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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Dameon Pierce bought Nick Caserio some time. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

As the Astros get ready to make a run at back-to-back World Series championships and the Houston Cougars strive to play their way to a Final Four in Houston, the Houston Texans near term ambitions are much lower. The Texans merely hope to end their status as a three years running dumpster fire of nearly relentless ineptitude. As a follow-up to the energy jolt of the hire of DeMeco Ryans as head coach, the first days of the new NFL year resulted in a word rarely useable since Nick Caserio became general manager: progress!

Specifically, acquiring solid guard Shaq Mason from the cap-strapped Buccaneers for basically nothing was excellent, the addition of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins should be a legitimate upgrade for the Texans’ d-line that was regularly trampled last season, and a deal with defensive back Jimmie Ward should add veteran savvy to the secondary provided he isn’t poised to tumble over the hill at 32 years old. Ed Reed anyone? Reed was 35. Big difference. Or better be.

The Texans organizationally weren’t really trying to win the last two years but, Caserio didn’t do much to impress in pouring some foundation for the next era of winning Texans football. Year one he was hamstrung by not having a first or second round pick, but his first selection (third round pick) was the failed flyer on quarterback Davis Mills. That leaves wide receiver Nico Collins as the biggest hope of the Texans’ Class of ’21. Collins shows promise of number two wideout upside, but has had health issues each of his first two seasons. It is fine to judge a rookie class on its rookie production, it is foolish to pass final judgment on that class for at least another year or two.

Caserio’s most important 2022 draftees collectively underwhelmed. Third overall pick Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. played okay, before having injury problems as he did in his final two seasons at LSU. The Jets grabbed corner Sauce Gardner with the selection immediately after the Texans took Stingley. Gardner played every game and was spectacular in becoming the first rookie CB named first team All-Pro since Ronnie Lott 41 years earlier. Caserio’s second first round pick, guard Kenyon Green out of A&M, struggled frequently. A whole bunch of rookies taken after Green were better in their first seasons, including guard Zion Johnson who went to the Chargers two spots after Caserio picked Green. Again, no final verdicts, but anyone wanting to gush over Caserio tabbing running Dameon Pierce in the fourth round needs to acknowledge his top two picks weren’t all that.

Fortunately, one of the many rookies better than Green was Texans’ first second round pick Jalen Pitre. On both the human level and football level hopefully their second second rounder last year, wide receiver John Metchie, shows well after having his rookie season delayed so he could conquer leukemia.

Big picture

Ultimately, nothing the Texans do with their roster amounts to much until they next have quality quarterback play. Hence, the defining move of Caserio’s tenure is the QB the Texans take number two overall in the upcoming draft. It’s basically 50-50 that the Texans will be full of crap when they say “we got our guy” at number two. Moronically winning the season finale against the Colts cost the Texans the first pick, which the Panthers now have via trade with the Bears. Whichever QB left for the Texans between C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young could turn out to be the better player. Maybe they’re both great, maybe they’re both busts. There is no disputing that the only way to definitely get your preferred dart at the board was by picking first instead of second, and the Texans blew that control.

The Texans are in the obviously weakest division in the AFC. Right now the Jaguars look to be the team of the present and future, but far from a juggernaut. The Titans are coming off a collapse and like the Colts are very unsettled at quarterback. Well, unless the Colts pull off a huge signing of Lamar Jackson. Last place to first place year-to-year division flips are not extreme rarities in the NFL. The Jaguars did it last year, the Bengals the year before. There is no reason to expect that from the Texans in 2023 but in their division it wouldn’t be a complete miracle if they nail the QB selection. If the Texans’ Caserio-Ryans one-two punch isn’t at minimum legitimately competing to win the division in 2024, then four seasons into his tenure, Caserio will be failing at roster building.

Astros baseball is right around the corner!

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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