THE PALLILOG

How Houston's current rotation is already making Astros history

Astros fans know all about great starting pitching. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Given the caliber of competition (Dodgers, Padres, Red Sox) the Astros finishing their homestand with five wins and four losses is fine. Now they're on the road for nine starting with spending this weekend in Buffalo playing the Toronto Blue Jays. The birds flew north for the summer after playing their first two months of home games in Florida. As when the Jays were in Houston last month the Astros will not play against George Springer. For his six year 150 million dollar contract, Springer makes about 150 thousand dollars per game whether he plays. Springer has played in four games this season. He remains sidelined recovering from a quad strain.

The Astros have a rich pitching heritage, the best of which I would break down into three eras of guys whose careers overlapped for multiple years. First the J.R. Richard/Joe Niekro/Nolan Ryan era, then Roy Oswalt joined by Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, then most recently Dallas Keuchel into Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander, then Gerrit Cole. In none of those eras did the Astros ever have starting pitchers go seven consecutive games giving up no more than one run. The current Astros' rotation did just that before Jake Odorizzi gave up a three run homer Thursday. I don't know what the Major League record in the category is, but the Astros don't have it since earlier this season the Brewers had an eight game run of starters giving up no more than one run.

Stuff happens over a long baseball season but if the Astros lose the American League West or miss out on a Wild Card by a game or two, they'd probably think back and wonder how in the heck did they get swept in series by the Tigers and Rangers. A.J. Hinch's Tigers are on pace to lose 95 games. The Rangers are worse, pacing for 101 losses. Since taking three straight from the Astros the Rangers have not won a game. 0-9. They have lost 15 consecutive road games.

Quirky: before going 0-4 Thursday Alex Bregman had reached base safely in 20 consecutive games. Over those 20 games his season batting average dropped 17 points.

Stop me if you've heard this before: the Astros have some rulebreakers on their team. No, not lingering residue from 2017/18, but pitchers who illegally put substances on the ball designed to up spin rates. Unlike the trash can scheme which was unique to the Astros in its proven breadth, it's a virtual certainty that every team has pitchers who put stuff on the ball. MLB supposedly is about to get serious in trying to crack down on it. Not a coincidence that this happens while the overall MLB batting average is a sorry .236, which would be the lowest season long mark ever. Strikeouts per game are on course to set a record high for a 16th consecutive year.

A new-look Rockets broadcast is coming

Changes happen. The Rockets have experienced a lot of them in the last year, most notably going from a good team to woeful. Nothing lasts forever, including broadcasting jobs. It is not damning that the Rockets/AT&T SportsNet are making changes to their broadcast teams beyond Bill Worrell's retirement. Word hit this week that Matt Bullard is out after a decade and a half in the TV analyst's chair. Whatever one's opinion of Bullard as a game analyst, I'd be surprised if you can find anyone with a bad word about "Bull" the guy. A smart, funny, friendly man of integrity. And he loves the NHL playoffs. I said he's smart.

To the deep chagrin of TNT and especially Disney (ESPN/ABC) the Lakers NBA title defense didn't make it out of the first round of the playoffs. It's the first time in 15 career postseason appearances that LeBron James loses a first round series. For the first time in a decade the Western Conference Finals will have neither the Lakers nor the Warriors nor the Spurs (2011 Mavericks-Thunder). Jazz-Suns would be interesting. Nets-Bucks in an Eastern Conference semifinal starting Saturday night is highly interesting. Milwaukee has the personnel best equipped to at least somewhat slow the Brooklyn scoring machine.

Still alive in the postseason: Chris Paul, James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Clint Capela. Trevor Ariza went out in the first round.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. With regards to baserunning there is sometimes a fine line between aggressive and stupid. Sometimes the line is thick and crystal clear. The Astros too often cross the line to stupid.

2. Still no Deshaun Watson at Texans OTAs? In other news, water is still wet. Go Tyrod Go!

3. Greatest NFL Taylors: Bronze-Charley Silver-Jason Gold-Lawrence

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Luis Garcia played his part in a pitcher's duel with Carlos Rodon on Friday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With an impressive offensive onslaught to overpower Chicago in game one of this series, the Astros entered this second of four games hoping to keep their momentum going. After an impressive pitcher's duel left the game tied late into the game, Houston would edge out the win with a big walk-off in the ninth.

Final Score: Astros 2, White Sox 1

Astros' Record: 41-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryan Pressly (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Garrett Crochet (2-3)

Garcia matches Rodon in a pitcher's duel

Both starting pitchers were very effective, save one inning, in their respective seven innings of work. For Luis Garcia, he had his struggles in the top of the first to start the game, allowing a one-out double and single to put runners on second and third, setting up an RBI single to give Chicago an early 1-0 lead.

He limited the damage to that one run, both in that inning and the rest of his night, as he would follow that with six straight scoreless frames. Once he found his groove in the fourth, he would retire 12 of 13 batters he faced over that span to get through seven one-run innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 96 P.

For Houston, it took until one out into the fifth inning to get a hit and their first baserunner against Carlos Rodon. That sparked an opportunity to grab a lead, as they would go on to load the bases still with one out but would get just one run out of it with a two-out RBI walk by Martin Maldonado to tie the game up 1-1.

Astros walk it off in the ninth

Ryne Stanek was first out of Houston's bullpen in the top of the eighth, erasing a one-out walk for a scoreless inning to keep things gridlocked. Still in a stalemate in the top of the ninth, the Astros opted to bring in closer Ryan Pressly to try and keep it tied to set up a potential walk-off. He was perfect, striking out Chicago 1-2-3 to send it to the home half.

In the bottom of the ninth, Yuli Gurriel got the winning run on base by hitting a one-out single. That brought Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who got the walk-off hit, roping a ball into the right-field corner deep enough for Gurriel to hustle from first to home to win it for Houston, 2-1.

Up Next: Now having won five in a row, the Astros will try to lock up this series in game three of four on Saturday at 6:15 PM Central. Lance Lynn (7-2, 1.51 ERA) will try to get a win for the White Sox, while Framber Valdez (3-0, 1.42 ERA) will look to continue his 2021 success for Houston.

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