MAKING HIS PITCH

John Granato: How will Astros fans react to Osuna's first home appearance?

Roberto Osuna will likely make his first appearance in a game at Minute Maid this weekend. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Astros are coming home for the first time since the acquisition of Roberto Osuna. It’ll be interesting to see how the fan base reacts when he comes out of the bullpen to pitch for the first time at Minute Maid.

His first appearance as an Astro drew a smattering of boos in San Francisco. But it was San Francisco. I’m not sure they knew about or cared about the controversy enough to boo. Their average rent for a one bedroom is over $3200. It’s hard for them to care about anything else.

What will happen at Minute Maid? Osuna’s ours now. Fan bases stand behind their guys. Milwaukee’s Josh Hader got a standing ovation for his homophobic and racist tweets. Well, I’m not sure he got a standing O because of them but I’m not ruling it out.

I don’t think Osuna will get a standing O here but I’m not ruling that out either. He did have a five pitch outing the other night. That was totally sweet. The problem is that it was in San Francisco at about 11:30 at night. A lot of Astros fans didn’t see it.

It’ll also be interesting to see what the attendance will be like this weekend too. How many people will actually live up to their promise of being done with the Astros? We’ve heard plenty of that over the last week. But it’s easier said than done. Even if you just climbed on board the Astros train last year you’re probably all-in with this team. Osuna aside it’s the most likeable team I can ever remember. They are only adding to that lately with this minor league lineup they are forced to play every night because of all the injuries and yet they’re still winning.

What does it mean if we applaud when Osuna comes in? Like Hader the national media is waiting to pounce on the reaction. Milwaukee got roasted on ESPN for the standing O but that’s what ESPN does. I don’t care what Bill Plaschke thinks of us. We know who we are and what we stand for.

To be clear, I am against domestic violence.

I have been for some time now. I have been an LSU fan for years. My wife went there. My daughter goes there. But they lost me because of how Les Miles handled issues on his team. Jordan Jefferson was seen kicking a marine outside a bar. Jeremy Hill sucker punched a really drunk guy and Jalen Mills was accused of punching a girl in the face so hard he knocked her out. All of these happened without consequences.

I found it hard to root for them anymore. Full disclosure, it coincided with my son playing at the collegiate level so it was easy to push LSU aside. Now that all those guys are gone though it’s more pleasurable to go to LSU games and root for those kids.

And we’ll root for the Astros. It’s going to be hard to watch Osuna and not think about his issue. It’s with him now forever. It’ll never go away and rightfully so. But he doesn’t define what Houston Astros baseball is. It’s exactly the opposite.

For years now we’ve seen guys with checkered pasts join the New England Patriots and tow the line. Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, Bryan Cox, Albert Haynesworth, Aqib Talib and so on. That locker room was bigger than their shenanigans. It held them accountable.

In a different way this Astros locker room will hold Roberto Osuna accountable. It’s a bunch of great players and great people. Osuna can’t take back what he did. He can only move forward with the help of his teammates and change the narrative. He will be a better person because he is an Astro.

I’m guessing he’ll get more cheers than boos. I won’t do either. I’ll be with the silent majority. I am not going to stand or applaud. I will have no reaction when Osuna comes in. I don’t want anyone to think I appreciate him for what he allegedly did. I will watch silently and take in your reaction.

I don’t know how big a dilemma this is for you. Everyone has to act as his or her  conscience tells them. Mine tells me to shut up and let this play out. What’s yours telling you?


 

Houston's young players are impressing in September

Young talent continues to shine for the Astros

Rich Schultz / Getty Images

At the beginning of the month, the Astros took advantage of the current rules allowing teams in September to expand their major-league roster by bringing up some key players from their AAA affiliate, the Round Rock Express. Bringing them up was beneficial for both the Astros and the players, as it gave the team a chance to rest key players down the stretch, fill some holes due to injury, and provide these young prospects a chance to show what level of performance they are capable of producing in the big leagues.

While Houston had a disappointing stretch of games this past week by dropping three-straight to division-rivals Oakland, this month has otherwise been very successful for the Astros. They continue to inch closer to their magic number to clinch the division, as well as staying in step with the Yankees for the best AL and overall record to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs. The success in September, in part, has been a result of these young stars being available and ready to contribute when called on.

Toro and Straw have taken advantage of their opportunities

Let's first take a look at some of the guys who are not as high-profile as the other two we'll get to later. Abraham Toro joined the team in late August to fill an infield spot while both Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz missed time with injury. His most exciting moment so far was when he delivered the only runs in a tightly contested game in Toronto against the Blue Jays, a two-run home run in the top of the ninth which would ultimately be the difference in a no-hitter for Justin Verlander.

While that was one of his most significant offensive highlights, he has also been solid on defense, filling in at third base while Alex Bregman has covered shortstop for a recovering Carlos Correa. While he likely doesn't make the postseason roster, Toro has shown that should the Astros need a third baseman, whether due to injury or possibly in the years to come with players moving on to other clubs, that he could be their guy.

Another contributor this month has been Myles Straw. While I originally had him on the outside looking in with my playoff roster predictions, the frequency at which Houston has used him as a pinch-runner has shown that they consider him an asset for his speed on the basepaths. Straw alone has scored seven of Houston's 90 runs this month, many of which coming after he was put in as a runner late in a game. That's not to say that's his only strength; he's 4-for-9 at the plate this month and has shown strength on defense as well. Considering the bullpen is starting to get healthy, he could very well find himself on the Astros' bench in the playoffs.

Kyle Tucker has finally broken through 


Many, including myself, were highly anticipating Kyle Tucker's call up in 2018. It, unfortunately, did not live up to the hype; as Tucker would end up going 9-for-64 and a .141 average, no home runs, and just 4 RBIs in his 28 games played in the second half of the 2018 season.

This year is an entirely different story, though, as not only did he have another terrific year in AAA to warrant another chance on the major-league roster, he has finally translated his minor-league success to the big leagues. He already has more hits (13) in his thirteen games in September as he did in his 28-game 2018 debut.

Not only has he been able to notch more hits, but he has also recorded his first and second career home runs along with six other RBIs to double his total from last season (eight versus four). Whether it was some bad luck or improved mechanics, the 2019 version of Kyle Tucker is vastly superior to what we saw in 2018.

Yordan Alvarez is simply unreal


While the players mentioned above are all great in their own right, there is still one young player that has stolen the spotlight on Houston's roster. That is Yordan Alvarez. We're running out of superlatives and records for him to exceed. Had Alvarez been with the Astros from the start of the season, we may not only be talking about the best rookie season ever but one of the best overall seasons by a player, period.

Sure, roughly half of Alvarez's dominance this year came against minor-league talent, but he has been just as dominant in the majors since his debut on June 9th. When you combine his overall statistics between the minors and majors this year, you see an incredible .333 average, 48 home runs, and 146 RBIs. For perspective, although he has spent some time away with injury, the absolute best player in the game, Mike Trout, currently sits with a .291 average, 45 home runs, and 104 RBIs.

He has already locked himself in as the sure American League Rookie of the Year, but now the question is: what can he do with a full season in the major leagues? I am looking forward to seeing how he steps up to the big moments he could be put in during the playoffs this year. Can he deliver these same numbers against the absolute best in the game? I think so, but we will have to wait until October to know for sure.

While the Astros certainly have one of the best set of veterans in the game, the last few months have been a chance to see what may be on the horizon for some of Houston's young talent that will likely be contributing towards more success for their team for years to come.

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