ASTROS REPORT

No Altuve, no Correa, big problems: Astros go 1-4 in worst week of the season

No Altuve, no Correa, big problems: Astros go 1-4 in worst week of the season
Tony Kemp has been a bright spot for the struggling Astros. Bob Levey/Getty Images

On paper, this week's schedule looked to set the Astros up for a dominant week. Instead, Houston found themselves on the wrong side of the domination. Here's what happened:

Tuesday, July 24th: 66-36 Astros (Gerrit Cole) vs. 53-46 Rockies (Tyler Anderson)

After a weather delay, it looked like the Astros were going to break Tuesday night's game open right off the bat after a no-out two-run homer by Alex Bregman gave Houston a quick 2-0 lead. Tyler Anderson rebounded though and locked in to keep the Astros from inflicting any more damage over his seven and one-third innings. For Houston, Gerrit Cole looked dominant, notching nine strikeouts over his first six scoreless innings of work. He got dinged in the seventh, though, giving up back-to-back doubles to start the inning to get the Rockies on the board and make it 2-1 before tying the game on an RBI single and ending Cole's night. Both bullpens finished the regular nine innings without letting the other team get the go-ahead run, but that changed in the tenth. In the top of the tenth, Josh Reddick hit a leadoff single then advanced to third after Charlie Blackmon mistimed the bounce and let the ball get all the way behind him to the wall. Reddick then scored on a go-ahead RBI single by Tony Kemp, which opened the door for Houston to pour things on. Kyle Tucker came through in quite possibly the highlight of his early career, getting a two-RBI triple to extend the lead to 5-2, followed by George Springer launching a two-run homer to keep his post-All-Star hot streak going. Yuli Gurriel capped off the offensive explosion with an RBI single, making it a six-run inning and giving Houston an 8-2 lead which Brad Peacock held on to as he wrapped up the game in the bottom of the tenth.
Final Score (10 innings): Astros 8, Rockies 2

Wednesday, July 25th: 67-36 Astros (Charlie Morton) vs. 53-47 Rockies (Jon Gray)

Colorado struck first on Wednesday night, getting a homer off of Charlie Morton in the bottom of the second to take a 1-0 lead. The Astros would get on the board in the fourth, getting an RBI double to the wall by Jose Altuve to score Alex Bregman. Unfortunately, the RBI would come at a high cost, as Altuve would leave the game with knee soreness and end up on the 10-Day DL. Marwin Gonzalez gave Houston their first lead of the night with an RBI groundout to make it 2-1. After the early run, Morton was able to settle in and finish with a solid line, completing six innings with just one run on four hits while striking out five. In the seventh, the Rockies would get the best of Houston's bullpen after Joe Smith and Tony Sipp combined to get one out while allowing a single and walk. Collin McHugh was out next, and after a single to load the bases got an out on a spectacular catch by J.D. Davis who tracked a foul ball into the dugout. Unfortunately, the time it took Davis to recover and basically get pushed out of the dugout by his teammates allowed the runner from third to tag, tying the game at 2-2. McHugh was able to limit the damage and end the inning and stayed in the game for the eighth and the ninth to try and force extras. Charlie Blackman had other plans, taking McHugh long in the bottom of the ninth for the walk-off win to split the two-game series. 
Final Score: Astros 2, Rockies 3

Friday, July 27th: 42-62 Rangers (Yovani Gallardo) vs. 67-37 Astros (Dallas Keuchel)

After the day off on Thursday, the Astros were set to host the final three games against the Rangers starting on Friday night. Dallas Keuchel was looking to finish his hot July with another strong performance, but instead gave up a few runs and with no run support behind him got tagged with a loss. In the second, Keuchel allowed a leadoff double which would score after a single and RBI groundout, then allowed a two-run homer in the fifth. Keuchel didn't have a terrible night but found himself in several extended at-bats which put him over 100 pitches after just five innings, leaving with a 3-0 deficit after five. With no run support, that 3-0 lead would put him in line for the loss. The Rangers blew the game open against Houston's bullpen, getting two runs off Brad Peacock in the sixth, one off of Cionel Perez in the eighth, then two off of Chris Devenski and three off of Tony Sipp, all charged to Chris Devenski resulting in 5 earned runs for him, in the ninth, bringing their total to 11 on the night. Evan Gattis hit a solo homer in the seventh, and newly acquired Martin Maldonado hit a pinch-hit sac fly in the ninth, but those two runs would be futile in the loss.
Final Score: Rangers 11, Astros 2

Saturday, July 28th: 43-62 Rangers (Ariel Jurado) vs. 67-38 Astros (Justin Verlander)

Saturday's game was much more competitive early, with Ariel Jurado of the Rangers matching up well against Justin Verlander in just his second major league start. The Rangers took an early lead on a solo home run in the second inning, but Houston answered back with a solo homer of their own by George Springer in the fourth, tying the game 1-1. Roughned Odor would also get a home run off of Justin Verlander, but it came via an untraditional inside-the-park homer after George Springer couldn't get to the wall in time to catch a ball hit hard to center field, which ricocheted all the way back to left field, giving Odor time to run all the way around, and give Texas a 2-1 lead. Like Keuchel the night before, Verlander found himself in several long at-bats, ending his night after just five innings while allowing those two runs, a rough night by his standards. Ryan Pressly, traded to the Astros from the Twins the night prior, made his Houston debut in the sixth and allowed a solo homer to his first batter, Roughned Odor, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead and continuing Odor's big night. Pressly was able to get the next three batters out in order. The score remained 3-1 until the top of the ninth, where the Rangers once again got the better of Houston's bullpen, putting up four runs on Hector Rondon on an RBI groundout and three-run homer. Alex Bregman tried to get a rally going with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, trimming the lead to 7-3, but no such rally would take place, locking up the series win for Texas and giving Houston their third straight loss.
Final Score: Rangers 7, Astros 3

Sunday, July 29th: 44-62 Rangers (Mike Minor) vs. 67-39 Astros (Lance McCullers Jr.)

On Sunday afternoon, Martin Maldonado had his first game behind the plate for the Astros to catch Lance McCullers Jr. The pair worked great early, with McCullers getting through the first four innings with just one hit and seven strikeouts. During that span, Tyler White gave Houston a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a solo home run. A wild pitch strikeout seemingly broke the rhythm of McCullers in the fifth, allowing a single and double after to tie the game, though Lance did well to keep the damage limited to just that one run. Roughned Odor, after his 5-for-5 night on Saturday, led off the sixth with a double against McCullers, then would score on a comebacker that deflected off of McCullers into center field, giving Texas a 2-1 lead and the momentum. They'd go on to score two more runs and end McCullers' day with just one out in the sixth after dominating through the first five. After Joe Smith finished off the top of the sixth, Tony Kemp led off the bottom of the inning with a single up the middle, giving Houston just their third hit of the day, the other two by Tyler White including his homer. That sparked some offense, with George Springer hitting a double next before Alex Bregman hit a sac fly to score Kemp and make it 4-2, though Springer would get left stranded to end the inning. Houston would threaten again in the seventh, getting runners on second and third with no outs to start the inning, but would be unable to convert leaving the score at 4-2. That score held to the bottom of the ninth, where after working two walks Tony Kemp delivered a two-out RBI to make it a 4-3 game but Houston would fall a run short and get swept for the first time in 2018.
Final Score: Rangers 4, Astros 3

Summary

It was a bad week all around for the Astros, resulting in a horrible 1-4 record, and putting them 4-6 in their last ten after the four straight losses. Off the field, not only did Correa's return continue to get pushed back, but now Altuve has landed on the DL. It was clear in the weekend series with the Rangers that this team is just not the same with both of them out. It wasn't just the offense that struggled either, the fielding this week had moments of atrocity that even made players playing positions they aren't used to look foolish. The good news is Altuve and Correa should both be back in the lineup in the coming week or two with Altuve only being on the 10-day DL and Correa gearing up for a rehab assignment, and hopefully, they come back to a team that's still in first place. After being on the rise in recent weeks, the bullpen took a step or two back this week, though the Ryan Pressly acquisition could potentially help with that. The other acquisition this week, Martin Maldonado can also be a big boost for the team, and it looked like he was a good fit behind the plate on Sunday. The Astros have a big week coming up, it will take some guys stepping up to make sure they are setting themselves up well for a strong playoff push. With the offense struggling most of this week, it will be interesting to see if the Astros try to push for another bat before the trade deadline on Tuesday, or if they stand pat and hope for things to turn back around. 

MVP of the Week - Tony Kemp

No one had a week deserving of being broken down into stats and praise for their performance in those five games alone, so I'd like to take the opportunity to talk about Tony Kemp. The word that comes to mind anytime I see Kemp playing is HUSTLE. Kemp has been playing great baseball this year for Houston, despite not being an every-day starter. Kemp has been right around a .300 hitter all year, usually coming through with a hit in a big situation to flip the order over and spark the offense, like we saw on Sunday against the Rangers in the loss. He's also a stud on defense, making several highlight-reel catches in the outfield this year thanks to his speed. The Astros are lucky to have him at their disposal because he could easily be in the starting lineup day in and day out for other teams in the MLB. 

This Week

  • Mon-Wed: (67-40) Astros @ (62-43) Mariners
  • Fri-Sun: (67-40) Astros @ (59-47) Dodgers

The Astros will have to turn things around in a hurry if they want to make sure the race in the AL West doesn't get tighter. That'll be top of mind to start the week with Houston playing the second-place Mariners for three games in Seattle. The Mariners are currently four games back from Houston for the AL West lead. Houston will get a day off on Thursday before three more games on the road in a World Series rematch against the Dodgers this weekend in Los Angeles. The Dodgers, similar to the Astros, are trying to hold on to a division lead as they currently sit just a half-game ahead of the Diamondbacks in the NL West. The Astros will have to get some big performances from their supporting cast this week to come away with a productive result out of these six games. 

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Reed Sheppard to Houston seems to be the common consensus. Composite Getty Image.

French 7-footer Alexandre Sarr has widely been projected to follow the footsteps of fellow countryman Victor Wembanyama as the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

But Sarr isn't the only big man expected to have his name called.

Though the June 26 draft isn't loaded with bigs, it does have the two-time national college player of the year and a two-time national champion available.

UConn's Donovan Clingan won two national championships and could go in the lottery with his strong pick-and-roll skills and shot-blocking ability.

Purdue's Zach Edey is expected to go much later in the first round due to his lack of mobility and perimeter shooting, but he is the first two-time national player of the year since Ralph Sampson, so there's likely a place for him in the NBA.

This year's draft also includes Kyle Filipowski from Duke, Indiana's Kel'el Ware and Baylor's Yves Missi, so there will be chances for teams looking to add size.

Then again, some team may even take a chance on using a first-round pick on Southern California's Bronny James, son of NBA career scoring leader LeBron James.

1. ATLANTA HAWKS: Alexandre Sarr, center, France

Sarr doesn't have the all-around skills of Wembanyama, but then no one really does. He's still extremely talented, an athletic 7-footer who can wreck rims and the hopes of opposing shooters. Sarr's shot still needs some work, but he could end up becoming a franchise player in the next few years. Atlanta fans should love watching him throw down lobs from Trae Young.

2. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Zaccharie Risacher, forward, France

Many NBA mock drafts have Risacher going No. 1 — and for good reason. The 6-foot-9 forward has the skills of a guard and should be a perfect fit for today's NBA. Risacher is a superb catch-and-shoot wing who can beat defenders off the dribble and has a huge defensive upside with his length and athleticism. He may end up being the franchise player the Wizards need in their rebuild.

3. HOUSTON ROCKETS: Reed Sheppard, guard, Kentucky

The Rockets need shooters and Sheppard is certainly that. The 6-3 guard may be the best shooter in the draft — his 52% mark would have led Division I last season if he had enough attempts to qualify.

He has a high basketball IQ — both parents played at Kentucky — and averaged 12.5 points as a freshman.

Last week's mock draft also had Sheppard going to the Rockets.

4. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Stephon Castle, guard, UConn

The Huskies were loaded with talented players in their title defense last season and Castle had no trouble fitting in as a freshman. The 6-6 guard is a solid playmaker who can get his own shot and is a hard-nosed defender. His size and athleticism could end up making him one of the best players of the draft, particularly if he improves his outside shot. Even at 19, he’s already a proven winner.

5. DETROIT PISTONS: Matas Buzelis, forward, G League Ignite

Buzelis bypassed college basketball to play in the G League and improved his draft status by gaining muscle while rounding out his game. The 6-8 forward is an excellent playmaker who can see over defenders and finishes strong at the rim in transition. Buzelis will need to work on his perimeter shooting, though: He hit 27% from 3 for the Ignite last season.

6. CHARLOTTE HORNETS: Donovan Clingan, center, UConn

Clingan's a proven winner as the massive anchor to UConn's back-to-back NCAA titles. Though he doesn't fit the NBA mold of a perimeter-shooting big man, the 7-2, 280-pounder is a load for opponents inside at both ends of the floor and would be a great fit for a Charlotte team that was 25th in the NBA in blocked shots last season. Clingan also is excellent at finishing on lobs, which could be a great fit with LaMelo Ball running the point in Charlotte.

7. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Rob Dillingham, guard, Kentucky

Portland was last in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season and Dillingham's 44% mark in his lone season at Kentucky was nearly 10 points higher than the Blazers' percentage. Though small at 6-1, 165 pounds, Dillingham has a big game with an ability to score at three levels and has the quickness to beat defenders off the dribble. His size could be a liability on defense.

8. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Ron Holland II, forward, G League Unite

Holland could end up being the best defensive forward in the draft. The 6-7 forward has a nose for the ball defensively — he averaged more than 2 steals a game in the G League — and is excellent in the open floor. Holland can create his own shot, but needs to make more after shooting 24% from 3 on 3.6 attempts per game last season. The Spurs are at least in a position to wait for him to develop.

9. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: Dalton Knecht, guard, Tennessee

A knockdown shooter, Knecht could be a great complement to Ja Morant. The 6-6 shooting guard is superb at shooting off screens and can fill it up in a hurry, like he did while scoring 37 points against Purdue in the Elite Eight. Knecht is close to a finished product already, a 23-year-old who should contribute right away.

10. UTAH JAZZ: Tidjane Salaun, forward, France

Salaun can make it three French players as lottery picks in this year's draft. The 6-9 forward fits the NBA style of play. He can shoot it from deep and improved his game — not to mention his frame — while playing in the French LNB Pro A, the same league as Wembanyama before his move to the NBA. Salaun may be a longer-term project, but has massive upside.

11. CHICAGO BULLS: Cody Williams, guard, Colorado

He’s a thin 6-8, but has the size and athleticism to shoot over or get around defenders. Williams can create his own shot, is an excellent finisher and has good playmaking skills for a shooting guard. He shot a respectable 41% from 3 during his freshman season and has a huge defensive upside with his length and agility.

12. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: Ron Holland, forward, G League Unite

Holland could end up being the best defensive forward in the draft. The 6-7 forward has a nose for the ball defensively — he averaged more than 2 steals a game in the G League — and is excellent in the open floor, which would be a great fit in OKC. Holland can create his own shot, but needs to make more after shooting 24% from 3 on 3.6 attempts per game last season. The Thunder are at least in a position to wait for him to develop.

13. SACRAMENTO KINGS: Devin Carter, guard, Providence

The 6-3 guard has a massive wingspan and vertical leap, which helped allow him make a big jump from 13 points to 19.7 last season. Carter has a high basketball IQ, is a hard-nosed defender and an excellent rebounder for a guard. The son of former NBA player Anthony Carter, he was the Big East player of the year in a league that included Clingan and Castle.

14. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Ja'Kobe Walter, guard, Baylor

The 6-5 guard was not shy in putting it up from 3 for the Bears as a freshman, taking more than four a game while shooting 34%. His long wingspan and athleticism give Walter the potential to become a defensive stopper at the next level. Shot selection and adding a bit of muscle to his 197-pound frame will be the biggest adjustments in the move to the NBA, but he's only 19, so there's plenty of time.

15. MIAMI HEAT: Nikola Topic, guard, Serbia

At 6-6, Topic is a superb passer with great vision and size to see over defenders. He also has the strength to get into the lane and can finish strong at the rim, making him able to control a game even without being a great 3-point shooter. Would be projected to go higher — maybe with the Spurs’ first pick at No. 4 — but medical tests showed he has a partially torn ACL in his left knee, which he injured twice last season in Europe.

16. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: Jared McCain, guard, Duke

He was Duke's toughest competitor during his lone season in Durham and is an elite shooter who could fit in on any team. McCain is an excellent shooter off screens and in the pullup game, but can also run the point if needed. He has a high basketball IQ, so should pick up the NBA game fairly quickly.

17. LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Kel'el Ware, center, Indiana

The 7-footer with a 7-5 wingspan has the length and game to have an immediate impact in the NBA. Ware quickly moved up NBA draft boards during team workouts and is a strong rim protector. He's also excellent on lobs and shot 43% from 3 last season, making him the type of stretch big man NBA teams covet.

18. ORLANDO MAGIC: Carlton Carrington, guard, Pittsburgh

The player known as “Bub” gets buckets in bunches and loves the pull-up J. The 6-4 guard has good size to play point guard and, at 19, has plenty of time to develop. His biggest downside: perimeter shooting. Carrington didn’t lack for confidence in his freshman season, attempting 6.1 3s per game, but shot 32% from the arc.

19. TORONTO RAPTORS: Zach Edey, center, Purdue

Even with a lack of mobility and perimeter shooting, Edey was still the first repeat AP national player of the year since Ralph Sampson. At 7-4, 300 pounds, he dominated the college game and will be a handful even in the NBA. The Canadian would be a popular pick by the Raptors.

20: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Tristan da Silva, forward, Colorado

Any team could use a steady, do-it-all type of player and da Silva is just that. The 6-8 forward doesn't have eye-catching athleticism, but he is smart and has the size and strength to endure the rigors of the NBA. He also can guard multiple positions and may be the most NBA-ready player in the draft after playing four years in Boulder.

21. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: Isaiah Collier, guard, USC

While Bronny James got much of the hype in Southern California, Collier was the higher-rated prospect out of high school. Once projected as a lottery pick, his draft stock took a bit of a hit during an inconsistent lone season with the Trojans. Even so, Collier has the type of game and solid frame that could translate well in the NBA. The 6-3 guard plays hard with the strength and quickness to get past defenders, but needs to work on his perimeter game after shooting 34% from the college 3-point line.

22. PHOENIX SUNS: Tyler Kolek, guard, Marquette

The Suns have plenty of firepower led by Kevin Durant and Devin Booker but could use a true point guard to help get them organized. The two-time All-American can certainly do that and also provide points when needed, and should be a familiar name to new coach Mike Budenholzer from his time coaching in Milwaukee.

23. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: Yves Missi, center, Baylor

Missi knows his game and sticks to it. A high-motor 6-11 forward, he is a rim runner and shot blocker who didn’t even attempt a 3-pointer last season. The Cameroon native should transition well to the pick-and-roll game of the NBA and is a thunderous dunker, as he proved during his lone season with the Bears.

24. NEW YORK KNICKS: Kyle Filipowski, center, Duke

New York is loaded with Duke fans and Filipowski could be an instant favorite. The sturdy 6-11 center may not be an elite rim protector or a consistent 3-point shooter, but he has good footwork and plays hard. The Knicks had a solid run into the second round of the playoffs and Filipowski could be another piece to help push them deeper.

25. NEW YORK KNICKS: Terrence Shannon, guard, Illinois

Shannon can flat-out score and has shown he can do it in big moments. Sexual assault accusations might have made teams leery of taking the dynamic guard in the first round, but the Knicks might be willing to take a chance following a not guilty verdict earlier this month.

26. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Johnny Furphy, guard, Kansas

The 6-8 Australian has a smooth shooting stroke and gets his shot off quickly. He also has good touch around the rim and good instincts on defense, often leading to steals. Furphy is not much of a shot creator off the dribble and needs to work on his individual defense, so he could need a year or two of development.

27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: DaRon Holmes II, forward, Dayton

The 6-9 forward is good in the pick-and-roll game and a strong finisher at the rim. Holmes has improved his outside shooting, hitting 39% from the 3-point arc after shooting 32% the season before. He can defend multiple positions, but would be undersized as a center in the NBA. He also isn’t much of a shot creator, but his pick-and-roll skills may offset that.

28. DENVER NUGGETS: Jaylon Tyson, forward, California

Denver's bid to repeat as NBA champions hit a wall in the second round when its top players were stretched to the limit. Tyson could give them a solid boost off the bench. The 6-6 guard has good size, finishes strong at the rim and is a decent perimeter shooter. He increased his scoring average nearly 10 points to 19.6 last season, so has shown the ability to develop his game.

29. UTAH JAZZ: Bobi Klintman, forward, Wake Forest/Australia

The back end of the first round is typically filled with potential projects and Klintman is an intriguing one. The 6-9 stretch forward from Sweden has good length, both physically and shooting ability. Klintman moves more like a guard and is a good passer for a big man. He will likely need a few years of development before becoming ready, but is worth the risk late in the first round.

30. BOSTON CELTICS: Bronny James, guard, USC

The champion Celtics already have a loaded roster, so there's room to take a chance on LeBron's son. Bronny James has an incredible feel for the game after learning from his father and has a solid 6-4 frame. He had a so-so freshman season at USC, averaging 4.8 points and 27% shooting from 3-point range, but has the potential to be a solid pro. James also could come with a huge bonus if his father follows through with his intention to play at least one season with his son.

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