THE BEST AND THE WORST

Ken Hoffman bets on the Astros and crushes the worst show on TV

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Why is everybody so concerned about the Astros finishing with the best record in baseball and getting home field advantage throughout the playoffs? The goal is to win the World Series, right?

So, maybe the Astros would be better off finishing behind the Yankees in the American League, and behind the Dodgers if it comes down to a Houston-Los Angeles World Series.

First (actually second) things first, a League Championship Series against the Yankees: If the Astros finish behind the Yankees, the first two games will be played in The Bronx. We throw Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole at the Yanks. Good luck with that, New York. I'd take Verlander and Cole if the Astros were playing the 1927 Yankees. Nobody can match that 1-2 punch, don't care if it's on the road, at home, or on Mars.

The Astros are going to play at least two games on the road in the LCS and World Series. Their chances of winning on the road are better with Verlander and Cole.

Then it's back to Houston with a 2-0 lead. I like Zack Greinke and Wade Miley at home in Minute Maid Park. Repeat against the Dodgers. Schedule the parade.

The Wolf of Team Israel

Last week I wrote about Jeremy Wolf, the slugging outfielder from Trinity University's 2016 national D3 baseball champions, who's now playing for Israel's national team in Olympic qualifying tournaments. It's an improbable team for sure. When you think of sports in Israel, baseball isn't on top of the list. In fact, it's not on the list. There is only baseball diamond in the whole country, the team doesn't play regularly and rarely even practices together.

Last week, the team headed to Italy for the Europe/Africa final Olympic qualifier. They were a longshot against powerhouse, well financed teams from The Netherlands and Spain. Both countries have professional baseball leagues and the government pays their players. The Netherlands won the European title last year.

Of course, Israel won the whole thing, beating Spain and The Netherlands on back-to-back days, then topping Italy and South Africa. Now they'll be one of only six countries going for the gold medal in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. It's the first time Israel has qualified for an Olympic team event since 1976.

Continue on CultureMap to learn about the worst show on TV ever and the MS 150.

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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