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