The Pallilog

Injuries mount for Astros, but they should be just fine with a less than daunting schedule ahead

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Despite Jose Altuve's setback, George Springer's zinged hamstring, and Carlos Correa's rib breaking massage, while the Astros' offense will suffer in the coming weeks the team should hold up fine. After this weekend's three game series at Oakland, the schedule softens dramatically with four games at the sunken Mariners then three vs. the inept Orioles. Those series are followed by a two game quickie with the Brewers, then six more games vs. losing teams: three vs. Toronto, three at Cincinnati. The Astros prevailing strength is pitching, a strength that remains mostly intact. The loss of Collin McHugh shouldn't be considered major.

Good thing the big league pitching has been generally excellent because the picture has been ugly this season for several of the Astros top pitching prospects. Corbin Martin pitched well to get a first crack at the big leagues, but after an exciting debut he has been poor in three consecutive starts. The universally heralded Forrest Whitley was blasted in five straight AAA outings, ballooning his earned run average to 12.21 (not a typo-12.21) and pushing the Astros to shut him down with no specific injury cited, just shoulder fatigue. After 24 and one third innings pitched. Last year Whitley spent two different stints on the injured list and those came after the start of his season was delayed 50 games because of a PED suspension. He doesn't turn 22 until September so has time to get things straightened out. But by the time they're 22 most super phenom pitching talents are pounding the door earning entrance to the majors. After Whitley and Martin, J.B Bukauskas is the Astros next most touted hurler. He takes a 7.27 ERA with AA Corpus Christi into the weekend. Cionel Perez is at 6.44 at Round Rock. A tier lower on the prospect totem pole, Rogelio Armenteros is at 5.73.

Dallas Keuchel figures to finally sign somewhere next week. With draft pick compensation removed he'll have multiple contenders as suitors.

Charlie Morton is 6-0 with a spiffy 2.54 ERA for the Rays.

Finally, Finals

The NBA Finals are finally underway. Your interest level on a scale of 1-10 scale? Should be high! Especially with Toronto solidly winning game one.

Golden State is playing to further burnish its all-time greatness stature. Even embittered Rockets fans must acknowledge the Warriors play one of the most entertaining styles ever, with Stephen Curry as their most important player and one of the more compelling players ever. However, while the Warriors were sizably favored to start the series, their one point underdog status for game one reflects that this no way is an inevitable re-coronation.

The Raptors are likely better than any of the LeBron James Cavaliers teams that played the Warriors the last four years. Kawhi Leonard isn't quite as great as peak LeBron, but he's in the arena. The Cavs' top win total over their four season Finals run was 57. The Raptors won 58 games this season with Kawhi sitting out 22 of the 82 regular season games. Last season the Cavs won 50 as LeBron played in all 82.

A healthy Leonard for the Raptors and if Kevin Durant is not to play, yes the trophy could very well wind up north of the border.

I wonder how many of the Rockets will watch how much of the series. The Rockets have thrust themselves into a state of flux, though it should be remembered that again this season they gave Golden State more of a challenge than any other Western Conference opponent.

An interesting Rockets' offseason is under way. Owner Tilman Fertitta "promising" championships. In some combination Fertitta and General Manager Daryl Morey have taken a hatchet to Mike D'Antoni's coaching staff. D'Antoni basically made public his desire for a contract extension and then when not greeted super receptively, broke off talks.

Reportedly the Rockets have interest in hiring Tyronn Lue as an assistant coach. That would be quite the interesting turn of events. Lue would not be a D'Antoni hire. The scenario would then clearly exist in which the Rockets and D'Antoni wind up parting ways with Lue winding up head coach.

How would that play with James Harden? Will Harden and Chris Paul get back to being basketball besties? Or is that rendered moot if the Rockets can find a taker for the anvil-heavy three seasons 124 million dollars left on Paul's contract? Will Morey have a much better offseason than he did last year (not the highest of bars to clear)?

That's the summer ahead, As the Rockets Turn.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Very slim pickings for athletes named June. The best, former linebacker Cato June. He's also quite possibly the best athlete named Cato (otherwise it's Kelvin?) 2. Another week of OTA non-news for the Texans. That means no notable injuries. 3. Best Canadian cities: Bronze-Vancouver Silver-Montreal Gold-Toronto


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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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