THE PALLILOG

Here's why Astros have a different role in mind for one of their best players

Carlos Correa could be the leadoff man. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Inside three weeks to Major League Baseball opening its regular season. Yay! The Astros will do so in Oakland against the team that ended the Astros' three year grip on the American League West title, though the Astros then dispatched the A's in an American League Division Series. Both teams are of lesser quality than they were starting last season, giving some hope perhaps to the Angels. Still, the Astros and A's are the top two picks.

General Manager James Click wasn't particularly believable in saying it was purely coincidence that the Astros made a deal with free agent pitcher Jake Odorizzi shortly after Framber Valdez suffered his season jeopardizing broken finger, but it's an excellent signing on the risk/reward scale. Odorizzi turns 31 in a couple of weeks. He had his career season in 2019 with the Twins making the AL All-Star team and finishing 15-7 with a 3.51 earned run average. 2020 was a fail with only four starts, and two injuries. Neither injury was to his pitching arm. For six consecutive seasons (2014-2019) Odorizzi made at least 28 starts. He can be a valuable innings eater, and signing him for two seasons plus a cheap player option for 2023 assures the 2022 Astros of having at least one starting pitcher with at least one good full major season on his resume. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are free agents-to be. Valdez, Lance McCullers, and Jose Urquidy have a combined zero good full big league seasons.

Speaking of good full MLB seasons, Carlos Correa has exactly one on his resume. Only in 2016 did Correa stay healthy and excel. If he and the Astros don't agree on a contract extension before Opening Day, Correa has gobs of money riding on his health and performance this year. Interesting of Manager Dusty Baker to say that he's thinking of Correa as his leadoff man alternative to Myles Straw starting the post-George Springer era. Straw is the fastest Astro and it's not close. But it's baseball not a track meet. If Straw can slap out enough hits (he should be practicing bunting every darn day) and draw a decent number of walks he can be fine as a leadoff man. He was routinely overmatched and atrocious at the plate over 82 at bats in 2020, but fared a bit better over 108 at bats in 2019. Straw was a .300 hitter in the minors, as a total Punch and Judy hitter. He totaled four home runs in more than 1800 minor league at bats.

Correa represents quite the contrast. Average speed, but some tremendous power though he has yet to hit 25 homers in a season. That's not just about the injury history. In the short 2020 Correa mustered all of five homers in 58 games played before going off in the postseason.

Straw should bat 9th out of the gate. If he proves up to it, moving to the top of the order certainly becomes an option. Over the course of a full season the leadoff spot in a batting order comes up well over 100 times more than the nine hole. Going with (until/unless proven otherwise) one of your worst offensive players in the leadoff spot is simply not smart.

Another loss for the Rockets

This rotting corpse of a Rockets' season resumed Thursday night with a loss at Sacramento. The Kings are lousy as always, heading for their 15th consecutive non-playoff finish. The Rockets are worse, now 11-24 for the season. Their losing streak is 14. A Houston Rockets franchise record-tying 15th is a near certainty with them playing at Utah Friday night. The Jazz is 27-9. Presuming the highly likely outcome comes to pass, the Rockets "go" for history Sunday at home vs. the Celtics. The corpse is not being revived. General Manager Rafael Stone has until the March 25 trade deadline to get what he can for Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker, and maybe drug a colleague into taking Eric Gordon.

March Madness

More fans would prefer it the other way around, but Texas is a vastly better college basketball state than college football state these days. Baylor is a favorite to reach the Final Four. It's no pipe dream for Houston, Texas, or Texas Tech. The Bears, Cougars and Red Raiders all stunk on the gridiron in 2020, the Longhorns were their typically disappointing selves. Texas A&M is the notable exception with Jimbo Fisher having Aggie football in a way better spot than Buzz Williams has the hoop team.

Prairie View and Texas Southern could play Saturday for the SWAC Championship and automatic NCAA Tournament bid, though in the semifinals TSU has to upset Jackson State which like PV went unbeaten in conference play.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. 2021-24, who QBs more wins: Dak Prescott or Deshaun Watson?

2. David Johnson last offseason, Mark Ingram this. What RB do the Texans add next offseason, Marshall Faulk?

3. Daylight Saving Time kicks in late tomorrow night, yes! Best "Time" songs: Bronze-Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes "The Time Of My Life" Silver-Jim Croce "Time In A Bottle" Gold-SOS Band "Take Your Time"

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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