Here's what the Astros' rotation could look like against A's

Astros Urquidy, McCullers, Valdez no button
A longer series presents a different set of challenges. Composite photo by Jack Brame

It's on to Los Angeles for the Astros, for a best of five with their good pals the Oakland Athletics in an American League Division Series starting Monday at Dodger Stadium. The Astros dispatched the Twins in two straight games in large part because of a pitching strategy that will be tougher to use vs. the A's. With a maximum of three starting pitchers needed in a best of three, Dusty Baker was able to use Framber Valdez for five innings of relief in game one, and then Cristian Javier for three innings in game two. The ALCS will be played with no off days, meaning games Monday through Friday should the series go the distance. If it does the plan going in would be to use five different starters. The track record in this era of starters going on three days' rest is not good, and it's not as if the Astros have an ace you'd consider it with other than under exigent circumstances.

In what order would you slot the Astros' starters? If like vs. Minnesota it's Zack Greinke, Jose Urquidy, Lance McCullers 1-2-3, that would mean Valdez and Javier in some order as the plan for games four and five. Plans are changeable.

Thanks to the pitching the Astro offense did enough, but it didn't do much in the two games vs. the Twins. One earned run in game one, three in game two. The attack likely needs to be more productive to get past the A's but the series doesn't figure to be a slugfest. The A's offense is middling and minus injured stud third baseman Matt Chapman (as the Twins were without their stud third baseman Josh Donaldson). Oakland's pitching dominated the Astros over the regular season series which the A's took 7-3. In the 10 games the Astros totaled a paltry 25 runs. Mike Fiers pitched in none of those games. He's the A's number five starter.

The Astros are only in the playoffs because of the expanded format. That would not detract from the achievement of winning the tournament. If the Astros wind up winning the World Series (unlikely but sure not impossible) more than a few around here would find it amusing that the Astros would do so in the Texas Rangers' new ballpark.

It was amusing to hear Carlos Correa say "What they are going to say now?" after the Astros closed out the Twins. If it works as motivation for the Astros to harbor resentment toward the "haters" that's cool, but they can't unring the bell that tolled. The Astros are proven and acknowledged cheaters in 2017 and 2018. Nothing will ever change that. It doesn't matter what other teams did or may have done. None were proven to have done what the Astros did. They tainted themselves.

Fans in the stands for Texans vs. Vikings

What excitement for Texans-Vikings Sunday! 0-3 vs. 0-3. The allowed crowd of about 13,000 seems appropriate. The schedule has done them no favors but describing the Texans' performance to this point as anything better than dismal is sugarcoating and/or propaganda. If grasping for a marketing slogan about the most credible they could go with right now is "At least we're not the Falcons!" On the other hand, the Falcons own their first and second round draft picks next spring.

The Texans' run defense has been a sieve thus far, yielding 5.2 yards per carry. Sunday it has to contend with Dalvin Cook who's coming off a 22 carry 181 yard day vs. the Titans.

Doc Rivers won't be coaching the Rockets

The 76ers Thursday hired Doc Rivers as their new Head Coach. The Clippers may hire Tyronn Lue. Both had been mentioned for the Rockets' opening created when Mike D'Antoni basically told the organization to take a hike. Whichever direction the Rockets go among other candidates, I'm pretty sure Tilman Fertitta will not be heartbroken at his next head coach coming in at a lower salary tier.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. The Miami Heat led game one of the NBA Finals 23-10, then the Lakers obliterated them 77-32 over the next 24 minutes of play. Barring a LeBron/Anthony Davis injury, the series is over.

2. It's just three games out of 16, but DeAndre Hopkins is on pace for 170 receptions. 170. One. Seventy. Michael Thomas set the NFL record last season with 149.

3. Justin Verlander had his Tommy John surgery this week. More positive elbow mentions: Bronze-macaroni Silver-room Gold-grease

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Who's really calling the shots? Composite Getty Image.

Who is actually determining how much Jose Abreu is playing right now? Is it Joe Espada or is someone telling him from the top of the organization to play Abreu and not take him out of clutch moments?

Also, could Espada be sending a message to the front office by giving them a good look at how bad he is, and how much he's hurting the team with regular playing time?

ESPN Houston's Jeremy Branham makes that case in the video above, but his radio partner Joel Blank isn't quite buying it.

Don't miss the video above for the full conversation!

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