LOOKING AHEAD

Barry Laminack: 4 bold predictions for the 2018 Houston Astros

Jose Altuve will not make it to 200 hits. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It seems like everybody likes to make predictions at some point before the season starts - yours truly included - and  most of them are pretty easy. For example, saying the Astros will make it back to the World Series. Duh.

Of course a lot of talking heads said that about the Cubs last year and look what happened.

Last week I gave you my predictions, this week I wanted to take it a step further.

These are my four bold predictions for the 2018 Houston Astros

And before you guys start screaming and cussing at tweeting me to tell me what an idiot I am, please keep in my they are called BOLD PREDICTIONS. Meaning they’re a little out there (but I still tried to keep them within the realm of the plausible).

BOLD PREDICTION #1: Carlos Correa will win the MVP

A lot of you will read that and think, duh, that’s not even that bold, Barry!

Not so fast.

For one, you’ve got the reigning MVP on the team, so they could cancel each other out during voting. Two, Mike Trout could actually be healthy all year. Three, Aaron Judge is still playing. Four, the reigning NL MVP (Giancarlo Stanton) is now in the AL.

So Carlos Correa winning the MVP will be easier said than done this year.

BOLD PREDICTION #2: Gonzalez will have a better year than he did in 2017

It seems like a lot of folks in the media believe Marwin Gonzalez is a perfect candidate to regress from what he did last year, when he had a career year at the plate, slashing .303/.377/.530. Because of his role as super-utility, and the fact that he can switch hit, and the fact that he’ll hit in the middle of the best lineup in baseball, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to make me look like a genius.

BOLD PREDICTION #3: Jose Altuve won't get 200 hits

OK, even I'm not confident in this one, especially based on past precedence, but the fact of the matter is getting 200 hits every year isn't easy and we've all been spoiled by Altuve's output. The streak ends this year.

Of course, I still think he’ll get close, like 190-195 close. but it won't surprise me if he doesn't reach 200 hits.

It will disappoint me.

It'll make me sad as an Astros fan, but it won't surprise me if he misses the loft mark he has set for himself.

BOLD PREDICTION #4: Lance McCullers will lead the team in wins

McCullers was impressive in the postseason and I've said all along he's got No. 1 stuff, he just has to stay healthy. If he can, he's just as good as anybody in this rotation.

Justin Verlander is 35 years old, and I hate to be the one to bring you bad news, but he’s getting older, not younger.  

Dallas Kuechel has been prone to off-years.

Gerrit Cole didn't have a great year last year; that’s why the Astros got him for relatively cheap, all things considered.

Charlie Morton is good but he isn’t good enough to lead this team in wins.

I’ve said all along the Astros have four 1s and a 3 in their 5 man rotation, so this might be the boldest prediction of all, but McCullers does have the stuff to back it up. The key for him is to stay healthy. If he does, look out. Not only could he lead the team in wins, he’ll be in contention for a Cy Young.

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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