The Pallilog

Rays are a solid team, but Astros should advance

Astros Rays Charlie Morton
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The Astros start their postseason 11 wins away from putting a glorious ribbon around what would rank as one of the greatest single seasons in Major League Baseball history. Last year the Red Sox finished off their claim, winning 108 regular season games then dethroning the Astros en route to winning the World Series. The 107 win Astros open their American League Division Series as big favorites against Tampa Bay, but the Rays are no million to one shot.

Any 96 win team should be taken seriously, even though the lone Ray who would crack the Astro lineup is outfielder Austin Meadows. For context, his September was as good as Alex Bregman's, his season better than Yuli Gurriel's. Overall though the Rays have a middling offense. Their four home run clubbing of Oakland in the Wild Card game was stout, but for the season the Rays finished ninth of 15 AL teams in runs scored. Their pitching is way better than middling. The Rays led the AL in earned run average (3.65 to the Astros' 3.66), and that's with pitching more than 20 percent of their innings against the Yankees and Red Sox. Manager Kevin Cash maneuvers a deep and versatile bullpen.

The Astros are of course extremely confident with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole starting games one and two. Rays' game one starter Tyler Glasnow has a better ERA than both. Big catch: Glasnow's 1.78 was compiled over only 12 starts. He was awesome the first month plus of the season before a forearm injury sidelined him for almost four months. Over the last three of his four comeback appearances Glasnow looked fantastic. He is capable of stifling the Astro attack, but probably for no more than five innings. Lord knows Verlander had numerous outings with puny run support this season. Cole draws last year's AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Like Glasnow Snell missed a chunk of the season to injury. Unlike Glasnow, Snell did not look good in his most recent outings.

The Astros understandably wouldn't guarantee Charlie Morton one year 17.9 million dollars so he signed with the Rays for two years 30 mil. The Astros in July traded for Zack Greinke who costs them more than 20 mil per season (pro rata this year, and the next two if not traded). Game three matchup in St. Petersburg: Greinke vs. Morton.

It will be portrayed as a stunning upset if the Rays deny the Astros a third straight American League Championship Series appearance. It would not be a stunning upset. Well, the Astros getting swept would be stunning. "Baseball happens" is really the only reason to pick the Rays. That's no way to hazard a guess. Astros in three.

The Yankees-Twins series is more evenly matched on paper. The form chart makes it a home run derby. The Twins shattered the single season homer record the Yankees set last season (267) by hitting 307. The Yankees hit 306. The Astros were third with 288.

And then there is the Texans...

Off all the matchups on the week five NFL schedule, Texans-Falcons is certainly one of them. The Texans are 2-2 after their pitiful offensive home showing in the loss to Carolina, but that's good for a share of first (and a share of last) in the AFC South. The Falcons' season is in much worse shape at 1-3, playing in an NFC South with a Saints' squad likely to win at least 10 games.

Bill O'Brien is a mediocre head coach, who produces mediocre teams. O'Brien is not a godawful head coach, though on average it's probably about every other game that he commits game or clock management somewhere from questionable to absurd. If the Texans' goal is to avoid having a bottom of the barrel coach more so than seeking greatness, that's just sad. The former isn't really their goal but it may as well be given the status quo. Maybe some year while O'Brien is still on the job the Texans break out of the mediocrity muck and look like a bonafide contender. Anyone not on the Texans' payroll believe that likely? How many ON the Texans' payroll truly believe that likely?

As an alleged creative offensive mind, O'Brien is calling the shots for one of the five teams to already twice this season fail to score 14 points in a game. The Texans pulling it off in both their home games. The Jaguars and Panthers have good defenses but if you don't score 14 points, your offense stunk like rotten eggs. Add in that the Jaguars and Panthers each came to town down one of their best defensive linemen, and a starting cornerback.

The Falcons are another of the teams with two sub-14 point offensive outputs. The Texans better win Sunday since next week they face their most likely loss of the season. At Kansas City.

Last season the Texans padded their fool's gold 11-5 record by beating a bunch of bad and/or backup quarterbacks. They've already faced two backups this season, and sit 2-2. But you cynic you, another division championship banner could be in the Texans' future.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. In the 162 game schedule era (1961-) only eight teams won more than the Astros' 107 this year. Only four of those eight won the World Series. 2. Another lackluster college football schedule this week. Next week: Texas-Oklahoma, Alabama at Texas A&M. 3. Most likely winners of the other Division Series: Bronze-Yankees Silver-Dodgers Gold-Cardinals


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CJ Stroud and Will Anderson Jr both made the list. Composite Getty Image.

Coming off a surprising playoff run with a rookie quarterback in 2023, expectations couldn't be higher for the Houston Texans heading into 2024.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco recently put his 2024 NFL Top 100 players list together, which includes six Texans players. Here's how Prisco has them ranked, and his outlook for the season.

No. 99 Edge Rusher Will Anderson Jr.

Just squeezing in the Top 100 is the Defensive Rookie of the Year, Will Anderson. “He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year after getting seven sacks. But he was much more than those sack numbers and his talent shows a player who can take a big jump to 12-15 sacks this season,” said Prisco.

No. 80 Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.

Next on the list is ballhawking corner Derek Stingley Jr. Prisco weighed in on Houston's standout defensive back. “After a disappointing 2022 rookie season, he flashed star potential last year for the Texans. He is a long corner who is capable of matching up in coverage with the game's best receivers.”

No. 77 Wide Receiver Nico Collins

This is where we see the first offensive player makes the list. Prisco shares his thoughts on Houston's top pass catcher. “After having 70 catches in his first two seasons, he had his breakout season in 2023 with 80 catches and a 16.2 yard-per-catch average. He is truly a big-play threat who should continue to grow with quarterback C.J. Stroud.”

No. 57 Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil

Prisco adds another offensive player to his list here. “He is one of the best in the league in pass protection, which is great news for C.J. Stroud. His ability to hold up in one-on-one situations is key to their offense,” said Prisco.

No. 38 Quarterback CJ Stroud

Can Stroud deliver an impressive sophomore season? “He was special as a rookie, leading the Texans to the playoffs. Now comes the hard part: Doing it again. I don't think that will be a problem because he has the look of being a star for a long time,” said Prisco.

No. 35 Danielle Hunter

The final player to make the list is the Texans' prized offseason addition. “He had 16 1/2 sacks for the Vikings last season, continuing to be a force off the edge. In Houston, he will team with Will Anderson Jr. to give the Texans a nice duo of pass rushers,” Prisco said.

One glaring omission is Texans superstar receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs had a down year in 2023 based on his standards. But don't be surprised if Diggs makes this list next year after a bounce back season with Stroud pulling the trigger at QB. And he'll be highly motivated, with the possibility of another mega-contract in sight.


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