BRAWL IN THE BIG APPLE

Here's how the Houston Astros blueprint for success is being built

Astros Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman
The New York teams are a good measuring stick for Houston. Composite image by Jack Brame.
How Astros final stretch of games will perfectly set the tone for postseason

We know what hedonism is – the pursuit of pleasure and sensual self-indulgence. Hedonists care only about their personal happiness, physical gratification and living the fine life.

Hedonism II, for example, is the notorious clothing-optional resort in Jamaica where, according to the brochure, “one of the greatest pleasures of life in indulging in our most hedonistic desires. Here there’s never too much of a good thing. People live out their fantasies and escape their inhibitions. From that extra slice of decadent chocolate cake or a lobster tail smothered in lemon butter, an extra shot of 12-year-old rum in your punch to a sensual midnight tryst in the pool.”

You had me at chocolate cake, but I think I’ll pass on getting into that pool. Also, I’m a clothing-mandatory guy. You’ll thank me later.

On the opposite end of hedonism is a psychological condition called Anhedonia. Someone who suffers from Anhedonia is unable to find pleasure in anything. They’re like that Joe Btfsplk character in the comic strip Li’l Abner who has a dark rain cloud constantly over him.

Fun fact, Woody Allen originally wanted Anhedonia as the title for his 1977 Oscar-winning comedy Annie Hall.

This past week, if you looked up Anhedonia in the dictionary you might have seen photos of Houston Astros fans. I’ve been reading sportswriters and listening to talk shows griping about the Astros blowing two leads at Yankee Stadium. There was whining, the Astros shoulda, coulda, woulda” won all six games against the Mets and Yankees.

Like the bartender said to the horse who walked into a saloon and ordered a martini – “Why the long face?”

The Astros swept two against the NL East-leading Mets in Houston and split a four-game set against the MLB-leading Yankees in The Bronx. That’s 4-2 against the two best records in baseball. Despite the Astros’ weirdly powder puff schedule thus far in 2022, DraftKings has the Astros at No. 2 in its power rankings. Fangraphs goes one better, they have the Astros as favorites to win the World Series.

Astros starting pitchers completely shut down the mighty Yankees. That’s pretty good. Three hurlers combined for a no-hitter, including hanging the loss on former Astro Gerrit Cole. Not too shabby. Jose Altuve answered Yankees fans’ chorus of boos and profanity with big hits, including a first-pitch homer. Loved that.

The Astros are leading the AL West by 10 full games. They’re the only team in the division with a winning record. Houston, we have no problem.

Now it’s on to the Mets at Citi Field for two games before returning to Minute Maid Park for a one-night stand with the Yankees on Thursday.

Sure there are problems that need to be addressed. Manager Dusty Baker went all Floyd the Barber explaining why he didn’t intentionally walk Aaron Judge in the 10th inning on Sunday. Earlier that game, Baker sent Jason Castro to pinch hit for Martin Maldonado. Castro is hitting .095. Maldy is hitting .147. Somebody needs to look it up, this deep into a season, is that the lowest combined average for a pinch hitter and pinch hittee? Also, I think we’ve seen enough of Phil Maton out of the bullpen.

General manager James Click, get to work.

Cheer up Astros fans. All’s well that, according to Fangraphs, will end well.

You want something to really be concerned about? There’s a blooper in H-E-B’s new commercial featuring Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Jeremy Pena and Lance McCullers.

Bregman and Altuve think salsa night means chips and dip, while Pena and McCullers come prepared to dance the night away. They battle back and forth … “Salsa!” No, “Salsa!”

Look closely, McCullers’ man bun is tightly wound in the first two exchanges, is combed out and free-flowing in the third, but his bun is magically recoiled two seconds later.

That wouldn’t have happened under Scott McClelland’s watch.

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Can the Astros secure a much-needed series sweep? Composite Getty Image.

Houston Astros (33-39, second in the AL West) vs. Chicago White Sox (19-54, fifth in the AL Central)

Chicago; Tuesday, 8:10 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Astros: Framber Valdez (5-4, 3.99 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 51 strikeouts); White Sox: Jonathan Cannon (0-1, 4.56 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 24 strikeouts)

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Astros -209, White Sox +173; over/under is 8 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: The Chicago White Sox host the Houston Astros on Tuesday to start a three-game series.

Chicago has a 12-23 record in home games and a 19-54 record overall. The White Sox have gone 6-14 in games decided by one run.

Houston has a 33-39 record overall and a 14-20 record in road games. Astros hitters have a collective .418 slugging percentage to rank third in the AL.

The teams meet Tuesday for the first time this season.

TOP PERFORMERS: Gavin Sheets has 14 doubles, a triple and seven home runs while hitting .233 for the White Sox. Andrew Vaughn is 15-for-43 with a double and four home runs over the past 10 games.

Yordan Alvarez has 16 doubles, a triple and 14 home runs for the Astros. Jose Altuve is 14-for-40 with two doubles and two home runs over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: White Sox: 4-6, .247 batting average, 3.88 ERA, outscored by three runs

Astros: 5-5, .257 batting average, 3.78 ERA, outscored opponents by five runs

INJURIES: White Sox: Max Stassi: 60-Day IL (hip), Dominic Leone: 60-Day IL (right elbow), Dominic Fletcher: 10-Day IL (shoulder), Mike Clevinger: 15-Day IL (elbow), Eloy Jimenez: 10-Day IL (hamstring), Yoan Moncada: 60-Day IL (abductor), Jimmy Lambert: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Matt Foster: 60-Day IL (elbow), Jesse Scholtens: 60-Day IL (elbow)

Astros: Cristian Javier: 60-Day IL (forearm), Justin Verlander: day-to-day (neck), Kyle Tucker: 10-Day IL (shin), Jose Urquidy: 60-Day IL (forearm), Oliver Ortega: 60-Day IL (elbow), Bennett Sousa: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Penn Murfee: 60-Day IL (elbow), Luis Garcia: 60-Day IL (elbow), Lance McCullers Jr.: 60-Day IL (elbow), Kendall Graveman: 60-Day IL (elbow)

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