THE PALLILOG

At this point, Astros just adding to an amazing season

How many feathers can the Astros fit in their caps?

They almost added a doozy Wednesday night when Zack Greinke took his no-hit bid to the ninth inning in Seattle. No team in Major League Baseball history has pitched three no-hitters in the same season. Alas that's still the case, but boy the Astros came close to being the first.

If the flat out most talented top to bottom team is to win the World Series next month, it will be the Astros. No one else has a better shot, but winning it is far from likely. This is the 25th season since the implementation of the Wild Card. Only six times in 24 years has the team with best record in the regular season then won the World Series. There simply is no such thing as a massive upset in a three out of five or four out of seven playoff series. It looks like the American League Wild Card game (the winner of which will head to Houston) will match the A's and Rays. The A's would have plenty of reason to be confident against the Astros, having taken three out of four from them twice within a month. From June 15 forward the A's have the better record. That's more than half the season. But it could be all over for the A's in one Wild Card game loss. The Astros went 3-4 vs. the Rays. Losing three of four in St. Petersburg to open the season. The Astros have no reason to fear anybody, but Oakland looks to be the less desirable opponent. As a clincher, Oakland is a much longer flight.

A.J. Hinch should be pondering a couple of things heading into the postseason. After his hot April Josh Reddick hasn't been a good player this year. Kyle Tucker has swung the bat well since his call up. Tucker starting in right field with Reddick off the bench merits consideration. Michael Brantley has collapsed the last month. His last double was on August 22. Whether he's worn down a bit or just in a protracted slump, there is no compelling reason to keep Brantley third in the batting order with Yordan Alvarez in the five hole. Hey, Brantley could catch fire in the playoffs while Alvarez could fall on his face. But off of a season body of work and more recent performance, why would you bat the clearly superior weapon two spots lower in the order?

Alex Bregman has obviously had the best season of all everyday player Astros. Bregman's American League Most Valuable Player case has gathered strength, though it's homerism to think he definitely should win. Equally obvious, George Springer has had the second best season. Springer's recent 11 home runs in 16 games eruption reminded that had he not spent a month on the injured list he might be right there with Bregman as an MVP alternative to Mike Trout. If not for the IL stint, maintaining his rate of production in the games he has played would mean Springer would have more homers and RBI than Bregman. Springer would have blown past 100 RBI and become the third player ever to post 100 RBI from the leadoff spot. Darren Erstad sold his soul to the devil for his 2000 season with the Angels, Charlie Blackmon did it two years ago but only because he plays home games in the offensive freak show environment that is Denver.

Bigger Springer numbers going forward, contract numbers. He's making 12 million dollars this season. Next season that should jump to 17-20 million, then without an extension agreed upon he'd become a free agent. Springer turned 30 last week, he can't be a free agent until he's 31, so that he'd command some six or seven year deal on the open market is basically out of the question. This offseason, if you're George Springer, would you take, say, four years 85 million, for generations of financial security. If you're the Astros, with their skyrocketing payroll, would you offer it? We wait to see where Gerrit Cole signs. If the Astros keep Cole, trading Zack Greinke is a distinct possibility. If the Astros keep Justin Verlander, Cole, and Greinke? Stunning.

The Texans are two home wins from taking a 4-1 record to Kansas City in a couple of weeks. Their wins over the Jaguars and Chargers weren't masterful performances. The Texans benefitted greatly from The Jags and Bolts each being down at least four starters. But style points and level of impressiveness don't matter. At 2-1 the Texans are four and a half point favorites over the Panthers. Win Sunday and they'll certainly be favored next week over the Falcons.

Buzzer Beaters

1. It's only vs. the Shanghai Sharks, but first Russell Westbrook as a Rocket action is Monday. Presuming he plays some. 2. Anyone really think it's better than 50/50 D'Eriq King plays at UH next season? 3. Notable sports quitters: Bronze-Randy Moss, most plays when not the primary recieverSilver-Scottie Pippen playoff game vs. KnicksGold-Roberto Duran "No Mas."


Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In what was expected to be a fierce pitcher's duel, Game 1 of the 2019 World Series saw some big offensive moments in the early innings as the Nationals erased an early 2-0 deficit with five unanswered runs to take a 5-2 lead against Gerrit Cole. They would hold on to that lead and take Game 1 against the Astros, 5-4. Washington's star of the night was Juan Soto, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, including a solo home run to fuel the Nationals to a 1-0 series lead. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Nationals 5, Astros 4.

Series: Nationals lead 1-0.

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer.

Losing Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.

Astros take an early lead

Although the Nationals would record the first hit of the night on a leadoff single in the top of the inning, it would be the Astros who would get the first runs of the night in the bottom of the first inning. George Springer worked a leadoff walk to start the frame, followed by Jose Altuve, who drilled a single to put two on base. Both would advance a base after a wild pitch to move Springer to third, followed by a steal by Altuve, then Yuli Gurriel drove them in on a two-RBI double off the left-center field wall to give Houston the quick 2-0 lead.

The Nationals immediately cut the lead in half in the top of the second, getting a solo home run by Ryan Zimmerman off of Gerrit Cole to straightaway center-field to make it a 2-1 game. The Astros threatened to extend their lead in the bottom of the third after getting runners on second and third with two outs on a bloop single that fell in by Gurriel, but a strikeout by Carlos Correa would end the inning.

Nationals roar back with five unanswered runs

The Nationals were able to fully erase the 2-0 deficit in the top of the fourth. It came on the second solo home run allowed by Gerrit Cole on the night, this one a leadoff homer to Juan Soto to tie the game. Yordan Alvarez recorded a much-needed hit considering his playoff slump to lead off the bottom of the fourth and should have moved to second after a missed catcher's interference against Josh Reddick instead resulted in Reddick recording the second out of the inning.

George Springer worked a walk next as Houston continued to work Max Scherzer into lengthy at-bats, but both runners would be left stranded as Scherzer got out of another jam. Cole encountered jam of his own in the top of the fifth, issuing his first walk to start the inning followed by a single to put two runners on. After getting an out, Cole would allow an RBI-single as Washington took their first lead at 3-2. With two outs in the inning, Juan Soto would strike again, this time a two-RBI double to extend the Nationals' lead to 5-2 before the inning was over.

Washington goes to their bullpen in the sixth while Cole finishes seven

After a scoreless top of the sixth by Cole, the Nationals moved to another pitcher, bringing in Patrick Corbin to try and hold on to Washington's lead. Corbin was as a potential Game 3 starter, but with the Nationals bullpen having notable struggles, they opted instead to go to his strong arm to try and hold on to get a Game 1 road win, potentially keeping him available for a Game 4 start. He would record a scoreless frame, erasing a one-out single by Yordan Alvarez to keep it a 5-2 deficit for Houston heading to the seventh.

Gerrit Cole would throw one more inning before he was done for the night, getting a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. His final line was not what many expected would it would be, recording his worst start of the postseason: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR.

Nationals hold on for Game 1 win

Tanner Rainey was the next reliever for the Nationals, but George Springer welcomed him with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh to trim the lead to 5-3. Rainey would then allow back-to-back one-out walks, prompting the move to another reliever for Washington. It would be Daniel Hudson who would come in and get the second out before an infield single loaded the bases for Yordan Alvarez, who would strikeout to end the threat.

First out of Houston's bullpen was Will Harris in the top of the eighth, and he would erase a one-out single by Soto to keep it a two-run game. Kyle Tucker led off the bottom of the eighth with a pinch-hit single against Hudson, who remained in the game for Washington. Tucker would move to second by tagging on a long flyout, then score on an RBI-double by Springer that was mere feet from being a game-tying home run, but instead left the tying run on second base with one out and the score now 5-4. After a flyout by Altuve, the Nationals moved to Sean Doolittle to face Michael Brantley, and Doolittle would win that battle to keep it a one-run game.

Joe Smith would come in for the top of the ninth to try and keep it a one-run game and give Houston a chance to tie or walk it off in the bottom half of the inning. Smith did his job, keeping the Nationals off the board. Doolittle would face the middle of Houston's order in the bottom of the ninth and retired the Astros in order to finish off Houston's Game 1 loss.

Up Next: Game 2 of the 2019 World Series will start at 7:07 PM Central on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park in Houston. It offers another terrific pitching matchup on paper with Justin Verlander for the Astros going up against Stephen Strasburg for the Nationals.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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