As each game passes, here are the undeniable truths about the Houston Astros

Astros Martin Maldonado, Dusty Baker
Will Dusty Baker change his stance on Martin Maldonado? Composite Getty Image.
dusty madly

The NFL season starts this week and you know what that means here in Houston.

Are you ready for some … baseball!

The Astros are in the thick of the stickiest pennant race in MLB, a mad scramble in the American League West. At the moment, the Astros sit in a virtual tie with the Seattle Mariners for the top spot with the Texas Rangers only one game back.

The Astros 13-6, five-homer bulldozing of the Rangers Monday night in Arlington surely sent a chilling warning to other World Series hopefuls. The Astros are coming and they’re coming hard.

Things couldn’t have broke better Monday night. The Astros won. The Rangers lost. The Mariners lost. Jose Altuve and Mauricio Dubon walloped back-to-back homers – twice. Altuve and Alex Bregman had four hits each. Michael Brantley is back, seemingly without missing a beat. It would help if he were in the lineup. The Astros have Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander set for the next two against the Rangers. All is good is AstrosWorld.

The Nature Boy Ric Flair knows, if you want to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. And good luck beating the Astros the rest of the way.

Not only did the Astros send five balls over the outfield fence, they clinched the coveted (I kid) Silver Boot series against the Rangers for the seventh consecutive year. More important, should the Astros and Rangers tie at the end of the season, the Astros hold the tiebreaker.

The Astros have 23 games left in the 2023 regular season, including two more against the Rangers and three with the Mariners. Meanwhile the Rangers and Mariners will meet seven times to beat each other up. Knock yourselves out, literally, Rangers and Mariners.

After leaving Arlington, the Astros will sprint to the finish line with three games against the San Diego Padres, three vs. the Oakland A’s, six against the Kansas City Royals, three with the Baltimore Orioles, three showdown clashes with the Mariners, and they close out against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Astros opponents have a combined 389-459 record.

And now if you’ll permit me to beat my head against the wall.

As each game passes and the post-season draws closer, it should be clear to everybody (except one person), that Yanier Diaz must be the Astros everyday catcher regardless of who’s pitching. Let Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez throw a temper tantrum, too bad, Diaz is the Astros catcher of the future and the future started yesterday.

You don’t have to look any farther than Monday night’s biggest game of the year (until tonight’s biggest game of the year, etc.) to see the value Diaz brings to the lineup. It’s the little things and the big things.

Little thing: in the fifth inning with one out, the Astros trailing 3-0, Diaz hit a grounder that easily could have been an inning-ending, rally-squashing double play. Except Diaz has surprising speed for a catcher and beat the throw to first. That kept the Astros alive, and they scored three runs to tie the game. Another catcher, to be fair most catchers, would have been out at first by 10 feet.

Big thing: in the seventh inning Diaz blasted a 453-foot home run into the upper deck that made the score 11-5 and crushed any Rangers hope of a comeback.

Yanier Diaz is a superstar in waiting, and he may be the best hitting catcher in baseball already. In the super tight AL West, Diaz’s bat could be the difference between the Astros winning the AL West, settling for a wild card, or please no, finishing out of the money.

Now my head hurts.

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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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