The Pallilog

No reason for Astros fans to panic

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Whistle if you thought the Astros would stink this season. If you are whistling you are a liar or an extremely negative person. But you would be right about the first week of the Astros' season. They stunk.

Two wins and five losses on their season opening road trip to St. Petersburg and Arlington was lousy. At no point last season did the Astros have a stretch in which they lost five out of seven road games played. This season's 2-5 stagger from the gate was put up the old-fashioned way, they earned it.

The prime culprit is the offense, which to be kind, has sucked. Opening Day the Astros scored 5 runs in beating last year's American League Cy Young Award winner. Their run totals by game since: 2, 1, 1, 4, 2, and 0. That's 10 runs total over the last six games. Of course, only silly people would be reaching for the panic button, those who I guess think Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley are going to hit .208 all season, and Jose Altuve .222.

The Astros spent on a franchise record-high payroll coming into this season, but so far it appears they forgot to include money in the budget to buy timely hits. Over the first seven games the Astros' batting average with runners in scoring position is 95. Not .195. .095. Four hits in 42 at bats. It is impossible for that degree of ineptitude to continue for much longer.

In the American League West, thanks to the Mariners very surprising 7-1 start the Astros are already four and a half games out of first place. The last time they were that far off the lead was the end of the 2016 season. For the Astros that was a postseason-less ending.

So while it's not remotely close to being at all make or break, this first homestand against the A's and Yankees takes on a little more importance than it would have seemed to carry a week ago. But If you'd like to bet me right now that the Astros won't make the playoffs this season, name your wager level.

On college basketball

Final Four weekend features the Texas Tech Red Raiders. In a twist on hell freezing over, Tech's presence perhaps explains the temperature in the 60s forecast for Minneapolis this weekend (snow is in the forecast for midweek). Tech and Auburn are both Final Four first timers. It would be amazing for both to reach Monday night's National Championship game. Neither is supposed to get there. Auburn is an underdog to Virginia as the Cavaliers make their first Final Four trip since they lost in the semifinals to the University of Houston in 1984. Texas Tech is a very small underdog to Michigan State which Tom Izzo has taken to the Final Four for an eighth time.

McCullough High School grad Chris Beard has done beyond spectacular work in three years as Head Coach of the Red Raiders, and rightfully will win the majority of college coach of the year awards. Kelvin Sampson is close behind him this season, so Coog fans should exhale with great satisfaction that Sampson has signed a new six year contract. Seems clear the Arkansas job opening merely set some parameters for Sampson's new UH deal. He earned the leverage, which no doubt helped his son Kellen get named "Head Coach in Waiting." Hey, if you were a Dad in the same spot you'd play the leverage card too.

Rockets down the stretch

The Rockets this weekend get to enjoy crushing the two worst teams (Knicks & Suns) in the NBA and then see what the stakes are for their regular season finale Tuesday at Oklahoma City. The Rockets and Trail Blazers have 28 losses with Portland holding the tiebreaker. The Nuggets have 26 losses and hold the tiebreaker over the Blazers. So…if the Rockets win out to finish 54-28, they need Denver to split its remaining four games for the Rockets to grab the number two seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets are home for the Blazers Friday night, then play at Portland Sunday and then at Utah Monday before their regular season finale at home vs. the Timberwolves. Most simply, the Rockets want the Nuggets to win their two home games and lose their two road games. Combine that happening with a Rocket win over the Thunder and the Rockets have two rounds of homecourt advantage. Regardless, the Rockets have done phenomenal work recovering from their stumblebum 11-14 start, since then going 40-14.

Buzzer beaters

1. The Beard vs. The Freak: last time the NBA MVP winner didn't at least triple the runner-up in first place votes was 2008. Kobe Bryant over Chris Paul. 2. Do you already miss the AAF? 3. Teams that made surprising Final Four runs the season after losing their star: Bronze-2004 Georgia Tech (Chris Bosh) Silver-1983 Georgia (Dominique Wilkins) Gold-1984 Virginia (Ralph Sampson)


Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome