Every-Thing Sports

I believe in the Astros, dammit!

Astros Gerrit Cole
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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With both Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers making their way back from surgeries that sideline that Astros pitchers last season, and given the team's thin depth in their starting rotation, Houston fans and media have waited on bated breath for scraps of information to leak out of the notoriously secretive organization regarding their progress.

In a week full of mostly Hurricane Beryl-related bad news, the Astros organization had some discouraging news of their own when manager Joe Espada told the media that Lance McCullers has been shut down from pitching after his arm did not respond well to his latest bullpen session. The team says they are "formulating a plan for what's next."

Another Astros starter making his way back from injury is HOF-bound Justin Verlander. Verlander has been on the IL since June 16th with neck discomfort and, while there was initial hope that JV would only miss a start, his status has become increasingly murky as he is still apparently not close to returning.

Shifting from the health questions of the starters to the performance questions of the bullpen, some Houston fans have voiced concern via social media that Astros big-ticket 9th inning pitcher Josh Hader is not looking like a "shut-down" closer. Hader gave up more home runs in the first week of July (3) as he did the entire month of June (2).

In this week's episode of Stone Cold Stros, Charlie Pallilo and Brandon Strange discuss how the fluid dynamics of Astros pitching is impacting the competitive landscape of the division race. To watch the conversation, just click the video YouTube embedded in this article. To listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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