THE PALLILOG

Despite some bumps and bruises along the way, Astros still in the race for best overall record

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The Astros had a bad 4-6 road trip and looked forward to getting home to Minute Maid Park where they have been dominant this season. The pitiful Detroit Tigers arrived in Houston with a record since the All Star Break of nine wins and 27 losses. They literally do not have one non-pitcher who would make a healthy Astros' roster. That includes the way over the hill sure fire Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Splitting four games at home with the Tigers would have been a fail. The Astros did not fail, though "only" taking three out of four seems a little disappointing. The S.S. Astros Good Ship Lollipop has sprung a couple of leaks. Neither that can't be plugged with good health, but the Astros have two notable health issues.

Carlos Correa's next endorsement deal should be for peanut brittle, emphasis not on the peanut. Some guys just have a propensity toward getting injured. Unfortunately the Correa resume grows that he is one of those guys. That back problems have resurfaced is troubling, to no one more so than Correa himself. It's clear the guy loves the game and is spectacularly talented, but durability is one component of greatness and to this point Correa simply has not demonstrated durability. If he can't produce a fully healthy bigtime season or two in the next year or two, any visions of a Manny Machado-like 10 year 300 million dollar contract will be up in smoke. Still, Correa turns only 25 years old next month so there's time to prove sturdiness, but more sand has seeped through the hourglass. For the 2019 Astros the dropdown is huge from Correa at shortstop to either Miles Straw or Aledmys Diaz being in the lineup. As for 2020, please tell anyone saying the Astros should trade Correa to be quiet.

The loss of Ryan Pressly for most if not all of the rest of the regular season is a big blow to the bullpen. Of even bigger concern is whether he can get back and get sharp to start the postseason.

This doesn't mean the ship is sinking. The Astros enter the weekend just one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League, and the Astros own the tiebreaker (having won the season series 4-3). They are three back of the Dodgers for best in MLB, the Astros have a three game lead in the tiebreaker with LA (intradivision record). The Yankees play at the Dodgers this weekend so if you're a glass half full person: a Dodger or Yankee loss is guaranteed three days in a row! If you're glass half empty: a Dodger or Yankee win is guaranteed three days in a row!

NFL on the horizon

A little over 2 weeks until the Texans begin their 18th season of play in the National Football League. We've all heard the saying, the 18th time is the charm. So is this the season the Texans are finally a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Probably not. The Texans do not look like a notably improved football team. On paper their schedule is clearly more difficult than last season's. Within the AFC the Chiefs clearly have more overall talent and are better coached. The Patriots still exist. One of these years Tom Brady really will slip. Maybe at age 42 this is the season.

If Jadeveon Clowney opts to sit out, or is traded, anyone thinking he won't be missed, is wrong. Clowney is not a superstar but he's really good. The Texans will be easier to run on without him. And while not an elite pass rusher, Clowney has to be accounted for. Anyone thinking, ah, he's hurt all the time anyway…wrong again. Clowney missed one game last season, and the season before that he played in every game.

If you want a couple of reasons for plausible optimism, here you go. Coming off of last season Deshaun Watson does not rate as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. He could well vault into that echelon this season. The Texans' offensive line remains something between a question mark and a glaring weakness, but really, can it be worse than it was the last couple of seasons? DeAndre Hopkins is about as good as it gets today at wide receiver, the same for J.J. Watt at defensive end though the clock is ticking down on his prime.

The Texans probably begin their season by losing at New Orleans. On the other hand the Buccaneers started their 5-11 2018 season by beating the 13-3 to be Saints in New Orleans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Connor McGregor pitches some "number 12" brand of whisky. As a human being he seems much more a piece of number two. 2. Two peas in a pitching pod: Justin Verlander 15-5, 2.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts. Gerrit Cole 15-5, 2.75 ERA, 238 strikeouts. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans


Astros win another against the Rangers

Astros daily report presented by APG&E: 2 hits from the 4-1 win

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Astros, after a day off on Monday, were back in action at home on Tuesday night for the two-game conclusion of the season series with the Rangers. At 98 wins, and with their magic number down to four, it was a timely night to get Carlos Correa back in the lineup and have Justin Verlander on the mound. Here is a quick recap of the game:

Final Score: Astros 4, Rangers 1.

Record: 99-53, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Justin Verlander (19-6, 2.50 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (14-11, 3.77 ERA).

1) Verlander goes six scoreless

It was a stout pitching matchup early in Tuesday's game, with both Justin Verlander and Lance Lynn tossing scoreless frames through the first half of the game. Verlander would win the battle, shutting out the Rangers through six innings while Lynn would allow three runs over that same span.

Although Verlander had managed his pitch count well through his six innings, he would not be asked to extend himself as Houston gears up for the postseason. That didn't keep him from putting up more strikeouts and efficiency to his season totals, though. His final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 0 HR.

2) Houston backs up JV with 3 home runs while the bullpen finishes it off

Meanwhile, Verlander's offense provided him with three runs of support. The first came on a solo home run by Yuli Gurriel to start the scoring for the night in the bottom of the fifth. In the bottom of the sixth, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez hit two solo home runs as well, back-to-back shots to extend the lead to 3-0.

Hector Rondon was the first out of Houston's bullpen to take over for Verlander in the top of the seventh and would allow a solo home run to cut the lead to 3-1 before getting out of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Robinson Chirinos hit a blooper into left field that the Rangers converged on but could not catch, and with Chirinos not stopping on the bases, was able just to beat out the tag for a triple. He would score on an RBI-single, pushing the lead back to three runs at 4-1.

Will Harris was the next pitcher for Houston and recorded a 1-2-3 inning to maintain the lead headed to the ninth. Roberto Osuna would enter in the top of the ninth, and he was able to close out the three-run lead to reduce Houston's magic number to three and move them to 99 wins on the year.

Up Next: The final game this season between the Astros and Rangers, since Texas has already been eliminated from playoff contention, will take place on Wednesday night at 7:10 PM. Kolby Allard (4-0, 4.34 ERA) is expected to get the start for the Rangers while Gerrit Cole (17-5, 2.62 ERA) will be on the mound for the Astros.

The Astros daily report is presented by APG&E.

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