Unsung Astros

Short-handed Astros are showing us why we should #NeverSettle

Rondon is making his case to stay in the closer's role. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There’s a difference between being disappointed when a star player gets hurt and giving up hope. Which category were you in? Let’s rewind a little bit.

  • May 29: Brian McCann lands on the DL with right knee soreness.

McCann is replaced with Federowicz. One starter on the DL—not bad.

  • June 26: Carlos Correa hits the DL with back soreness.

This one hurts, but it’s okay. We’ve got bats to spare.

  • July 28: Jose Altuve get sent to the DL with a right knee injury.

Jose Altuve hits the DL for the first time in his career, and it comes when we drop three straight to the Rangers. Nice.

  • August 3: Chris Devenski goes to the 10-day DL with left hamstring tightness.

A reliable arm from the bullpen joins relief pitcher Jandel Gustave on the DL. Okay, that’s enough.

  • August 4: Lance McCullers Jr. leaves game, is placed on 10-day DL the following day with elbow discomfort.

Down goes a pitcher from our impressive starting rotation that’s been used consistently from opening day.

  • August 6: George Springer sent to the DL with a left thumb injury.

Seriously?

 

Welcome back. It’s been tough for the defending world champs when it comes to injuries, but have you given up on them? Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t.

They’re still winning games.

Starting July 28, when Altuve left the lineup, the Astros are 6-4. With a couple of tough losses in that ten-game stretch, they’re still winning some important series, including those against the Mariners and the Dodgers.

The Astros also maintain the second-best record in all of baseball, only behind the Red Sox, staying ahead of last season’s pace. With Carlos Correa hopefully returning soon, the team will have even more help in continuing that pace.

Players are taking on positions that they’re not necessarily used to.

Gurriel has started at second base only three times in his MLB career—both of them were this season. Bregman has also returned to shortstop, a position that he hasn’t played in much since coming to Houston. These guys are helping manager AJ Hinch be creative with these lineups with several starters not playing.

Players like JD Davis and Tyler White are also seeing their names on the lineup cards a lot more often in these unusual lineups. White has more than earned his spot in the lineup recently with some important hits in crucial innings. The 27-year-old has nine hits including Tuesday’s go-ahead homer in his last seven outings with the ‘Stros.

The pitching has been excellent. Yes, even the bullpen!

We’ve talked about a few names from the bullpen this season—in both good and bad lights—but right now, it’s about Héctor Rondón. He’s appeared in the closer spot a lot in recent games and has managed to impress many. In his three appearances in the month of August, Rondón has racked up three strikeouts with no earned runs.

It’ll be interesting to see how McCullers’ injury will play out, but in the meantime, the Astros are keeping their pitching in a good place with an MLB-best team ERA of 3.00, despite missing guys like Devenski and McCullers.

This is a team that can win another World Series.

All in all, we can be a little bit pissed at the baseball gods for how these injuries have stacked up. We can also look forward to the return of these injured players. What we cannot do is count this team out. They’re proving to us with each game that we should never settle and to expect every bit of fight they have in that clubhouse to be laid out on the field day after day. This is the kind of team you need to win back-to-back championships.

 

 

 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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