10 reasons to believe in the 2017 Astros


This is kind of like when you teach a child to ride a bicycle. There is all that angst as they fail and fall, wobble and wiggle and finally kind of get it. Astro fans have been burnt so many times before that it is difficult to completely believe in this team that has taken the baseball world by storm in 2017. We are waiting for the next Oops.

So while you are wringing your hands, wrap your hands and your mind around these ten reasons to believe in this season’s team.

  1. Strength down the middle. Heard it forever….it is so important for a team’s performance to have that strong core at C, 2B, SS and CF. Go back to last week’s post.     https://chipalatta.com/2017/07/07/when-you-look-up-offense-in-the-dictionary/     It is pretty certain that CF George Springer, 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa and two-headed catcher Brian McCann and Evan Gattis constitute either the first or second best offensive performer at those positions in the AL. This is the best combination up the middle in the majors.
  2. The top is tops. Going back to that same post – the Astros have had the best performance out of their first three spots in the lineup vs. any other team in the AL. Paired with strength at the end of the lineup this has given the team an impenetrable gauntlet for opposing pitchers to face.
  3. Resilient as the waist band of my pants. Ignore the fact that their #3 pitcher coming into 2017, Collin McHugh has not thrown a pitch in the majors to date. Ignore the fact that his replacement at #3, Charlie Morton, missed 6 weeks of the season or that both #2 Lance McCullers and #5 Joe Musgrove spent time on the DL. When their best pitcher and one of the best pitchers in baseball, Dallas Keuchel, last pitched on June 2nd, they were 39-16 and 12.5 games up in their division. Since then, heading out of the All Star break, the Astros have been 21-13 (a 100 win pace) and are now 16.5 games up in the division. Resilient!!
  4. The cavalry is coming. There are always naysayers, but it is hard to picture the Astros being worse after the return of Keuchel, McHugh and Morton (who came back last week). They have Brad Peacock pitching at a high level wherever they choose to use him and they have given major league experience to Francis Martes, who should be better for it whether they keep him up or send him down and call him back later.
  5. Offensive variety. After several years where it seemed that the Astros’ scoring was tied to the long ball, the team has it all this season, best in hits, best in batting average, doubles, on base percentage and on and on. They still can whack home runs, but they can string four singles in a row, they can knock guys in from 3rd on sacrifice flies and if you screw up and commit an error against them, expect a long inning.
  6. 2015. Yes, it is a new team, a different team. Yes, they failed in 2015. But just like Mr. Martes has learned from his experiences this year, Altuve, Correa, Springer, Marwin Gonzalez, Evan Gattis, Jake Marisnick, Keuchel, McHugh, and others learned from being in a playoff race and learned from winning a play-in game and taking the eventual World Champs to the brink of elimination.
  7. Grizzled Grey Hairs. The Astros went out and brought in veterans to help cement this team and they will be even more important in the second half as the first half of the season. McCann, Josh Reddick, Nori Aoki, Carlos Beltran and Charlie Morton are all 30 years old and up and should continue to be the Yodas to the youngsters in this pennant race.
  8. Look Around. At least when it comes to the division – who is going to put on a charge and catch the Astros? Nope nobody.
  9. There’s a Killer on the Road. And they are named the Astros. The Astros are a not shabby 27-18 at home, a 97 win pace. They are an insane 33-11 on the road, which is a 121 win pace. Nothing bothers them. They win on the road, at home, with untested rookies and Cy Young candidates pitching for them.
  10. The GM and the Owner. Jeff Luhnow and the front office have served up the best team in the AL and one of the best in the majors for the 16th highest team salary ($136 million)in the majors according to Spotrac.com. We should trust the mad scientist and his minions a bit at this point. And we should trust that Jim Crane will support the front office with any move they make between now and the deadline as he said he would. He said he would have his front office completely tear this team down and minimize salary and that he would then pony up in a bigger and bigger way each year and he has done that. They have shown you don’t have to spend like the Dodgers ($252 million) to perform like the Dodgers.

Oh and I forgot to mention the great job A.J. Hinch, Brent Strom , Dave Hudgens!!! and the rest of the coaches have done. And Chris Devenski and the rest of the bullpen. And Marwin. And Jake from State Farm and…hey I could have made this 20 reasons to believe in this team.

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199 comments on “10 reasons to believe in the 2017 Astros

  1. Nope….not tonight. Leaving 11 men on base isn’t the way to win too many games.
    Poor Joe…he’s gonna go back to Fresno😦. Who knows we might be jumping on all these assumptions, and Luhnow didn’t really make a trade.

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  2. Yes, but the bats will not do it every night. Joe had two strikes on both of his batters in the 6th. He is not yet a finisher. Hinch has done a great job putting Sipp on the mound in low leverage situations. Tonight, Tony got a real shot. The son of a gun always seems to throw a bad pitch though. I do not see either one of these guys in a playoff roster.

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  3. There should be no moaning about this loss. It was a giveaway game by Hinch in the first place.
    He started a guy with a 6.04 ERA against their #1 who was on the All-Star team. There was no LMJ to be found and he hasn’t pitched in 9 days. The crowd was a sellout at home and they get Musgrove, Sipp, Hoyt and Martes to see on Saturday night.
    We hit five balls to the warning track and lined out twice to corner infielders with runners in scoring position. We played good defense and had one miraculous play by our SS and our starting pitcher decided to give their lead off guy the same pitch he got to start the game last night. In the rally that beat us Musgrove had Sano 0-2 and walked him to lead off the inning. What’s new? Sipp gets blamed for something that he didn’t do anything wrong on and Musgrove left him with the bases loaded and nobody out and Sipped pitched great.
    This game was a giveaway because of lousy planning by management on pitchers.
    It worked out perfectly for the team that started their ace.

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    • Its a loss and makes no difference, but it shows 11 LOB in the box score but shows the batters LOB 21. Again, a loss is a loss, but we had multiple chances to hit a single and change the game.

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      • I’m not going to either. He is not the same pitcher he was two years ago and I am ready for someone else to take his place.
        But, he still pitched great in an impossible situation tonight and the only thing he did was try and field a ball over his head. He got that ground ball and nothing went right on that play but he did make the pitch and then pitched out of an even bigger jam to keep the Astros close. The Astros didn’t score any runs tonight when they had a chance. But that’s because the Twins pitched their best starter, their #1, and then put in their 3 best relievers. They won the game.
        We put in our worst starter and three weak relievers. We lost the game.

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      • Over the last month Sipp has a 2.00 ERA, with 11 K/9 and xFIP of 2.66. Sipp has been exactly what we hoped from him over the past month, which is more like the Sipp of 2014 and 2015. He’s a serviceable bullpen arm who experienced a bit of bad luck last night, but not a major concern.

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    • But not on the same team. The Indians and Red Sox each have a #1. Price is not a #1 and Porcello is, and always has been with Boston, an average MORP to BORP. His Cy Young last year doesn’t change this as he was one of the luckiest pitchers in baseball last year. Go get another solid bullpen piece and I’ll match our rotation up against anyone else in baseball, and no one can match our offense.

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      • I agree Tim, but you’re overlooking the injury possibilities. If McHugh doesn’t make it back and LMJ or DK goes down. Then what.

        That’s the DaveB cynic coming out in me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve gone back and forth on the issue of getting another starter. I’ve always been in favor, and remain so, but I’m back to thinking Sonny Gray might be the guy. As of late, he’s pitching like the old Sonny Gray. Getting the starter, by extension, just makes the pen that much more solid. And does anyone really know what the real deal with Keuchel is?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. My son took us to the game last night. Some thoughts:
    – Sorry Becky – last night was not Sipp’s fault. He was put in with the bases loaded and no out. He got the ground ball that might have limited the damage but unfortunately tipped it.
    – The Astros hit in tremendously bad luck last night – I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many balls hit on the screws that were at somebody. And there were about 4 balls that if they had been connected about a mm different would have gone out. Really high balls that went to the warning track.
    – The crowd was big and was on the edge of getting loud but did not have that one big hit that would have got them rolling.
    – Even with the lack of scoring watching these guys work the counts on an All Star pitcher is fascinating.

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  5. Nope….not gonna change my mind. Las night may hAve been just bad luck, but I don’t trust Tony Sipp as far as I can spit, and I can’t spit.

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    • Very rarely can you escape a bases loaded no out situation with no runs scoring. The real problem was Musgrove not closing the deal when he had two strikes on hitters. He was good at times, but walking a guy from 0-2 drives me crazy. When he let the first two guys on in the 6th I was hoping Hinch would replace him, but I don’t think Sipp or anyone else was ready, so he did not replace him until the bases were loaded and I would guess you maybe get out of that 10-15% of the time without a run scoring.

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      • I just looked it up and in general it is in that 10-12% of the time that no runs score based on historical looks at the major leagues and that the average is about 2.2 runs scored when those situations show up. It is not reasonable to expect them to get out of that unscathed no matter who you bring in.

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  6. Perhaps I’m being too hard on Sipp. As Tim correctly points out, he has been mostly effective for more than a month now. I do think that Hinch has used him very carefully though, frequently in low leverage situations. But if our only lefty in the pen rediscovers what he did for us in 2014 and 2015, that would be a heck of a boost, especially if Luhnow manages to bring a second reliable lefty into the pen over the next few weeks.

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  7. Yes, and I got my answer. In this case, not enough Altuves, even though me screaming at the tv. But like u say, they a run in front anyway.

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  8. Two thoughts today.

    1. Remember the first year and 1/2 that DK was up and he was just throwing. He had no plan to execute. He finally understood what he needed to do and then it was just execution. That is what I see in Musgrove. He is throwing what is called but has no idea how to set up and then put away the hitter.

    2. Aoki is one of our weak links. He is hitting .268 in 2017. But had he hit that in 2016, only Altuve (.338) and Correra (,274) would have been better. What a difference a year makes.

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    • As to Sipp last three years.

      WHIP 1.031, 1.603, 1.098
      FIP 2.93, 6.19, 3.84
      ERA 1.99, 4.95, 3.95
      BB 15, 18, 11 (27 Innings to date)
      Ks 62, 40 28 (to date)
      SO/BB 4.13, 2.22, 2.55

      We can all agree in a limited sample he is better in 2017 compared to last year, but not nearly as effective as 2014 or 2015. Also, he has never averaged one inning per appearance. He is supposed to be a specialist.

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      • Totally agree – Sipp is better than last year and not as good as before.
        And I agree we could use another lefty who is better than him.
        I was just defending how Sipp pitched last night. He had bad luck on the ball he tipped, but then he dug in and kept the game there. He could have easily ended up giving up a 4 or more runs.

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  9. Seven innings. One pitcher. This is the old days. Or as they say now, “Back in the day,” cause they don’t know when it was.

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  10. WHEW……that was waaay too close.
    Heard Luhnow say this afternoon, that he was gonna wait until the very end of the deadline to “possibly” make a trade. What he meant….”not too impressed with what’s available out there right now…especially not interested in giving up a bunch of our top prospects”. What I took from that is….no Sonny Grey in an Astros uniform.

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  11. Fires was BRILLIANT today…..only gave up those single homeruns, didn’t walk anyone and had 12 strikeouts. Luhnow and Hinch are gonna have to make some tough decisions, to make when Keuchel and McHugh get back. We already know where Musgrove is gonna end up…..Peacock and Fires? Only thing I don’t want is to let the arlington little league to scoop up one of these guys😠!!
    McCullers starts tomorrow…..let’s hope he doesn’t have a blister.

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    • Why? Giles is already a ‘shut the door closer’. He has not blown a single save when he’s started the 9th inning. He hasn’t pitched in over a week and he got the job done. This fretting over Giles is way over blown.

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    • Dan, I personally would like to see McHugh start at least one game against AAA hitters – especially a team like Las Vegas [team BA .277 – and is Thursday’s opponent for Fresno] or Round Rock [team BA is .266, and is Friday’s opponent for the Griz]. No need to rush the Q.

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  12. Yes! Best news ever about McHugh!! I’m crossing my fingers that Keuchel won’t need more than 2 rehab starts. Glad these boys don’t have a day off tomorrow, keep the line moving!! If I’m reading correctly, the A’s, really want either MLB players or guys who are 100% ready to play right now. That might be the kink in the discussions about getting Sonny to Houston, and really who could blame them. They aren’t doing a full blown tear down, but when you trade the two really good bullpen pieces, and your looking to tade your ace, and 2nd baseman with 58 more games to play you gotta get back guys who can play right now! Who do you think they want? My guess is Bregman, Martes, K Tucker and Fisher…..and maybe Feliz. Should be an interesting next 2 weeks.

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      • In two playoff starts against KC Royals – he pitched very well in Game 1 win (6 IP / 2 runs) and very meh in Game 5 loss (4 IP/3 runs). Not sure where that leaves him as a #3

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    • At this point, barring a further injury to anyone, Colin should come back slotted in as our #5 [displacing Musgrove]. The last time he was a TOR guy [i.e. a solid #2 behind Keuchel] was in 2014, when his ERA was 2.73 and his WHIP was 1.022. In 2015 his ERA went up to 3.89 [higher than Fiers’ is now], and his WHIP went up to 1.277 [right even with Fiers now]. That was MOR terrritory. Then in 2016 his ERA exploded even further, ending at 4.34; while His WHIP got really bad, ending at 1.408. The only two of all the guys who have started for us this year that presently have WHIPS that bad are Paulino [1.48] and Musgrove [1.51].

      In short, Colin’s return is not likely to be our salvation. The question is whether he can at least pitch well enough to turn his decidedly negative trend around and salvage his career.

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  13. Fiers had me worried, but when he gets that curve going he can pitch. Those two homers brought back nightmares, but then he had the Twins guessing the rest of the day. Of course, he didn’t throw another belt high change up the rest of the day either.
    Marisnick and Altuve broke Minnesota’s heart today. They didn’t have any more gumption after those two runs and seemed to be going through the motions. Of course those two walks in the ninth could have woken them up again, but it was short-lived.
    I am so ready for Kalas, Blummer and Julia. This past week or two of broadcasting has been torture. The definition of repetitious is saying the same thing over and over and Eschenfelder has the worship deal down pat.
    Anxious to see how Keuchel pitches tomorrow.
    Fantastic crowds at MMP this weekend. The Astros are now averaging over 31,000 and are 13th in attendance at home.
    I won’t believe what Luhnow says about trades until August 1.

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  14. I’ve been on the road quite a bit the last year and have followed the Astros mostly by radio, often listening to the broadcast of the opposition. I can say that Ford and Sparks are WAY better than most of the broadcast duos from other cities. When Ford and Sparks first started several years ago I was not impressed, but they have grown on me. I’ll admit Sparks is a bit quirky, but he can be very perceptive when it comes to glitches in pitcher deliveries and hitches in batter’s swings. I find Ford very professional and an absolute baseball nerd, which I think is a good combination.

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    • I echo your sentiments. I used to cringe listening to Sparks, but he has made huge strides and is, at the very least, tolerable. For me, I cringe when Blum or Kalas are gone because we’re stuck listening to the repetitive Eshenfelder or torturous Stanton.

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  15. Glad to see Nori Aoki get back involved in the Astros’ offense yesterday – and see him get the fat part of the bat on the ball he drove to the wall for a 2 RBI double. We are a much better team with him hitting the ball, getting on base, and giving us someone who is very hard to strike out, in the 9 position. If Springer hadn’t had an O-fer, we would probably scored at least two more runs.

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  16. Monday mornings are a good time for looking at stats.
    -The Houston Astros have five of the top 20 batting averages in the AL with Altuve #1, Correa #4, Reddick #10, Springer #12 and Gurriel #16.
    -Mike Fiers’s ERA sits at 3.75, good enough for 13th in the AL among qualifiers. Here are a few pitchers who are below him in the rankings:
    Archer, Bundy, Pineda, Quintana, Porcello Verlander, Hammel, Holland, M. Estrada, Tanaka, Bauer, Zimmerman, Miley, Tomlin and Gausman.
    -The Astros lead the majors in wild pitches with 50. They were highest in the majors in 2016 by a wide margin. Hopefully getting their rotation back will help with that.
    -The Astros have the best record in the AL by 10.5 games over Boston and for six weeks had a rotation of Fiers, Peacock, Musgrove, Martes and Paulino.
    In two weeks that rotation hopefully will be Keuchel, LMJ, Morton, McHugh and Fiers.
    -National League contenders are acting and AL contenders are whispering.

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    • That 3.75 ERA for Mike Fiers is .10 lower than his career average. His 1.27 WHIP is one point higher than his career average. If he could just lower his WHIP by five or six percentage points, and get the home runs down to an average of one or less per start, he would become a solid option for the 3rd spot in the rotation behind Keuchel and McCullers. Keep in mind that our present #3, Charlie Morton, has an ERA of 4.06 [31 points higher than Fiers] and a WHIP of 1.35. The three main reasons that Morton’s record is better than Fiers seems to be 1. Morton has given up less than half the home runs that Fiers has; 2. Morton’s K/9 is a bit better; and 3. the offense has given Morton a lot better run support. The biggest problem I see with either of those as our #3 is that they average barely over 5.0 innings per start.

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    • The main culprits on that wild pitch count [if we choose to close our eyes and assume that none of the blame goes to catchers], are:

      Fiers – 7 WPs
      Feliz & Paulino – 5 WPs apiece
      Gregerson, McCullers, Hoyt, and Dias – 4 WPs apiece

      And I should point out, that among the leaders on our staff for fewest WPs, is Nori Aoki, with zero. He is joined at the top by only one current staff member – Chris Devenski. Admittedly, the Dragon has just a few more innings of wild pitch-free pitching on the year than Aoki does.

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  17. I’ve said this before, and I’ll regurgitate it again…. the Stros need to make a run for the Pads’ Trevor Cahill. Dude is legit. This team is loaded, but need ONE more TOR arm to complete the squad for the postseason. Cahill will probably only cost one or two prospects. Did I mention he’s legit?!?

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    • He’s an interesting choice Bo.
      Plus side – has pitched very well the last couple years. Very little salary commitment (Salary $1.75 million for whole year). High K/9 IP. Is a rental so should not cost as much. The Padres are going nowhere and might be interested.

      Negative side – missed a month with an injury. Was a reliever the last two seasons, so getting into new territory with innings already. Has gotten through 6 innings in 4 of 10 starts.

      Sure would be worth checking out – but would say he is more likely a #3 pitcher than a TOR, but a solid #3.

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    • The Padres may be asking more for Cahill than you think. If the math doesn’t add up….well you know the drill.
      The one thing I see about Cahill that might give Luhnow the creeps about him is that he has given up 5 HRs in 32 innings on the road and only 1 HR in 26 innings at home. The ballpark in SD is huge and MMP is tiny. The vision of balls flying out in MMP may not be one that has Luhnow dancing the tango with Cahill. It could turn out like dancing the fungo.

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  18. Hey, #3 in the playoffs works just fine! I’ve watched him out dual Kluber and Samardzija since his return from the DL. His stuff is just flat nasty. And his control is excellent.

    Meanwhile, the shoulder discomfort from Will Harris scares me a little. Good pitching and defense beats good hitting in the postseason.

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  19. Can you imagine being a player for the Corpus Christi Hooks and having Collin McHugh on the mound and in your dugout? Then, on Monday night, Dallas Freaking Cy Young Keuchel is on the mound and in your dugout?
    You’re Franklin Perez and you’re 19 and just got promoted to CC and haven’t thrown a pitch for them. All of a sudden you go from a ballpark in Buies Creek that holds a thousand people to sitting on the bench by Dr. Who and The Beard.
    I love baseball!!

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  20. The Buies Creek Astros only got through four innings yesterday before the rain came. But one player not in the Buies Creek line-up for the 2nd straight day was Yordan Alvarez.

    The Corpus Christi Hooks played 10 innings yesterday and won 2-1 in the 10th. One player who was not even used to pinch hit was Kyle Tucker.

    And by the way, hidden in the hype of all the rehab starts, one promising young Hooks pitcher whose turn in the rotation is quietly being skipped is Franklin Perez.

    Sheer coincidence, Sherlock.

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  21. Picture this:
    You have a 24 year-old 3B/1B prospect who is hitting .306/.370/.545/.916 in AAA. He has 18 HRs and 14 doubles and more RBIs(63) than he has strikeouts(55).
    And this guy is only the #26 ranked prospect in your organization.
    Colin Moran is highly underrated.

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  22. A quote from Scott Servais in MLB.com this morning: “It’s tight in the American League, obviously. I don’t think anybody’s really separated themselves.”

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Last year Altuve played in 161 games and Springer in all 162. This year Altuve already benched for 3 games and Springer 6. This proves beyond a doubt the Astros are depressing their numbers for this year so they can save money at arbitration time. (Well at least in my mind)

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  24. Lucas Harrell DFA’d by Toronto. I don’t know why, but that makes me sad. Lucas just could not ever put it all together. I guess his head was harder than his fastball. For one year, he was the best pitcher the Astros had.

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    • Lucas Harrell is probably a guy who has all the symptoms of adult ADHD. I have one of those kids, and although she was very bright, she couldn’t (still can’t ) stay focused. I remember when he was able to tune out the noise, and would pitch a BRILLIANT game! Then someone would commit an error…..and he would come apart at the seems. He absolutely HATED the crazy shifting behind him, and he was quite vocal about it. His problems were, and stil are……mental. I wish him all the best.

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  25. Franklin Perez will follow Keuchel on the mound tonight and make his AA debut. Keuchel said he hopes to go 3 or four innings tonight.

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  26. Jake 2 for 2 with a HR? Regression to norm? I think not…unless this IS the new norm.

    Not a good start by Lance…

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  27. Huge 4 run rally to flip the score and put the Astros up 6-5. Apparently burying Beltran’s glove did not stop him from launching a big 2 run homer.

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