ASTROS ROAD TO AL WEST TITLE BLOCKED BY SEATTLE, OAKLAND
There’s not much disagreement that the 2018 edition of the Houston Astros has the strongest starting pitchers in the major leagues. Their defense is more than adequate, but their hitting and ability to score runs is suspect.
Houston started the season strong and maintained first place in the American League West throughout the first half of the schedule. The starting pitching staff led the league in most categories—combined wins, earned run average and strikeouts—just to name a few.
The team continued to drive in runs with runners in scoring position and made the keen defensive plays when they were needed the most.
But as the team entered the second half of the season, the injuries that had been avoided earlier began to occur—pulled leg muscles, tight muscles in the pitcher’s arms and shoulders, sore knees, twisted ankles and cramps.
The disabled list kept growing and growing and the team was forced to call up players from Fresno who weren’t supposed to be promoted until September 1 when rosters expanded to 40 players.
It seemed like a shuttle bus with players being summoned to fill a roster spot for an injured player and then being sent back to Fresno when that player rehabbed and was ready to play for the Astros again.
Starting players such as Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers, Jr., Jake Marisnick and then three-time batting champion and Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve went on the 10-day disabled list but remained on the shelf much longer than 10 days.
Some of the more cautious baseball writers began to dig up such statistics like since major league baseball went to the wild card system in 1995, only six of 23 World Series champions posted more than 73 victories in their first 120 games, according to last weekend’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.
Those not so worried about the direction Houston is headed pointed out that the Astros are included on the list of six by posting a 74-46 three-fourths through the 2018 season. But they must remember that Houston had a 20-8 September.
Last year at this time the Astros led the AL West by double-digit figures. Their main competition came from the Los Angeles Angels, who faded into oblivion and just recently reached the .500 mark.
But today the two teams that have been giving the Astros nightmares are the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners. It has been three years since the Astros were tested by the West in the middle of August’s heat.
Seattle went on a winning streak and took over first place last month until they went into a swoon and as of Sunday’s action stood 4½ games behind the Astros. That figure should change after the three-game series with the Astros that began Monday in Seattle. Houston is currently mired in a slump that has produced only seven wins in the last 20 games.
The Astros biggest concern is the Oakland A’s who were 12 games behind Houston on June 18 and tied with them momentarily for first place on August 18. They are very similar to last year’s Astros who were young but hungry for victory.
Fortunately for Houston, there are only three games remaining between the two teams with a quarter of the season left to play. They will take place next week at Minute Maid Park where the A’s won three out of four in July.
Oakland is operating with one of the lowest payrolls in MLB. Perhaps the fans are not as hungry for winning as the A’s organization because they have the third-lowest average home attendance in MLB. But the A’s are 18-8 since the All-Star break.
Houston’s record at Minute Maid Park is a puny 33-29. But they still are leading the red-hot Boston Red Sox with their 42-20 (.6774) road record going into Monday’s game compared to Boston’s 44-21 (6769) mark away from Fenway Park.
The Houston Astros have 17 home games remaining and MUST do a better job winning at Minute Maid Park.
KWICKIES…The new rule about leading with the helmet to make a tackle is a concern to the defensive players, coaches and even the referees themselves. After all, when kids learn to tackle in the Pop Warner league, they are told to put their helmet into the ball carrier. It’s been a problem after only two weeks of NFL exhibition games and it will probably get worse before it gets better.
Denver Broncos president John Elway has been looking for a back-up quarterback, but it won’t be controversial Colin Kaepernick, who was offered a contract but turned it down. Kaepernick declined to take a pay cut from his $11.9 million salary to facilitate a trade to the Broncos in 2016 following Peyton Manning’s retirement.
And speaking of Kaepernick, who started all this national anthem hullabaloo, three members of the world champion Philadelphia Eagles elected to stay off the field during the anthem last Thursday. Defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and De’Vante Bausby along with defensive lineman Michael Bennett were not on the field for the anthem, according to a twitter by NBC Philadelphia.
And while on the subject of the national anthem, ESPN said it will not show the anthem on its “Monday Night Football” telecasts. ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told reporters the league did not pressure the network and added that the NFL was informed of the decision as a courtesy.
Orange native R.C. Slocum was named to McNeese State’s All-75th anniversary team. Before taking over the reins of the Texas A&M program, where he won 123 games– which was more than any other Aggie coach in the school’s history– Slocum ranks third all time in receiving yards and receptions by the Cowboys’ tight ends among his many honors during his career as a player and a coach.
JUST BETWEEN US…Brandt Snedeker fired an opening round of 59 Thursday in the PGA Tour Wyndham Championship and led after every round for a three-stroke victory over C.T. Pan at Greensboro, N.C., who hit his tee shot on the 72nd hole out of bounds and suffered a double bogey while Snedeker made birdie. Of the several PGA members who shot a round under 60, Snedeker is only the fifth player to win the tournament.