Here's what to expect from the Astros in 2020

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The Astros failed to fulfill their ultimate objective. They didn't choke. They lost. They were beaten. Sports happens. Again and again. In this instance most of the Major League Baseball world is happy about it. After the Astros organization's disgraceful performance through the Brandon Taubman situation, schadenfreude is one apt word for how many around baseball feel about the Astros coming up one win short of winning a second World Series in three years.

107 wins and an American League Pennant don't get flushed down the toilet because the Astros lost the World Series to one of the greatest in-season turnaround stories ever in sports. The Washington Nationals opened the season 19-31. From that point forward their record was better than the Astros. There was nothing flukey about the Nats taking it away when the Astros were so close to living up to their Take It Back slogan (though the road team winning all seven games was unprecedentedly nuts). The Nats trailed by two runs in the eighth inning of their Wild Card game vs. Milwaukee. They trailed by two runs in the eighth inning of the decisive fifth game of their Division Series at the Dodgers. Finally, they trailed by two runs in the seventh inning of World Series game seven at Minute Maid Park. The more deserving team won the World Series.

Gerrit Cole is highly likely a goner. The Astros presently project as a luxury team without Cole. Adding another 35+ mil per season to keep him seems a pipe dream. Cole may also simply prefer to go home to California. The pitching-desperate Angels are a logical direction with their stadium not even five miles from where Cole went to high school. However, the Angels can't offer perennial contention. The Dodgers can.

Cole's exit leaves the Astros 2020 projected starting rotation as 37 year old Justin Verlander, 36 year old Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers off of Tommy John surgery, Jose Urquidy off mixed results and one wonderful five inning World Series start, and who knows as number five. They figure to shop the bargain bin as with Wade Miley last offseason. The best free agent starting pitcher out there after Cole is freshly minted World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg if he opts out of the remaining four years and 100 million dollars on his Nats' deal. Zero chance the Astros would be on him. Zack Wheeler of the Mets might be next best, while nowhere close to Cole/Strasburg money the Astros would have to stretch the budget on a multiyear offer.

The bullpen faces turnover too. Will Harris gave it up in games six and seven, tainting an otherwise spectacular season. He hits free agency at 35 years old seeking a multiyear contract. The Astros owe Ryan Pressly 17 million over the next two seasons, average closer Roberto Osuna probably jumps to nine mil+ via salary arbitration or settlement beforehand, Brad Peacock roughly half that. Cheap guys like Josh James and Bryan Abreu factor in, and probably Joe Biagini. Hector Rondon and Joe Smith come off the books. Smith at a reduced salary would be worth bringing back. Chris Devenski's 2.625 million dollar option could be passed on.

The top seven batters in the Astros lineup collectively had a disappointing postseason, the offense petering out with puny two run outputs in the final two games of the season. Still, no team in MLB has a better one through seven. All will be back in 2020. That leaves Josh Reddick and catcher. Reddick is a gamer, but his level of play fell off dramatically the last two seasons and his postseason resume is lousy. The Astros would give away Reddick if they could but good luck finding a taker for the 13 million dollars on the final season of his contract. If the Astros eat half that money maybe they can move Reddick. Obviously Kyle Tucker gets a shot as the primary right fielder in 2020.

Texans, college football, and Rockets

J.J. Watt's season being done is sad, and ominous for the Texans. Their porous secondary is even more compromised with the diminished pass rush. A win over the Jaguars in London Sunday gives the Texans some margin for error at 6-3. A loss, and they're in trouble with the next three games against the Ravens, Colts, and Patriots.

Tom Herman claiming last week's UT loss to a middling TCU team is not a setback for the Longhorn program is laughable. The Horns could win out for 9-3. They're as likely to finish 7-5. That would be a weak third season of the Herman Era. LSU is pretty pleased these days that Herman used Baton Rouge as a stalking horse ahead of leaving U-of-H for Austin.

Unless you're really into the Rockets and/or love the NBA, it's tough to get into basketball with baseball just ending and football in full stride. If you missed it Wednesday with your attention rightfully focused on Astros-Nationals game seven, the Rockets scored 159 at Washington. In regulation! And won by one point!

Buzzer Beaters: 

1. The Astros open as the favorites to win the 2020 World Series. Though they probably won't. 2. Clocks back an hour tomorrow night. Put me down for Team Year Round Daylight Saving Time. 3. With "cold" weather here, best soups: Bronze-New England clam chowder Silver-Split pea Gold-Lobster bisque.

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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