Charlie Pallilo: Astros should benefit from soft schedule

Dallas Keuchel has not been good. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Astros underwhelmed as they ran their four series gauntlet against their probable four fellow American League playoff teams, but it’s not as if their 6-7 record was horrible. The Indians, Yankees, Red Sox, and Mariners draw good paychecks too. Now the clouds have parted and the Astros should win a truckload of games between now and the All-Star break. As the Astros started their four game series in Arlington vs. the Rangers they had 36 games left before the break, exactly zero of them against anybody with a winning record.

To the Mariners’ credit they took advantage of a soft schedule stretch and ripped off 16 wins in 22 games and vaulted over the Astros to lead the American League West. But the schedule worm has turned. While the Astros play nobody good for the next month-plus, the Mariners have nine games against the Angels, seven against the Red Sox, and three against the Yankees. Add in six interleague games against the Rockies and that’s 25 out of 32 games upcoming for the Mariners vs. teams now over .500. They won’t necessarily sink like a stone, but they almost certainly won’t be winning two out of every three.

So it will be a definite disappointment and a big surprise if the Astros aren’t leading the division at the break.

The Astros still have not won a game all season in which they’ve trailed by more than two runs. They still are 0 for 2018 when trailing after eight innings. Nobody wins many games when trailing after eight but the Astros have blown three games when up going to the ninth.

Bearded blunder

It’s not quite a Keuchel Konundrum (especially since the word is conundrum) but Dallas needs to pick it up a bit or his spot in the starting rotation could wind up jeopardized. Collin McHugh is an obvious alternative. In the 80s Rod Stewart had a hit with Some Guys Have All The Luck. Rod meant good luck. Keuchel is the first eight game loser in the Majors this season, but while his performance has been mediocre overall he’s had bad luck too. Over his last eight starts Keuchel for his mound opponent twice drew Yankee ace Luis Severino, twice drew Indian ace and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Cory Kluber, once drew Oakland’s best and fresh off a no-hitter Sean Manaea, and most recently drew Mariner ace James Paxton. Keuchel’s ERA over those eight starts is 4.70 so he flat out hasn’t been good enough consistently enough. But check out the Astro run totals in Dallas’s defeats this season: 1, 1, 1, 1, 0, 4, 3, 1. No pitcher can produce a good record with that level of support. Keuchel took a no-decision at Cleveland after throwing six innings of two-run ball. The Astros scored nothing while Keuchel was in the game, then eleven runs off of the Indians’ bullpen in the final two innings.

Hold those Tigers

The 2014 Detroit Tigers had Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello 1-2-3 in their starting rotation. They got swept in the Division Series. The Tigers then traded Porcello, saw Scherzer walk as a free agent, and then a couple of years later traded Verlander. Porcello won a Cy Young Award in 2016, Scherzer won Cy Young Awards in both 2016 and 2017. Scherzer and Verlander may both win Cy Young Awards in 2018. The Tigers winningest pitcher this season is Mike Fiers.

Pat hand

A positive of the Texans’ offseason surfaced Thursday with word that Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman faces a four game PED suspension (he’s appealing). We’re three months out from the Texans-Patriots season opener in Foxborough. Edelman missed all last season after a preseason ACL tear. Tom Brady and the Pats held up OK. Shockingly, Rob Gronkowski didn’t retire and leave more than eight and a half million dollars on the table, so the Patriots figure to continue holding up OK.

Hall of shame

So Terrell Owens finally gets elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and announces he won’t be showing up for the induction ceremony this summer in Canton Ohio. Should make for a classier ceremony.

No decision?

As the Warriors polish off the Cavaliers, Rocket fantasists will ratchet up the “LeBron to Houston!” talk. I’m a pretty big never say never guy but the only Hall of Famer-to be James on the Rockets next season will be Harden.

Buzzer beaters

1. Justify should take the Belmont Stakes to win the Triple Crown Saturday. What a stud.  2. It’s better that in their 44th season of trying the Washington Capitals finally won the Stanley Cup than if the expansion Vegas Golden Knights had won it. The Knights’ first season is still one of the most amazing team stories ever. 3. Greatest Triple Crown winners:  Bronze-Mickey Mantle Silver-Ted Williams Gold-Secretariat.


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Texans to release prominent player on defense

Zach Cunningham is on his way out of Houston. Composite image by Jack Brame.

According to multiple reports, the Texans are waiving LB Zach Cunningham. Cunningham was benched last Sunday for disciplinary reasons, which reportedly stemmed from a missed COVID test. Cunningham was also benched for a quarter earlier in the season for breaking team rules.

According to Ian Rapoport, the Texans will have to eat his 12.8 million dollar cap hit next season.

Cunningham started in seven of the 10 games he’s played this season recording 67 tackles and a forced fumble. The Texans are at a point where there's hardly anyone left on the team that has any name recognition with what's left of the fan base. And now the Texans have another position that will have to be addressed this offseason.

Cunningham will likely command a lot of attention from other teams interested in his services.

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