Hello, boulder.

How one achievement outside Astros grasp is important lesson on being stubborn

Dusty Baker loves his veteran players regardless of the results. Photo by David Berding/Getty Images.

Nothing against Orbit, but the real mascot for the 2023 Houston Astros is Sisyphus.

You remember Sisyphus from Greek mythology, don’t you? He was the guy who was punished by the gods and sentenced to push a giant boulder up a hill, and just before he reached the top, the boulder would roll back down, and Sisyphus had to start over again. For eternity.

The Astros’ similar plight has lasted only one year. From opening day, they’ve been chasing the Texas Rangers in the American League West, and just when they get the chance to reach the top of the standings, the baseball rolls back down to second place.

Entering Wednesday night, the Astros sat only one-half game back of the Rangers with the opportunity to earn a tie for first place. But the Astros lost a heartbreaker 7-5 to the Boston Red Sox in 10 innings at Minute Maid Park. So close, yet so far. Sisyphus knows the feeling.

The Astros had another Sisyphus experience at the start of August. They sat one-half game back of the Rangers with another chance to seize first place.

Less than a week later, the Astros were three back of the Rangers. Hello, boulder.

Wednesday night’s loss to the Red Sox was a gut punch. The Red Sox won the game when Adam Duvall launched a screaming line drive off Astros reliever Kendall Graveman into the Crawford Boxes for a 3-run homer in the 10th inning.

The Astros had a golden opportunity to win or at least tie the game in the 10th inning when they scored one run on a Yanier Diaz single and loaded the bases with one out. However, Bosox reliever Josh Winckowski struck out pinch hitters Mauricio Dubon and Corey Julks to squash the rally.

The game shone a spotlight on the Astros best efforts and weakest links. Rookie Diaz continued his hot swinging going 3-5 including a clutch RBI in the 10th inning. Meanwhile Jose Abreu returned from the injured list and showed he hasn’t missed a step by going 1-5 including a rally-killing strikeout in the 10th. Julks has one hit in his last 40 at bats.

With each game passing, it becomes more obvious that Diaz needs to be in the lineup every day – no matter if he plays catcher, first base or DH. If he could pitch, the Astros could have used him Wednesday night to throw the 10th inning.

Diaz is a better bet than veteran regulars at catcher and first base. You shouldn’t need a nuclear telescope or 30-years experience as an MLB manager to see that Diaz, a 24-year-old rookie, is hitting .284 with 18 home runs in a support role. Starting catcher Maldonado is 37 years old and batting .180 with 10 homers. Starting first baseman Abreu is 36 years old and batting .234 with 10 homers.

But with Yordan Alvarez returning from injury, Abreu back healthy and Maldonado the teacher’s pet for Astros pitchers, Diaz may struggle to find a spot.

If Sisyphus were around today, he’d forget the boulder, and push manager Dusty Baker to keep Diaz in the everyday lineup.

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