THE PALLILOG

How the Astros can make franchise history this weekend

3 times before the Astros have won 12 in a row. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

These days the Astros are a scalding hot knife, their opponents one stick of butter after another. Their 11 game winning streak has the Astros on pace to win 101 games this season, and with a shot Friday night to tie the franchise record for longest winning streak. Their chances are good. The Astros are good, the Tigers are bad. Framber Valdez pitches for the good team. Valdez has been fabulous (Frambulous?) over five starts since belatedly starting his season. The bad team pitches Wily Peralta whose career is running on fumes. If on Saturday the Astros are going for a record 13 straight, Lance McCullers has the ball working opposite Tigers' top pitching hope Casey Mize.

Three times before the Astros have won 12 in a row. The first time came in 1999, their final year where home was the Astrodome. The streak came in September when the Astros were in a tight National League Central race with Cincinnati. After the 12th win the Astros had a four game lead with 15 games to play. But then over their next 11 games the Astros went 2-9. The Reds caught them with five to play and then took a one game lead by beating the Astros before more than 54-thousand at the Dome (on a Tuesday night!). The next night the Astros responded behind Mike Hampton to beat the Reds and make it a tie with three games left. The Reds then lost the first two games of their season ending series at Milwaukee, while the Astros split two with the Dodgers. So up one game with one to play, in the last regular season game ever at the Dome, Hampton pitched on three days rest, the Astros scored four in the bottom of the first and cruised to a division clinching 9-4 victory. Hampton finished the season 22-4, still the franchise record for wins in a season.

The second 12 game run occurred in 2004. That was Roger Clemens's and Andy Pettitte's first season with the Astros. At the All Star break with the club plodding along at .500 (44-44) the Astros fired Manager Jimy Williams. Phil Garner was hired, and out of the break the Astros promptly went 12-16 to sit 56-60, 19 and a half games behind the division leading Cardinals. They were within seven games of the Wild Card spot, however. Going into play August 27th they were still seven games out (behind the Cubs) when the Astros ripped off the 12 straight wins, as part of an amazing 36-10 finishing kick to snare the Wild Card.

The most recent 12 gamer was in 2018. Nine different pitchers had at least one win during the streak. How many can you name? Answer below in Buzzer Beaters.

Going streaking!

The subject of winning streaks gives me this year's reason to bring up something that has always been amazing to me. The longest NFL winning streak is 23 games, the Colts did it spanning two seasons. Led by Peyton Manning they were outstanding. The longest NBA winning streak is 33. The 1971-72 Lakers rolled to the championship. The longest NHL winning streak is 17 by the then two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The longest MLB winning streak is 26. The New York Giants did it. Within that same season the Giants had a separate 17 game winning streak. Two winning streaks that totaled 43-0. The Giants finished fourth in the National League! 43-0 over the two winning streaks, in all their other games the Giants won 43 and lost 66.

Rockets secure the No. 2 pick

After a season that produced zero meaningful wins the Rockets got a pretty good W in Tuesday's NBA Draft Lottery. They didn't hit the jackpot by nabbing the first pick, but getting number two beats the heck out of losing the pick and getting number 18 in return which would have happened if the Rocket pick had fallen at number five (which had a 47.9 percent chance of happening). With the Detroit Pistons likely selecting Cade Cunningham number one, the Rockets' choice seemingly is a three horse race among lead guard Jalen Suggs, wing Jalen Green, and mobile seven footer Evan Mobley. The Draft is July 29.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Tony Sipp two each, one per for Chris Devenski, Charlie Morton, Will Harris, Lance McCullers, Dallas Keuchel, and Collin McHugh.

2. Game seven Friday night. The New York Islanders at the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Winner to the Stanley Cup Final. It needs to be a close game of course, but if it is there is nothing in sports with more relentless second to second intensity than an NHL game seven. The winner plays the Montreal Canadiens for the Cup.

3. Greatest "Did you know they're Canadian?" actors: Bronze-Ryan Gosling Silver-William Shatner Gold-Christopher Plummer

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NASCAR is coming to Texas! Photo via: Wiki Commons

It’s an All-Star weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway. As most fans know, this race is extremely different from what we see on a usual Sunday. This race is an invitational event featuring the winners from the 2021 and 2022 seasons with a few qualifiers including past champions and past All-Star winners over the last ten seasons. As it does every year, the format for this race has changed. It will be divided into four stages, and the winner of each of the first three stages will take up the first three spots on the grid (as long as they finish 15th or higher). The final stage will be fifty laps and if there is no caution between laps 15-25, then the yellow will be thrown to stack everything up. Probably the most important and intriguing change to the format won’t take place on race day, but during qualifying. The field will be given one lap and the fastest eight will advance to the final round, where they will each face-off head-to-head in a bracket. Each paring will have a mandatory pit-stop before exiting, and the first car back to the finish line moves on. This is a unique way of deciding who starts where, I would not be surprised in the slightest if it comes back somewhere down the line in the future

Last week, Kurt Busch went on to score his first victory of the year. It didn’t come easy for the 2004 champion, he had to fend off Kyle Larson and his brother Kyle Busch. The race was marred by numerous tire failures, as it seemed drivers could only go 25-35 laps before running into an issue. Luckily for Kurt, the cautions fell at the right time and he was able to manage his tires as he dominated the race by leading a race-high 116 laps. This was the first win for the #45 car at 23XII racing, as now both Busch and his teammate Bubba Wallace both have victories. While it’s been a frustrating season for this team, this win couldn’t have come at a better time.

While Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan celebrated their team win, Stewart-Haas racing was on the opposite end of the spectrum. All four of their cars finished outside the top ten, including their franchise driver Kevin Harvick. It’s worth noting that despite the disastrous day that he had, Harvick could bounce back with a respectable 15th-place finish. This team has a lot of questions regarding the future of their driver lineup. We know that next season Aric Almirola will retire, but after that who will fill the seat? Will it be their reserve driver Ryan Preece? Could it even be Kyle Busch? With these types of disappointing results from Harvick, many have wondered if he might decide to retire at the end of the 2022 season. This will be a team to follow in the coming months.

As we reach the dog days of summer, the infamous silly season is right around the corner. This is when the rumors start to become louder and louder about who will go next season and what rides will be available. As I mentioned earlier, Kyle Busch is easily the biggest question on the grid, with Mars leaving at season's end, can Joe Gibbs racing find him a sponsor to keep him in the #18 Toyota? There were reports on Thursday that the team was in negotiations with a “major tech company” to sponsor the car for one season. It’s clear that re-signing the two-time champion is the number one priority for Joe Gibbs and Toyota. TRD Executive David Wilson stated that losing him would be, “Unacceptable.” It will be interesting to see this story develop.

With that, the driver I have winning the All-Star Race this weekend is none other than Kyle Busch. Overall, it’s hard to find active drivers with better stats here at this track than him as he’s won here four times, the most among the field. He’s also led over 1,069 laps here, almost more than double the amount of the next closest driver (Martin Truex Jr with 674). When Jimmie Johnson stepped away from the sport in 2020, it was clear that the torch was handed over to Kyle as the best driver at this racetrack. He will be the driver to beat for the million dollars when the checkered flag falls.

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