Kaz’s Korner

Joe Kazmar – For The Record

With  the 2016 major League Baseball season nearly one-quarter finished, our Houston Astros appear to be completely kaput as they continue to lose late leads with some boneheaded plays.

Last weekend’s four-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park was proof-positive that Houston is merely handing over victories to the opposition.

If the two teams were involved in a war against each other, the Astros could possibly be guilty of treason.

A walk here, a misplay there and the Astros’ late lead is all of a sudden in jeopardy.

I watched most of Saturday afternoon’s game in which Houston jumped out to a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the second inning and watched the Astros stagnate with those five runs while the Red Sox chipped away at the lead, getting single runs in the third and fourth innings.

The scored remained 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Houston’s game plan was to use their closer Luke Gregerson to keep the Red Sox off the bases so that slugger David Ortiz (aka “Big Papi”) would not come to the plate.

But Gregerson issued a walk to hot-hitting Jackie Bradley, Jr. which brought Big Papi to the plate representing the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. This is the situation in which Gregerson earns his fat salary.

Gregerson carefully threw Ortiz a low sinker outside and away and Big Papi drilled it to left center, just out of the reach of center fielder Jake Marisnick for a game-tying triple and a blown save for Gregerson that sent the game into extra-innings.

The same scenario occurred in the bottom of the 11th inning, but with 22-year-old Michael Feliz on the mound for Houston, who gave up a single and had to face Ortiz.

Feliz uncorked a wild pitch after getting two strikes on Ortiz and Astros’ catcher Jason Castro went to the mound and suggested Feliz throw a couple of pitches out of the strike zone.

Feliz did, throwing a high change-up that Ortiz blasted off the center field wall for  a game-winning double as the Red Sox came back for a 6-5 victory.

Big Papi is one of only three players in major league history with 500 home runs and 600 doubles. Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds are the others.

On Sunday, Houston had a chance to salvage a split of the four-game series and once again blew the opportunity. They have yet to manage a three-game winning streak this season and have failed to win each of their six series away from Minute Maid Park.

A scribe for the Houston Chronicle pretty much hit the nail on the head when he evaluated the Astros in Monday’s edition.

“When they hit, they typically don’t pitch well, and when they pitch well, they usually don’t hit. Sloppy play, a theme throughout their 39 games (15-24) was at the forefront again Sunday when Boston won 10-9,” the article pointed out.

“Carlos Gomez, the Astros struggling centerfielder who has not done many things right this season, called off right fielder George Springer on a two-out fly ball in the seventh inning and then let the ball drop tying the score at 9-9. Mookie Betts followed with a run-scoring triple that proved to be the winning run.”

Gomez has not been setting the world on fire offensively, either. He is hitting a paltry .181, has yet to hit a home run and has struck out in 34.8 per cent of his plate appearances. That’s why manager A.J. Hinch has planted him on the bench.

Perhaps Gomez was not working as hard as diminutive second baseman Jose Altuve because there’s a world of difference in the way they play the game.

According to Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, Altuve should fall just below J.J. Watt and James Harden among Houston’s largest sports heroes.

“He’s (Altuve’s) clearly the best Astro standing. He’s one of the greatest overall hitters in the modern game,” the article points out.

At the end of the Boston series, Altuve’s batting average rose to fourth in the American League (.340), his OPS was second (1.079), and he led the American League in runs (37), doubles (17) and stolen bases (15).

Despite the fact his team is struggling, Altuve is on track for the finest year in his short career. Number crunchers compare Altuve’s stats to Pete Rose’s after 707 career games and guess who leads in these key categories: hits, batting average, doubles, stolen bases and OPS?

Jose is the correct answer!!!

KWICKIES…Despite all the wet weather we’ve had during the month of May, Sunset Grove member Bart Williams knocked in his third career hole-in-one recently on the 158-yard, Par-3, No. 3 hole. Bart used a No. 4 Hybrid club which was witnessed by Dave McClenan and John Grooters.

The NBA Western Conference finals began Monday night at favored Golden State. But the way Oklahoma City disposed of the San Antonio Spurs, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Australian Jason Day won The PGA Tour Players Championship last weekend at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. by going wire-to-wire during the four-day event. Day posted a 273 to win by four strokes over Kevin Chappell and the $1.89 million first-place money.

JUST BETWEEN US…The final two home games of longtime Lamar Cardinals baseball coach Jim Gilligan didn’t turn out the way he would’ve liked but he certainly has some good memories on which to reflect over his 39 seasons at the helm of the Redbirds. Former teammates, players and friends filled Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont Saturday to bid farewell to the personable coach. They presented Gilligan with a personalized rocking chair and announced that the regular-season Southland Conference championship trophy would be re-named in his honor.