THE PALLILOG

How Correa and Astros stack up to Tatis, Padres

The Astros begin a three-game series with the Padres on Friday night. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Off splitting two games with the Dodgers the Astros go from the frying pan to the Friars as they welcome the San Diego Padres for three games at Minute Maid Park this weekend. When healthy the Dodgers and Padres probably have the two best rosters in Major League Baseball. Like for everyone else alive, for baseball teams health is the most important variable. The injury bug has bitten the Dodgers hard, the Padres less so.

This series marks the first MMP visit for shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. who at 22 years old is the closest thing to "the face of MLB." His talent level in all areas is breathtaking, though so far this season his defense has been oddly horrible. Tatis has committed an absurd 14 errors already, in just 32 games at short. Carlos Correa has committed 11 errors. Since Opening Day 2018. That covers 286 games at short.

Correa/Tatis comparisons are natural starting with their similar bodies (Correa lists at six feet four inches 220 pounds, Tatis at six three, 217). Both made their big league debuts as 20-year-olds, oozing talent, poise, and charisma. While Correa has not achieved the greatness which seemed a good bet after he exploded on the scene and won American League Rookie of the Year while playing less than two-thirds of the 2015 season, Tatis looks to be there already though the pesky health variable that has plagued Correa over his career is also in play with him. Fernando's spectacular 2019 rookie season ended in August because of back problems. He missed time earlier this season this year with a shoulder issue, then more recently after contracting COVID. Speaking of contracting, this spring the Padres bet 340 million dollars over 14 years that Tatis will be legendary. Had the Astros made a similar bet on Correa at the same age they would regret it. Long haul excellence is what makes legends, not short bursts of awesomeness. You just never know.

The Astros' starting rotation shuffle has Framber Valdez making his season debut Friday night coming off the broken finger he suffered in his first spring training start. Saturday Jake Odorizzi returns from the injured list hoping his fourth Astros' start goes better than the three before he went down (two poor outings with the injury sustained in the third). Odorizzi matches up with the Padres' Yu Darvish who has been tremendous with his new team, a 1.75 earned run average in 10 starts. Darvish faces the Astros for the first time since they clobbered him in game seven of the 2017 World Series. The belief is Darvish was tipping some pitches in that start. He wonders about, well, you know.

NBA and NHL playoffs

It's natural for interest in the NBA playoffs to sink like a stone around here with the Rockets not a part of them for the first time in nine years. Pathetically, three of the biggest playoff stories to date are the loser in Philadelphia who threw popcorn at the Wizards' Russell Westbrook, the punk in New York who spat at the Hawks' Trae Young, and the three racists in Utah banned indefinitely from Jazz games for spewing verbal garbage. All that happened Wednesday night. The Philly and New York acts should be treated as crimes, as in misdemeanor assaults. Ejecting people from buildings and barring them from future attendance is not enough.

On the courts, the looming Nets-Bucks second round series should be a doozy in the East. A great series would be very much welcomed. The National Hockey League playoffs have been better than the NBA's just about every night. The first game seven of this postseason is Friday night with the Minnesota Wild at the Las Vegas Golden Knights. No sporting event is more intense second in second out than a close hockey game seven.

At 36 years old Michael Jordan was in his second retirement. At 36 Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West were retired. At 36 Kobe Bryant was playing but basically washed up. It is underappreciated how great LeBron James remains at 36 years old. His ankle injury kept LeBron to just 45 games played this season, not enough to qualify in non-quantity league leader categories. That deprived James of a 17th consecutive season averaging at least 25 points per game. No one else has done it 12 straight.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Speaking of contracting and the health variable, not exactly a surprise that Lance McCullers turns up on the injured list. The Astros five year 85 million dollar bet on McCullers doesn't kick in until next season.

2. Phil Mickelson has a very mixed reputation as to what kind of person he is. Regardless, his winning the PGA Championship a month shy of turning 51 was phenomenal.

3. Greatest pre-Tatis Fernandos: Bronze-Billy Crystal's Lamas. He looked mahvelous! Silver-Valenzuela Gold-ABBA's tune

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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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