Here are the key factors that have fueled Astros hot start to season

The Astros are crushing the baseball. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Quite the rollicking beginning to the Astros season. You can't bury a team by mid-April but you can push it into a very deep hole. The Astros are 6-1 while the defending American League West champion Oakland A's are 1-7. The Astros have dominated Oakland in all five early season meetings by a cumulative score of 41-11. Two more Astro wins over the A's Friday and Saturday won't exactly make it "magic number" countdown time, but the A's chances of defending their division crown would probably tumble to somewhere about five percent.

It's a tiny sample size but still "wow!" inducing if you're an Astros fan, the batting average numbers for the top six in the batting order: Altuve .310, Brantley .538, Bregman .360, Alvarez .333, Correa .321, Gurriel .346. Kyle Tucker is batting just .207 but leads the team with nine runs batted in.

In contrast the A's Thursday starting lineup guys' averages at night's end: .233, .190, .163, .148, .167, .000, .200, .071, .077. I mean, they need improvement to upgrade to pathetic. The .071 belongs to Elvis Andrus. He'll do a bit better than .071 but Elvis's talent left the building years ago. He was absolutely horrible the last three seasons with the Texas Rangers. The A's traded for him to be their everyday shortstop.

The still very very early returns mark the Angels as the Astros' foremost division challenge this year. Mike Trout is off to an awesome start even by best player of his generation standards. The Angels are 5-2 despite Rice-ex and 2019 World Series pest Anthony Rendon's sluggish start. Pitcher/outfielder, designated hitter Shohei Ohtani is their biggest question mark and upside variable. The Halos still don't have the look of a division winning level pitching staff, but if in the hunt they would probably be aggressive in pursuing any high-end starter available on the trade market.

No Springer Dingers

It's been an inauspicious start to George Springer's career as a Toronto Blue Jay. In fact thus far it's a non-start. Late in spring training Springer suffered an oblique injury that sidelined him the first week of the regular season, then the day before he was to be activated he strained a quadriceps muscle working out and will miss another week. This is not to suggest the six year 150 million dollar contract will be a disaster for the Jays, but six years 150 mil for a 31-year-old outfielder with an injury history is high risk. This is the fourth leg muscle stint on the injured (formerly disabled) list in Springer's career. Only once has Springer played more than 140 games in a season. The Astros were aware of these things when opting to not bid competitively to retain Springer, despite all he meant to and had done for the franchise.

Here's hoping Springer is fully healthy to receive a standing ovation four weeks from now when the Jays visit Minute Maid Park. This Monday, one would expect a very positive though not Springer-level enthusiastic fan reaction when Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch is introduced.

Rockets rebuild

Just in case you happen to not be paying close attention to the Rockets these days, they enter the weekend three games worse in record than Orlando. The Rockets' 14-37 record is second worst in the NBA, a game and a half worse than Detroit, the Magic's record is fourth worst. The Rockets must finish with one of the three worst records in the NBA to maximize their chance at 52.1 percent of keeping their lottery pick by having it fall in the top four picks. The Rockets are highly likely to lose Friday night in Los Angeles at the Clippers, and then play Saturday night at Golden State. The Magic has home games this weekend vs. the Pacers and Bucks. Big one looms a week from Sunday when the Rockets play at the Magic!

NFL Draft

If a draft happens and no one cares does a draft happen? Inside three weeks to the NFL Draft there is basically zero anticipation for it in Houston. The Texans holding no picks in the first two rounds and the ongoing sordid Deshaun Watson saga has just ruined any zest for anything Texans.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Fired ESPN NBA analyst Paul Pierce broke no laws with his idiotic Instagramming. But he is married with kids ages 13, 10, 8. Come on.

2. Sic 'Em! In clobbering UH then taking down unbeaten Gonzaga to win the National Championship Baylor became just the second team this millennium to win both its Final Four games by at least 15 points. Villanova did it three years ago.

3. Best of the unavoidable NCAA Tournament commercials: Bronze-Brie Larson for some car or SUV Silver-Reggie Miller giving Kenny Smith the choke sign hamburger joint spot Gold-Magic Johnson bank commercial with Jim Nantz "goodbye friends" line.

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NASCAR: Coca-Cola 600 preview, picks

Watch out for Ryan Blaney this weekend. Photo via: Wiki Commons

It’s a Memorial Day Tradition; The NASCAR Cup Series heads home to Charlotte for the annual Coca-Cola 600. This race is probably the third most crucial race all season, behind the Daytona 500 and the Season Finale at Phoenix. Anyone who wins this race will always be able to say that they were Coke 600 champions. No race on the schedule is as long as this one, because of this there will be a 4th stage added to the race. Teams will be provided 13 sets of tires, and if the last few weeks have been any indication, they will need all the tires they can get. With the race being as long as it is, there is a good possibility this could be an attrition race and the driver that survives will more than likely win. The record for the most cautions in NASCAR history was 22 cautions, at this same race in 2005. Come Sunday, I bet we get close to that number.

What's the deal with all of these tire failures? Last week in the All-Star race we saw drivers like Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Erik Jones all crash out because they had a flat. There are many factors that could be contributing to this, for one the tires are much wider and the sidewalls are much more narrow. Because of this, the tire falloff is much shorter, so now instead of going maybe 40-45 laps on one set of tires, drivers can now only go 25-30 laps. The other major facet is that a lot of teams are running much lower air pressures to get the car to handle better by being closer to the ground. Goodyear and NASCAR usually require the right side tires to run around 51-52 PSI, the rule however isn’t enforced for the left side tires, so drivers will push the limits to see how much they can take out to make the car faster. The fact that we were seeing such tire ware on smooth surfaces like Texas and Atlanta is a clear sign that there is a problem, but not all of it is on Goodyear. Only time will tell how this develops on tracks with old abrasive surfaces, like when they go back to Bristol in the fall.

One of NASCAR’s newest teams, Trackhouse racing, made a bit of a surprise announcement this week. Starting at Watkins Glenn in August, the team will run a third car with a series of international drivers, starting with 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. This is something that I think is interesting for the sport. I am a bit surprised that another team hasn’t already done this before. Having drivers like Kimi, one of the more world renowned racers in F1, can really bring a whole new audience to NASCAR. There have been rumors on whom some of the other drivers might be, from Daniel Riccardo to even Lewis Hamilton. There will be a lot of intrigue about who will be the next driver.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Ryan Blaney. After winning the All-Star race, it seems like Roger Penske and the rest of the Ford camp are picking up steam. Overall, Blaney tends to struggle at this track with an 18.8 average finish, but if last week is any indication of how his car will run on mile and halves like Charlotte, he will be a fierce contender for the win.

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