THE PALLILOG

Let's discuss who will be the Astros' best offensive player this season

The Astros hammered the A's on Opening Day. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Even if the biggest Astros' homer ever, I presume you don't have them going 162-0 this season. But if you do, one down 161 to go! For the record put me down for 91 wins to edge out the A's for a reclaiming of the American League West title.

Who will be the Astros' best offensive player this season? Alex Bregman seems the most logical guess. He has two monster seasons to his name and is just 27 years old. Carlos Correa turns 27 in September. He's had zero monster full seasons, but has the talent for one and with free agency looming Correa could not be more incentivized for a huge 2021. Jose Altuve turns 31 next month. His best seasons are quite likely behind him, but you know Altuve wants to reestablish his excellence after an awful short-season 2020. What numbers could a (cross your fingers) healthy Yordan Alvarez amass over a first full season? Michael Brantley is consistently outstanding, but only in 2014 did he have a season that would be in the hunt for Astros' offensive MVP this season.

Francisco Lindor signing a 10 year 341 million dollar extension with the Mets doesn't help the Astros' hope of keeping Correa beyond 2021. Correa's best baseball has been better than Lindor's best, but Lindor has been much more durable and consistent. Other than that new Mets' owner Steve Cohen is worth 14 billion dollars give or take, the Lindor contract is crazy. Teams shouldn't be forced to match other teams' daffiness, but Correa no doubt is using the Lindor deal as a benchmark for his own.

Final Four

What a day Saturday with the Houston Cougars playing the Baylor Bears at the Final Four for a spot in Monday night's National Championship game. Kelvin Sampson has done a much heralded beyond stupendous job with the Cougar program. What Scott Drew has built at Baylor is no less impressive, in some ways even more so. The Bears are the rightful favorites (by five points). Baylor was tested by much stiffer competition over the course of the season, and after its first round wipeout of Hartford Baylor has beaten a stouter slate of opponents to get to the Final Four.

Baylor is definitely the better shooting team, as a squad over 40 percent behind the three point line. The Cougars definitely will have to score better than they did in getting through Rutgers, Syracuse, and Oregon State. It's certainly possible that Marcus Sasser and Quentin Grimes fill it up from deep. Consistently getting shots is a must. Baylor's defense is much better than what UH has seen to date. The Bears took control of their wins over Villanova and Arkansas with runs sparked by multiple forced turnovers. For all of Baylor's strengths it's not a great rebounding team. The Coogs have pummeled opponents with their offensive rebounding.

Geez, does UH even stand a chance? Of course it does. In a best of seven series the Bears would be a clear choice over the Cougars. In a best of one you never know.

By the same token yes 11th seed UCLA has a chance vs. Gonzaga. The 30-0 Bulldogs look unbeatable. They are not unbeatable. Even if they finish the job with two more wins to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976, there's a distinction between unbeaten and unbeatable. In 1991 defending champ UNLV was unbeaten and appeared unbeatable. Duke took down the Runnin' Rebels in the semifinals. In 2015 Kentucky was 38-0 before losing its semifinal game with Wisconsin. The 14 point underdog Bruins are unlikely to shock Gonzaga, but that's why it happening would be a shocker! And shockers happen. Just as UH almost certainly would not have a 28-3 record had it played in the Big 10 or Big 12 this season, Gonzaga would almost certainly not own a perfect resume if it played in a deep power conference instead of the West Coast Conference.

Rocket science

The Rockets' ugly slog toward the lottery has had a productive week. They've lost twice while Orlando has won twice, so the Rockets are now three and half games worse than the Magic which has the fourth worst record in the NBA. Reminder the Rockets need to finish in the bottom three of league standings to have their best shot at the top four draft pick necessary to avoid losing the pick.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. So Roy Williams retired at North Carolina. Kelvin Sampson attended the University of North Carolina…

2. Calm down Cougar fans. UNC-Pembroke for Sampson, not Chapel Hill. Never say never I guess, but he's not leaving UH off a Final Four appearance.

3. Good Friday movies: Bronze-Freaky Friday Silver-Friday Gold-Friday Night Lights

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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