!

I love the Astros cocky walk. They didn't shrink under the boos harking back to 2017's cheating scandal. The 2021 edition has a chip on their shoulders. They've got a lot to prove fair and square. Lance McCullers, an alumnus from 2017, struts like he's the only rooster in the henhouse. He dominated Game 1 like the true ace he's become.

You don't like us? Beat us! You're bringing trash cans to the ballpark? Bang that!

No wonder the Astros are solid betting favorites. It's simple, really. The Astros have a winning record at home, the White Sox have a losing record on the road, and the Astros have the home field advantage.

The Astros No. 7 batter Kyle Tucker is a stronger hitter than anybody in the White Sox lineup. (I know, he's stronger than anybody in the Astros lineup, too, but you get my point.) Since May 9, Tucker swatted.329 and led the league in extra base hits. Remember back in 2015 when Preston Tucker struggled in the Astros outfield? Fans kept hearing, "It's really about his little brother Kyle." Well, little brother is here. And he's mashing.

If this is Carlos Correa's swan song in an Astros uniform, and increasingly it appears that way, he's leaving Houston like a show business pro ... with the audience wanting more.

The Astros are a veteran team with playoff experience. Their only rookie starter, Jake Meyers, got hits his first two times at bat. He's up for this.

There will be a street festival, with food trucks and entertainment, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday before first pitch at 1:07 p.m. Only ticket-holders will be admitted. The game will be televised on FS1 and the MLB Network.

A limited number of Game 2 tickets are available on the Astros official website. Thousands of tickets, starting at $44 for nose bleeds, can be had on secondary market sites. Interesting note: Game 3 in Chicago on Sunday has tickets available online starting at $180. That's right, the White Sox are a hotter draw at home than the Astros are. That ain't right.

Games 4 and 5 will be played next Monday and Wednesday, if necessary. They won't be necessary.

Astros TV color analyst Geoff Blum will throw out Friday's ceremonial first pitch to play-by-play announcer Todd Kalas. We'll keep an eye on Blum's BQR-S (bequeathed runners scored) and IR-A% (inherited runs allowed percentage).

Just reach home plate, OK, buddy?

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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