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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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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