Houston is the odds-on favorite to win it all

Seriously, will anyone be able to beat the Astros?

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Even before the trade deadline acquisitions, Houston was starting to fire on all cylinders to march back to the top of the power rankings. Now, with Zack Greinke in the rotation, and seeing what Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini can provide as new arms on this pitching staff, the best has gotten better.

With the series sweep of the Mariners over the weekend, that gave them their fifth straight series win. Their last series loss was back at the end of June against the Pirates. Since that series, they have won eight and split two series, going 23-8 during that stretch of games.

Heating up in the summer

It's certainly been a hot summer for many Astros, including Gerrit Cole who is even closer than ever at matching Justin Verlander on top of the Cy Young ballot after two fantastic months that have earned him back-to-back Pitcher of the Month awards.

Sure, Verlander, Cole, and Greinke will get their due attention as the core three of the rotation, but let's not overlook Wade Miley. He has quietly strung together a great stretch of games himself, with his last loss coming on June 17th. His win against the Mariners on Friday moved him to ten wins, and with another good start could see his 3.05 ERA dip below 3.00, giving the Astros four starters with at least ten wins and a sub-3.00 ERA.

Then, there's the offense. Yuli Gurriel won a well-deserved Player of the Month honor with his numbers in July, driving in 31 runs in the month including twelve home runs and hitting for a .398 average over that span. So where does a hot bat like that get put in Houston's lineup? How about seventh. That's right when you've got George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, and Carlos Correa in your lineup, that puts a bat as hot as Yuli's fighting to even crack the top half of the order.

Getting healthy and better than ever

Two of those guys are looking great since returning from recent injury-list stints: Altuve and Correa. While Correa hasn't had a ton of hits since returning to the lineup, he has shown that his recovery from his rib injury has not affected his power. He has hit three home runs in his eight games back, including the big grand slam in St. Louis against the Cardinals which has helped him notch eight RBIs over those games.

As far as Altuve goes, he's looking like he did back in his 2017 MVP campaign. Since his return from injury, Altuve has been giving fans the type of offense they are accustomed to seeing; hitting .358 with a fantastic 1.025 OPS during that stretch. The recent string of success at the plate also has his average climbing, now back up over .300 despite sitting at a .243 before being sidelined.

And yet, these are just some of the guys having notable above-average success recently. I didn't even mention that Michael Brantley is still in the midst of the batting title race, Alex Bregman is getting walked as much as Mike Trout, or that Yordan Alvarez is on track to win Rookie of the Year.

Oh, and as far as the bullpen goes, not only did they acquire a new arm to reinforce their ranks, they've got guys doing well too. Will Harris has allowed just one run over his last ten appearances, and Chris Devenski is looking more like himself with three straight perfect outings himself. Meanwhile, they should get Ryan Pressly back soon, and will likely see Brad Peacock joining their ranks as well down the stretch and in the playoffs.

Put all this together, and it's no surprise that the books have shaken up over the last week to put the Astros as 2/1 favorites to win it all. But just for argument's sake, let's take a look at a few of the other teams at the top of the odds and consider how a series with them might go.

Let's talk Dodgers and Yankees

First, there's the Dodgers. They currently hold the best overall record in the MLB by way of playing one more game than the Astros. They certainly are a great team; you don't make it to the World Series in back-to-back seasons and be a top contender to do it again unless you have a great roster. They sit second in the World Series odds at 3/1 right behind Houston.

Although he just landed on the IL, they have the only qualified pitcher in baseball with an ERA under 2.00, with Hyun-Jin Ryu currently at 1.53 and an 11-2 record after 21 starts. They also have Clayton Kershaw, who despite his postseason struggles remains one of the best arms in the game. Along with those two, the Dodgers also have a young stud in Walker Buehler, another ten-win pitcher with a 3.22 ERA and decent strikeout numbers.

Then, there are the Yankees, currently with 6/1 odds to win it all. Though injuries have plagued them, they still have a formidable roster that will be a tough out in the playoffs. They have the hitter with the best average in the league in DJ LeMahieu who holds a .336 at this point in the year. If they get their power-hitting trio of Aaron Judge, Edwin Encarnacion, and Giancarlo Stanton together and healthy before the end of the year, they could be trouble for any pitcher, even Houston's aces.

Some other contenders

The only other team with odds better than 10/1 are the Braves at 9/1. They currently lead the NL East by seven games, and while their numbers might not jump off the page as much as other teams, they still have a solid rotation including the 12-4 Max Fried and 10-2 Mike Soroka who boasts a 2.37 ERA which is second-best in the league. They also have a potent offense with guys in their lineup like Freddie Freeman who sits tied for fourth in the league in RBIs at 86, along with Ronald Acuna Jr. who sits tied for eleventh in the league in home runs at 27.

Some of the other teams in the American League besides the Yankees that could make it tough to make it to the World Series in the first place are the Twins and the Rays. The Twins continue to give their fans a surprisingly successful season in 2019, currently atop the AL Central by three games. They have done it primarily through their potent offense, who have hammered out a league-best 216 home runs, the only team over 200 so far this year.

The Rays, on the other hand, though they have a great squad of young hitters, rely more heavily on their pitching. They have allowed just 123 home runs this year, the least by any team, along with the sixth-fewest walks, and the third most strikeouts. They're led by former-Astro Charlie Morton who has the second-best ERA in the AL at 2.78, not too far away from Justin Verlander. We will get a preview of what the matchup of Houston and Tampa Bay could look like in the playoffs later this month, as the Rays will come to Houston for a three-game series.

Behind them there are still some teams that could make runs like the Red Sox, who are not living up to their high expectations going into this year, along with the Cardinals, Brewers, and Indians who are still in the mix.

All of these teams are still looking up at Houston, though, as the Astros could and should be the clear favorites against anyone in a seven-game series when they have a healthy roster. They are too powerful and playing too well, right now, to imagine that any other team could beat them on paper. Still, sports rarely pan out like paper would predict, but it should be a fun few months, and upcoming years, to be an Astros fan.

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Many of the games have been hard to watch. Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

They say that breaking up is hard to do, then comes the rebuilding, and that's where the real pain happens. Last week, the 4-9 Rockets lost a tough game, 103-91, to the very average San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. That night, Ben McLemore scored 21 points, while P.J. Tucker contributed four points.

Every other point for the Rockets was scored by a player who wasn't on the team last year. That's no way to build a fan base of young people, or older people, or anybody. Because of COVID restrictions, the Rockets can sell only 3,000 tickets to games, and they're still having to offer special deals like four tickets and four drinks (soda, water, wine or beer) for $79.

The night the Rockets fell to the Spurs, DeMarcus Cousins was out with an ankle injury (surprise), John Wall was out with a sore knee (shock), and Eric Gordon sat with a lower leg injury (stunning). They were not sidelined by COVID protocol, it was age creakiness. All three are on the other side of 30. All have a history of missing games because of injuries. Danuel House also missed the game because of a bad back and COVID protocol.

The Rockets took to the floor with able-bodied Mason Jones, David Nwaba, Rodions Kurucs, Kenyon Martin Jr., Jae'Sean Tate and Christian Wood. They're nice players, for sure, they're on an NBA roster. But the NBA is a megastar-driven operation. How many of them would you recognize if they were standing behind you at Costco? The way the Rockets sign, trade and cut players, many or most of the current roster won't be around next year. Becoming a fan of a current Rocket is like falling in love with the Rug Doctor you rented for the weekend at a supermarket. It's going back Monday.

Last year, the head coach was Mike D'Antoni, the general manager was Daryl Morey. Both are established and respected figures in the league. Would you recognize the Rockets new coach Stephen Silas? Can you even name the Rockets new general manager?

And that's how you sink to 14th place in the Western Conference standings, inevitably a lottery team, the end to the Rockets' eight-year run of making the playoffs … the longest current streak in the NBA. The 2021 Rockets aren't just a lousy product, it's worse, they're a boring team. Gordon and Tucker, maybe the two most popular Rockets veterans, are rumored to be traded soon. Fans will have abandonment issues.

Maybe the Rockets should offer something stiffer than beer on "Guys Night Out" next Thursday when the Portland Trail Blazers visit Toyota Center. Good seats available.

That's not what you want to see

Did you see where the New York Mets fired their general manager Jared Porter because he sent explicit, uninvited, unanswered text messages to a female reporter?. Porter absolutely deserved to lose his job. What he did was awful and cruel. More than just losing his job, he should be committed to a home for the terminally stupid. Who does something that moronic? So unconscionable and abusive, on top of being job-killing.

But not all junk shots are meant to be hurtful – here's one that's actually funny, and totally inadvertent and innocent. Several years ago, a local sportscaster not only took a photo of his naked, anatomically correct body, he posted it on Facebook for all of his friends, indeed the world, to see. I won't name the local sportscaster because he was the victim of his own innocent lack of focus. It could have happened to anybody. Not me, thankfully, but anybody else.

Here's how it happened. The sportscaster was taking a shower, and when he emerged, he noticed his kitten curled up in the bathroom sink. Aw, isn't that cute? The sportscaster grabbed his phone and took a photo.

And posted it on Facebook. He didn't notice that, in the background of the photo, in the mirror, was his naked body. You can't say he was butt naked because it was full frontal nudity. You can't say it was a wardrobe malfunction because there was no wardrobe involved. Fortunately his wife noticed the mishap and told the sportscaster to delete the photo.

Here's the real problem, and his solid alibi. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put huge, wide mirrors in the bathroom, especially opposite the bath tub? There's a good look, you're naked, dripping wet, with patches of soap you missed rinsing off. This should be a fleeting disturbing image, not one to be preserved on film or online. Solution: don't bring your phone, or any photographic equipment, into the bathroom. We've all taken accidental photos. Nobody needs to see a photo of your disgusting body. You are not Michelangelo's statue of David. I don't let my dog watch me take a shower or any other business conducted in the bathroom. There is a reason that bathroom doors have locks. Use them.

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