Every-Thing Sports

I believe in the Astros, dammit!

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After losing Game One of the ALCS by putting a donut in the run column, a lot of Astros fans panicked. Some blamed Zack Greinke, some blamed the bats, others gave the Yankees too much credit. While they did play well enough to earn that win, there were several instances in which the Astros shot themselves in the foot. Game Two came along and fans were happy because Justin Verlander was on the mound. Verlander pitched 6 2/3 innings, only giving up two runs, and deserved to have won that game. The team won 3-2 thanks to Carlos Correa's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning, but Verlander got a no decision.

With the series tied 1-1 and headed to the Bronx for the next three games, there's still reason for optimism. Despite the poor performances at the plate by the lineup, despite the bullpen concerns, despite not having faith in anyone not named Verlander or Gerrit Cole, I still believe in this team's chances to win, dammit! And here's why:

Correa's home run was a spark

Going back to Correa's home run, I think it sparks something for this team. Moments like this can galvanize a team and start a movement. Remember back in 2017 when "Club Astros" was a thing? Remember how loose this team played? Right now, they're more the hunted than the hunters. The pressure has built up and it may be getting to them, especially given how tight they seem to be at the plate. Maybe Correa's walk-off (with the ensuing antics) are a way to light a fire underneath this team? Don't be surprised to see the dugout get more lively and/or better, more loose plate appearances.

Aaron Boone panicked

In Game Two, I think Yankee's manager Aaron Boone panicked. He pulled starter James Paxton after 2 1/3 innings pitched and proceeded to use eight more pitchers the rest of the way. A couple of those guys were/are potential Game Four starters, or they're reliable bullpen arms who were called into duty too soon. Their bullpen is better than what the Astros have, but they're tired out early in this series, advantage Astros. If Boone continues to manage scared to lose, again, advantage Astros.

Cole > Luis Severino in Game Three

Severino was quoted as saying he's not nervous about facing off against Cole in Game Three and having to outduel him (I'm paraphrasing here). He thinks that all he has to do is match what Cole does. Mind you, Severino has only pitched in three games since returning from injury. Sure he was their ace to start this season, but at 25 years old with only a handful of experience, do we really think he can hang with Cole? Answer: HELL NAH! The Astros haven't lost a Cole start since Prohibition. He's either the Cy Young winner this season, or runner-up. Cole had 326 K's this season and 25 in his two postseason starts. Good luck keeping up Luis! (sarcasm font for the humor-impaired).

Injuries

No team was hit harder by the injury bug than the Yankees this season. They had 4,672 guys on their roster miss time due to injury this season. The Astros were bit by the injury bug as well, but not as bad. That being said, I think the Yankees have a Mr. Glass feel to them. They're the more injury-prone team of the two. While they embodied the "next man up" mentality this season, the Astros did as well. The difference lies in the fact that one of their biggest bats (Giancarlo Stanton) missed Game Two because of a right quadricep strain and is day to day, while the Astros biggest injury concern this past season just won Game Two via walk-off. Again, advantage Astros.

Managerial Experience

AJ Hinch > Brett Boone. There it is. I'm done with this section. If you need further explanation, seek help elsewhere because I don't have the crayons or enough three-line kindergarten paper to explain this to you.

Bottom line here folks: while the Yankees appear to have flipped homefield advantage by winning Game One, the Astros will #TakeItBack and win at least one or two in the Bronx. I'm calling it now: Astros in six, no more than seven. This team is just too damn good and too loaded to clam up and go home like they did last year against the Red Sox. If they only win every Verlander and Cole starts in this series (or maybe squeak out another), they got this series in the bag. Like I mentioned last week, there's no need to panic. this team is fully capable of winning another World Series. Let's take it one game at a time and keep the faith.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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