Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: Remember the Tombstone?

It's too early for the tombstone. Courtesy photo

Sports give us a rollercoaster ride of emotions. The ups and downs can often times be enough to cause us actual physical pain, or euphoric amounts of dopamine to block out life’s ills. There are some sports moments we simply won’t forget. Your team’s first title win. The time you last saw your favorite player play. Where you were when some of these things happened.

On the flip side, there are also moments of regret. For example: when you burned the jersey of a player that left your team, when you said you’d never watch another game of (insert team or sport name here), perhaps you’ve been guilty of rooting against your team for whatever reason, or maybe you’ve prematurely predicted your team’s demise. That was the case for the Houston Astros back in 2005.

On Wednesday June 1, 2005, the Houston Chronicle published one of its most infamous Sports section covers when it depicted the Astros season on a tombstone. The Astros were 15-30 at the time and were seemingly dead in the water. They were like the fish in the bowl you’re ready to flush because it appears to be floating lifelessly, but suddenly it comes to life and swims like it never has before. That team went on to make the World Series by riding the wave of a great pitching staff. Although they got swept by the Chicago White Sox, they were able to make it that far after being counted out.

I bring that up because the 2018 Astros are being written off as if they are falling short of the expectations after winning a World Series last year. Fans are hitting the panic button so hard and so frequently that it may be broken already after only ten percent of the season has been played! Through sixteen games, the 2017 Astros were 11-5, scored 67 runs, and allowed 55 runs. Meanwhile, the 2018 Astros are 10-6, have scored 67 runs and have given up 49 runs props to @itsdtrain on Twitter for the reminder).

Houston sports fans are notorious for hitting the panic button, and doing so much too soon. Some Astros’ fans are already in full-blown panic mode. They are now 10-7 after last night’s 2-1 loss, which means they’re about ten percent into this season. Does anyone rush to judgment after the first game if the Houston Texans lose? What if the Houston Rockets are 5-3 after their first eight games? Does their fan base lose their minds and freak out thinking the season is lost?

Sure, the starting pitching isn’t where fans would like it to be (particularly Dallas Keuchel, which is why I think they should move him at the trade deadline this year). Of course the bullpen (mainly the “closer” Ken Giles) could be better, but there’s time left to figure that out. The bats are seemingly asleep, however, they have 145 games left to wake up and mash like they did in previous seasons. Yes, the Los Angeles Angels are in first place and seem to have bounced back, but how long can they enjoy this much success and maintain first place in the division?

It’s too early to punt on the Astros this season. Blame the dreaded World Series hangover if it makes you feel better, but this team is different. They have a great blend of vets who have been through the wars, and young guys who don’t know any better. I firmly believe they’ll right the ship soon and get back to their winning ways. The starting pitching staff has a chance to be one of the best in baseball. The lineup can easily correct itself and become more feared. The only position that seems as if it may be shaky all season is the bullpen. But with a few tweaks and changes, it too can become a stronghold for this team. I’m not ready to hit the panic button on the Astros, and neither should you.

Catch more of my opinions on Twitter, on The Sideline podcast with Craig Koshkin, or right here on SportsMap.

 

 

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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