How the Astros can save us from Houston sports woes

Enter the 2021 Houston Astros to save the day. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Some senses are easily triggered. Sound and smell can cause us to do and feel some strange things. I often wonder what sounds and/or smells trigger different types of emotions in people. The sense of touch also plays a part in this. When you hear a particular sound, smell a certain smell, you often feel something as well. When those sounds and smells join together in harmony with that sense of touch, it can be exhilarating!

I've often read and heard about the sights and sounds of Spring Training. The smell of freshly cut grass. The sound of the first crack of the bat or ball hitting a mitt. The sight of the sun peeking in over the fences and kissing the field at dawn as the sprinkler systems have just finished watering the fields in Florida and Arizona. Ahhhh...bliss!

I was driving around at work and heard that the Astros had their first Spring Training game the other day. It caught me off guard because I wasn't ready. I was so used to hearing about all the drama with Deshaun Watson and the Texans. Then the Rockets got in on the party with all of their shenanigans. As much of a gut punch as this city has taken (sports and otherwise), it sure could use an escape. Enter the 2021 Houston Astros to save the day.

While this team may not be considered as strong a contender as they were in the past few years, they still have a shot at contending. The AL West is not a murder's row division, so it can be had. The Angels are still throwing money at their problems hoping it works. The Rangers are terrible and shouldn't be feared at all. The Mariners don't present a challenge either. The A's may be able to push the 'Stros, but aren't as talented and should be put down.

Pitching will be a bit of an issue, so will a few spots in the lineup, but this team still has enough talent to get the job done. Will they have to change their style up a bit? Yes. Will things look different without George Springer at leadoff and Justin Verlander as the ace? Of course. But there are some young pitchers and position players who'll have to step up. There's also the fact that Jose Altuve will bounce-back from a bad season because he's in a better place now. Carlos Correa stepped up as a leader last season and expressed his will to be an Astro long-term. Yordan Alvarez is back and apparently healthy. Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, and Jose Urquidy could take a step forward. Lance McCullers Jr. is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Zack Greinke is a veteran who knows how to pitch. And what if Forrest Whitley can actually contribute something meaningful?

I know there's a lot of maybes and what ifs involved, but there are enough constants on this roster to make up for the lack of sure things. If those constants hit their averages or above, and the maybe/what ifs fill some of their potential, I can see another ALCS appearance and maybe more. When I look at the rest of the American League, the only team that I think will be a force for sure is the Yankees. Any other team doesn't scare me as much if at all. The National League has a few teams that present more of a challenge. All that being said, I'm so glad the Astros are here to save us from the foolishness the Rockets and Texans are putting out there.

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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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