The ideal scenario for being a successful major league baseball team is to have a winning record in the home stadium and break even on the road.
After a dozen games thus far in this early season through last weekend, the Houston Astros are sitting in first place in the American League West Division with an impressive  8-4 record going into the first game of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels which began at Minute Maid Park on Monday night,
Unlike years gone by, the 2017 squad seems to be able to do their best hitting in the latter stages of the games, even when they are trailing by as many as five runs.
For example, in their 10-6 win over Oakland Saturday, Houston became the first team to post a double-digit run total in a game in which it didn’t have a hit through six innings since Detroit won 10-4 at Cleveland on July 19, 1969.
Trailing 5-0, the Astros scored twice in the seventh and ninth innings and four times in the eighth. The finished the game with eight hits, worked eight walks and stole a season-high five bases. They now stand at 6-0 this season when scoring four or more runs.
Before Saturday’s exciting win, the Astros hadn’t come back after trailing by five or more runs since May 15, 2008 at San Francisco, according to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle. They did it twice on last week’s road trip in which they won four-of-five.
“There’s no panic in this team,” commented George Springer, who shares the major league home run title after clubbing his sixth Saturday in the eighth inning to break the game open. “We know that all we’ve got to do is string together three or four at-bats in an inning and we could be right back in the game,” the slugging outfielder said.
Just 12 games into the season, the Astros (8-4) already have a better April than last year when a 7-17 first month spoiled an otherwise promising campaign, according to the Chronicle article. They have won nine straight games against the A’s dating back to last season.
Houston’s late-inning offense bailed out starting pitcher Lance McCullers, Jr. who allowed five runs and only completed 4 1/3 innings, which was only the third time the 23-year-old allowed five earned runs in his 39 major league starts.
McCullers was totally out-pitched by Oakland lefty Sean Manaea, who was replaced after hurling six innings of no-hit ball, although he did give up an earned run, five walks and threw 98 pitches. Of the 12 games the Astros played going into Monday’s game against the Angels, they have faced seven left-handed starting pitchers.
But the Astros unloaded on the A’s last four relievers—Liam Hendriks, Santiago Casilla, Sean Doolittle and Frankie Montas—who were each charged with two earned runs.
Nori Aoki, whose seventh-inning single off Ryan Dull was the team’s first base hit, and Jake Marisnick were the only Astros with two hits in the game.
The Astros, who began Monday’s home stand with a four-game winning streak, saw several players raise their anemic batting averages substantially. Two-time American League batting champion Jose Altuve, who got off to a slow start, elevated his average to .319 after spending the first week of the season below .200.
The Angels came to town Monday nursing a five-game losing streak.
KWICKIES…Roger Clemens’ younger son Kacy crushed a tie-breaking, two- run home run in the 10th inning to lead the Texas Longhorns to a 5-3 win and a series sweep over Baylor last weekend in Waco. Even with the three victories, the ‘Horns still are sitting at 7-8 in the Big 12 Conference. However, their overall record is a respectable 24-15.
And while on the subject of college baseball, the Lamar baseball team had a great week, winning four games without a loss. Last Tuesday the Cards walloped Grambling State 11-2 and on the weekend swept three games in the Southland Conference from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 4-2, 8-2 and 6-4. The Lamar ladies’ softball team won two-of-three from Central Arkansas, sweeping a doubleheader on Friday 2-0 and 5-4 before losing on Saturday 2-0.
A lot closer to home, junior Chad Dallas hurled a complete-game no-hitter against Little Cypress-Mauriceville last Wednesday as the West Orange-Stark Mustangs blanked the Bears 9-0 to remain undefeated (6-0) in District 22-4A. Dallas whiffed 13 Bears and went 2-for-three at the plate with a couple of RBI’s.
And speaking of West Orange-Stark, the Mustangs will host the Class 4A Region III track and field championships today. The meet will pit the top four finishers from each school in their respective events. Districts 22-4A and 21-3A will send their event winners to the Region III championships April 28 and 29 at Sam Houston State in Huntsville.
The Houston Texans exercised their fifth-year option on All-Pro Jadeveon Clowney last weekend. The former South Carolina All-American and first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft was entering the final year of his four-year contract. He is now under contract to the Texans through the 2018 season. If Clowney played the 2018 season without a contract extension, he would make $13.8 million.
And speaking of the Houston Texans, they will have one pick in each of the seven rounds of next week’s 2017 NFL draft. They will pick 25th in the first three rounds and the last two, 24th in Round 4 and 36th in Round 5. Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson was one of the Texans top 30 draft prospects who visited the meetings Monday and Tuesday. The Texans also have an official visit planned with Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Last Friday Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria  made out his lineup card with three players named Garcia in each outfield position—Avisail Garcia in right, Leury Garcia in center and Willy Garcia in left field. None of the three Garcias are related. There have been only three games in major league history in which the outfield has been filled with player of the same name, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Brothers Matty, Felipe and Jesus Alou all appeared in the outfield for the San Francisco Giants in September of 1963, but they never started the same game together. Each time one was added as a defensive replacement late in the game.
South Carolina native Wesley Bryan became the first golfer from his state to win the RBC Heritage played last weekend at Hilton Head by a single stroke over Luke Donald. It was his first tournament victory on the PGA Tour. And for Donald, it was his fifth second-place finish in the Heritage since 2009. Bryan fired rounds of 69-67-68-67—271 and pocketed a cool $1.17 million.
JUST BETWEEN US…The first round of the NBA playoffs began last weekend with the home team winning all but three opening games. Milwaukee defeated Toronto 97-83, Utah nipped the LA Clippers 97-95 and the Chicago Bulls downed the Boston Celtics 105-102. The two Lone State franchises—the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets–each breezed to easy victories. I don’t believe either the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors will win this year’s event.