2021 Astros at the quarter pole

After watching the Preakness on Saturday and seeing the underdog (under horse?) Rombauer surge from a sixth position early in the race to a win at the end, it was just a reminder that position early is not always a harbinger of things to come. However, with the Astros at the quarter pole, some things are fairly evident at this point in the season.

Offensive Proficiency. Even with some obvious holes at the end of the lineup with Myles Straw normally in the 8th spot and Martin Maldonado in the 9th, the team has been an outstanding offensive team to date. The Astros are 2nd in the AL behind the White Sox with 5.27 runs/game. They are at or near the top with a .266 BA (1st), .333 OBP (2nd) and .765 OPS (3rd). While it may seem like they depend on the long ball a lot, they are actually 10th in the AL with 48 HRs to date. Their offense, which was the middle of the road in 2020, is being driven by the return of Yordan Alvarez, the continued excellence of Michael Brantley and the bounce-back seasons of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel. Kyle Tucker is still working on raising his batting average, but he leads the team in runs scored and HRs and is second in RBIs. They are also getting some decent production off the bench from Aledmys Diaz and Jason Castro, and even though Chas McCormick is below the Mendoza line in BA, his 12 RBIs in 34 ABs equates to 176 RBIs in a 500 AB season.

Starting Pitcher Proficiency. It almost seems like a minor miracle the Astros’ starting pitching is as good as it has been to date. They don’t have their planned-on ace, Justin Verlander. They don’t have their arguably best starter from 2020, Framber Valdez. The pitcher they picked up to fill in for Valdez, Jake Odorizzi, was bad and then injured. Their supposed ace with Verlander gone, Zack Greinke (3-1, 4.18 ERA), has been inconsistent. But there they sit with the 3rd best ERA in the AL (3.63), the third most innings pitched (218) and tied for the 3rd best WHIP (1.13). They have been bolstered by the improved pitching of Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.70 ERA) and the very good pitching of youngsters Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA), Jose Urquidy (3-2, 3.22 ERA) and Luis Garcia (1-3, 3.34 ERA). The story of the next quarter of the season may well be how the Astros deal with the injury to Urquidy (on the 10-day IL) and how they incorporate Odorizzi and Valdez back into the rotation. Who gets moved out of the rotation? And do they move them into the bullpen, or do they send them to the minors to keep them stretched out as starters?

Relief Pitcher Proficiency. The Astros bullpen has been in the bottom half of the AL for the whole season, but lately has been straining to get up close to average. They are 10th in the AL in ERA (4.01) and 7th in WHIP (1.24) in 2021. Ryan Pressly has looked a lot more comfortable in the closer’s role as he has gone 7-for-7 in saves and has a 2-0 record with a 1.50 ERA. Ryne Stanek had a rough last appearance but has been good to this point in the set-up role. Bryan Abreu has been improving in his role as middle innings filler, and Kent Emanuel has been a great addition to the pen since his terrific 8+ inning relief appearance a few weeks ago. Adding Enoli Paredes back into the mix should help things in the late innings, and both Joe Smith and Brooks Raley have looked better in their last few appearances.

Coming Up. Next up for the 24-17 Astros are three games with the first place (by ½ game) Oakland A’s. Yes, fans, we are back to either late-night viewing or early morning DVR playing following our boys of near summer. The Astros have a current 6 game winning streak and have taken 9 of their last 11 games. They have taken 5 of 7 from the A’s on the season. The A’s have taken 9 of their last 14 games, but they have been closer to .500 lately, winning 6 of 11.

The matchups are as follows –

  • Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (3-2, 4.40 ERA)
  • Zack Greinke (3-1, 4.18 ERA) vs. Frankie Montas (5-2, 4.93 ERA)
  • Luis Garcia (1-3, 3.34 ERA) vs. Cole Irvin (3-4, 3.02 ERA)

The A’s are scoring more than a run less per game than the Astros. Their starting pitching has an ERA 0.7 higher than the Astros. Their bullpen is marginally better than the Astros. But just like in 2020 and other years, Oakland figures a way to win. They’ve given up 8 more runs than they have scored but still are 8 games over .500. The Astros have scored 56 more runs than they have allowed and still trail the A’s in the standings.

As usual, you never know how an Astros-A’s series will go, but you know it will likely run late and be intriguing.

112 comments on “2021 Astros at the quarter pole

  1. Lefty-righty-lefty. If Altuve, Correa, Bregman, Gurriel and Maldonado would make them pay for starting these lefties, we wouldn’t see so many of them.

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    • I haven’t seen where any of these teams are changing their rotations to put leftys up against us – they just have a lot of leftys.

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      • I guess you are correct. The Astros have the best batting stats in baseball against lefties. They just aren’t winning as much when lefty starters face them.
        I should amend my statement to “the Astros need to start dominating against teams who start lefty pitchers.”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jose, Alex, Carlos and Yuli are all beating up on lefties. Even Maldy has a .689 OPS against them. So keep those lefties coming! A concern though is that Correa has been terrible against right handed pitching. And Martin is hitting .119 against righties. I’d sure like to see a bit more platooning going on between him and Castro. Brantley and Alvarez both hit lefties. Only Tucker has struggled against them to date. And Myles does not count because he’s bad against everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m not going to look it up – but how many of the losses were when Alvarez, Altuve and Bregman were out with COVID protocol and just happened to be leftys going against us?

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  4. I’m not all that thrilled about Odorizzi joining the rotation, but guys like Javier and Garcia are going to be limited to about 125 innings. And they’ll probably try not to let Lance get beyond 150 to 175. I just hope Garcia does not get sent down when the rotation changes. He’s pitched well and deserves at least a pen role in a pen that needs help. We could end up with both him and Javier in there. Why waste innings on him in Sugarland?

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  5. Thoughts
    – The COVID situation has skewed our view of the Astros and their stats. This not only took some of our best hitters out of the games they missed, but they all took some time afterward to get back in the swing of things. If we look at the season outside the April 14 -25 – they are 20-11.
    – Same thing happened (as I think OP pointed out) with Brantley getting hit in the hand. Thank goodness he did not miss much time, but he was not right for a while after it
    – I hope Garcia stays up when the changes happen, I sure would put him in Bielak’s spot – who has been serviceable, but not as good as Garcia. I think Scrubb could get scrubbed too.
    – I’m also worried, daveb about Odorizzi coming back and being as bad as he was before being hurt. I’m hoping that was tied to his arm not being quite right. I think it is a lesson about signing a guy who did not have a Spring Training. But this could be a case of getting healthier and worse

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    • Yes Dan, we don’t just require innings from Odorizzi, we need quality innings. I wonder if Click wonders today why he signed the guy. With the luxury of hindsight, it’s clear we could have skipped that purchase.

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      • And that is what makes baseball so interesting, because it is such a long season. He looks like a waste right now, but with injuries or COVID or bad turns by other pitchers (and if he goes back to what he was as a pitcher) and we could be delighted come August.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The biggest series 0f the year so far is coming right up!

    Oh, oh, oh . . . Listen to the music . . . all the ti-i-i-i-i-i-i -ime.

    Game one – shout out to Marc Cohn: “Tell us ‘Are you a Christian, child?” [At least can you be one tonight?’]

    Game two – there goes Rhymin’ Simon!: “Get back on the track, Zack! Make ’em all fan, man! Show ’em some spin, ‘Fren’! And get you some Zen!

    Game three – What says Kenny Loggins?: “Please, Luis – saw ’em off at their knees! Like Zack, fight back! Don’t give the A’s no slack! Cruise! Make news! Beat those boys in chartreuse!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Welp….for at least the first two games out guys are gonna have their hands FULL! Montas and Manaea are two of the toughest pitchers not named Garrit Cole. All I can say is good luck fellas…you’re gonna need it!
    AND…they have to deal with that drum banging idiot, ALL NIGHT LONG😠
    P.S. I couldn’t be happier for Corbin Martin Dan!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Late night for me on the East Coast. But I’ll be watching since I got a nap in today, and a round golf. Time for our guys to show what they’re made of.

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  9. The two lefty’s knocking in the runs
    Yordan with that rip into the corner and Tucker launched one way over the fence for #10 on the year

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  10. Like I said, the biggest difference in this team from the teams of the last four years is that our batters are not drawing walks and our pitchers are walking a lot more batters.
    Tonight, the A’s last three runs were scored by guys we walked to start 3 straight rallies.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. YEP OP…..walks will come back to bite you in the a$$ everytime.
    On a more positive note…the 3rd no hitter this month by the Tigers
    Turbull!! He needed 117 pitches to finish off the M’s! I know A.J. Hinch is over the moon for him! The Tigers are either the worst team in baseball, or very near it, so having your pitcher go out a throw a no hitter must really lift the spirits in that clubhouse! BRAVO Spencers Turbull!!!

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  12. Heck, Javier pitched a pretty good game, but it’s time to make a couple of adjustments. MLB will hit that fastball if it’s not located well.

    I’m looking forward to help in the bullpen.

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  13. Yeah the A’s showed why they are 11-4 in one run games and why they are 26-17 even though they’ve scored 7 less runs than their opposition.
    Walks are absolute poison to the bullpen – each time they happened last night (I went to bed in the 8th inning) I shuddered because I know what it means.
    Javier walked one in 6 innings. Our bullpen walked 5 in 2.2 innings. Oakland walked (as Dean Wormer said to Delta House) “Zero Point Zero”.
    Like OP talked about – we aren’t walking ourselves but doing a great job of walking the other guy. Disheartening.
    And daveb is right – Javier may end up in the bullpen, which would make this a better bullpen.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. https://www.mlb.com/gameday/astros-vs-athletics/2021/05/18/634050#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=box,game=634050

    When the bullpen gives up runs late, you better have a 6 run lead. Less than 3 innings for the pen. They walked all the runners that scored. They bullpen has more holes than Swiss cheese. Miracle plays by Altuve and Correa can’t overcome terrible control by the bullpen. And those extreme shifts moves a guy from second to third almost automatically.

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  15. I’ve probably been too critical of Straw this year, but that final play would earn him a spot on my bench for awhile. First, he misjudged the flyball and started coming in. Then, he backpedaled and made the catch retreating. Then he gathered himself and threw a ball that wouldn’t have made it to the plate without a relay. Someone last year raved about his arm strength, but what I’m seeing is the Astros probably aren’t losing anything by sliding Tucker over to CF and putting someone else into RF until another option presents itself. Maybe this is on Baker and his staff…we’re certainly seeing fundamental lapses. The first thing the outfielder has to do is get behind the ball so they can catch with momentum and then at least attempt to make a game saving throw.

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    • Some people are destined to be AAAA players. I believe that Straw is one of these. As for the pitching I felt like the game was over when Abreu started the ninth and especially after he walked the 1st batter he faced. He and a few others are what I call 50% pitchers. Have the time they look really good and the other half, they stink. Dusty keeps running these guys out there hoping for the better part of the 50%. On that he’s about 50% right too. Maybe when Framber, Urquidy, and Odorizzi return we might have a better bull pen, but there are no guarantees. There might be a few “odd man out” scenarios when this happens.
      As for the hitting it’s good to see that Tucker, Altuve, and Bregman are heating up; Alvarez and Gurriel are maintaining, and Maldonado is improving. Still disappointed in Correa, and Straw, well Straw is Straw.
      We need to win the next two games! Don’t like staying up till 1:00AM to see us blow a chance to win the game.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m not going to pick on Myles Straw any longer. He did not put himself in centerfield. Way before now, the experts should have seen that he was not a very good outfielder. He has a weak arm and does not help himself by catching fly balls flat footed. He gets bad jumps. He does not go back on a ball well. And he does not have good instincts when closing in on another fielder going after the same ball. He’s 26 years old now. He’s been playing the game all his life. If he was going to be a good major league outfielder he’d have had the skills by now. Again, I think it’s time James Click stops getting a free pass. It is his job to put a real centerfielder out there.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Ho-hum.
    -I got tired of not being able to see to drive at night. I got the headlights fixed and the blinker. Now I can drive at night if I need to.
    – The roof was leaking. The forecast said ten days in a row with a good chance of rain. As I sat in line at school to pick up the grandkids for the last time this school year, I was behind a guy with Home remodeling logos on his truck. He came out two days after the estimate was given and did the work himself. So far, lots of rain and no leak.
    – The A/C went out. the repairman came out and got it fixed.
    – I bought a total of 8 calves to feed out. Hoping for good prices in the fall.
    – One of the momma cows lost her baby. My son immediately moved her into the pen with the new bottle calf they bought. It took less than 12 hours for the grieving mom and helpless baby to bond. Now, the momma won’t let anyone near that calf. Soon, they will be turned out with the rest to see how that bond holds up.
    -Funny thing. The bottle calf they got a few months ago was released into the herd after a month and he nursed off of three moms with calves. It looks like he will be fine because he is now nursing and grazing. The three moms would not let him nurse at first, but he was absolutely relentless and they finally compromised and stood for him as they also fed their own babies.

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      • I thought Siri could have won the CF job out of ST. It seemed that the Astros had decided to saddle up Straw and ride him into the regular season sunset..
        Siri is a very interesting case. I’m not sure the Astros trusted or, even now trust him or his hit tool. Honestly, he has always had the plus speed, plus arm, plus glove and above average power. He has not had a plus bat. Ever. He also has been very, very streaky, hitting great for a while and then disappearing completely for a month or even more.
        I think the Astros will take quite a bit of time to see if his swing changes, which he began working on almost 15 months ago after he bombed in the 2019 Dominican winter league are truly real or are just another hot streak.. This year, he was very good with the bat in the Dominican and stunning so far in AAA.
        I think the Astros are going to wait and see if this is the real new Siri or a mirage.
        There is also the difference between AAA and major league pitching to consider.
        After what I have seen in the first 7 weeks of the MLB season, I am so hoping that Siri is for real.
        As for my patience with the Astros CF situation, have I mentioned the headlights, the roof, the A/C?

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      • I understand OP, but……. if he has equal or close speed to Straw, better arm, better glove and more power, who cares if he hits streaky … even at his worst he will not be that much of a drop from Straw and he will already be ahead in those other areas

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      • Dan, you are preaching to the choir, but I spoke my piece about Straw before the season began and I have tried desperately to refrain from piling on during the season.
        My explanation above was about Siri and his problems in the past and what the Astros are doing to assure themselves that when they have to jettison someone from the 40-man to make room for Siri, that they are making the correct move. In a word, they are being cautious.
        Remember that they ordinarily would have had six weeks of data and observations on Siri but, thanks to Manfred, again, they only have had two weeks of MILB to do that.

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    • I remember going to my Uncles place in Dayton when I was between 6 and 10. He tried to teach me to ride a horse and milk a cow but I was just not cut out for that at that time. Taught me how to fish in his pond with a cane pole. I sure miss those days. As I had allergies, asthma, and a crooked right arm (that happened shortly after I was born) my parents were trying to protect me from any more injury or sickness. As a result I missed out on what could have been some fun times. No regrets but I wish I’d had more opportunities that I could have taken advantage of. I’m somewhat envious of the things that you get to do. I guess that is why I enjoyed hiking in the Eastern Sierras later in life although that was 30 years ago. Life has so many things to offer and it’s a shame that we don’t get to partake in them all. Best to you and all the others on the blog. Sorry a dose of wistfulness came over me.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I wonder if my eyes deceive me. JFSF the past two years playing for other teams has a Negative 0.4 dWAR. Springer shows the past two years had a Positive dWAR of 0.4. Straw has a Negative 0.4 dWAR for the last two years. So this says, Straw is equal to Jake, and both are less than Springer who was placed in Right Field by our brain trust.

    With a tip of the cap to Mr Bill, “WAR, huh, yeah
    What is it good for
    Absolutely nothing.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. On a happier note. Jose Siri has cooled off in Sugar Land. Down to .400 with an OPS of only 1.215. Pedro Leon is not hitting for average (.125) but he has 2 home runs and they both were moon shots.

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  20. Hey, do you remember that day in 2017 when the powers that be in the organization decided to trade Ramon Laureano to the A’s for a pitcher named Brandon Bailey – just so we didn’t have to add Laureano to the 40-man roster or risk losing him for nothing in the Rule 5 draft?

    Yeah, I’m really trying to forget that day as well.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well let’s see….
      Laureano slash – .248 BA/ .319 OBP/ .829 OPS
      Straw slash – .222 BA/ .301 OBP/ .567 OPS

      Well what about some good old baseball stats…..
      Laureano – 25 runs / 10 HRs / 30 RBIS
      Straw – 12 runs/ 0 HRs / 16 RBIs (12 runs? Really?)

      Well Straw is so fast …..
      Laureano – 8 SBs / 3 Caught stealing
      Straw – 5 SBs / 3 Caught stealing

      And because I don’t believe in fielding stats I won’t go there – but anyone with eyes can see who is the better fielder. Oh and according to Spotrac we are paying Myles $10,000 more money.

      Yeah I know I should be comparing him to Brandon Bailey – but just day dreaming about what might have been, plus for the long gone Bailey – nothing to really compare him to…..

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      • While it might be blasphemous on this blog, I’d suggest you’re comparing him to the wrong player. The correct player to whom he should be compared is Jake Marisnick. Luhnow so valued JFSF’s glove that he had an automatic roster spot each year and pushed a superior centerfielder to right field. At worst, Laureano profiled as a similar hitter but with more power. In the field, you’d probably have been sacrificing a little range but greatly upgrading the arm. In Luhnow’s favor, however, the salaries for JFSF weren’t really an issue during his time in Houston which probably drove the decision as much as anything.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. And anybody looking for our buddy George Springer, he is taking batting practice, but only doing straight line jogging. No sprinting and no changing directions like running the bases.
    Anybody in the Round Rock area get a gander of either the Framber or Odorizzi start. I just saw a couple quick clips of Framber that looked pretty good.

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    • From what I read he threw almost completely sinkers, and all of the hits were on the ground balls plus 2 line drives. There were also some not-so complimentary comments about the Skeeters defense behind him from the blog I read. The Gameday play-by play seemed to confirm that.

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  22. Tyler I’ve will make his MLB debut on Saturday against the Rangers!
    Welcome young man, I can’t wait to see you!!
    Currently in the 6th inning Klubler is no hitting the Rangers!
    No score in that game….stay tuned!
    Keep you fingers crossed for Greinke tonight not to melt down by the 4th inning!
    OP….I absolutely LOVE your stories on the farm! Brings back memories of my childhood❤

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Jose goes yard as the leadoff batter, Correa gets a 2 out RBI and the Astros make Montas throw 31 pitches in the first.

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    • Had another chance in second but no bananas. 5 of 6 outs have been K’s. Don’t think Straw or Maldy even swung at a pitch. Boy do we ever need a CF who can hit.

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  24. Ok GoStros – is Tyler Ivey the right call up to start a game Friday? You usually have the pulse of the minor league prospects

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    • I was wondering that it might be Nivaldo Rodriguez since he’s been up, and shown well. Ivey’s last start in AAA wasn’t fantastic iirc. From the perspective that I thought Ivey could have been called up in ’19, yes it’s high time. He’ll get to appear against the Rangers, near where he grew up in Rowlett. In that respect, one can conceive the Astros had a plan that if he reached certain markers, that would be a good target date. Four long yrs of waiting, Friday is the day!

      Normally, you’d worry about nerves for a new pitcher. Tyler is a guy who strikes me as pretty fearless though. Hoping to see that side of him, and get from the peanut gallery, “where has this guy been?!”

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  25. great game last night. I was nervous till we scored 3 in the 7th and then 3 more in the 8th. that’s the way to put them away. Greinke was on target last night. Great pitching performance.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I am going to give Myles Straw some love.
    He has a wRC+ of 76, which is #8 on the Astros and #133 out of the 155 players who have enough ABs to qualify in MLB.
    Mind you that there are 780 players currently on MLB rosters at this time.
    How about I throw out some names of players whose offense has not equaled that of Myles Straw:
    #134 is Francisco Lindor at 73 wRC+
    #136 is Marcel Ozuna at 72.
    #140 is Marwin Gonzalez at 67
    #145 is Eddie Rosario at 60
    #151 is Lourdes Gurriel, Jr at 52 wRC+
    #152 is Jackie Bradley, Jr at 48
    #155 is Elvis Andrus at 36 wRC+

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  27. Tonight, weather permitting, will be the first home game of the Astros new AAA affiliate, Sugarland Skeeters. Hope it goes well and there is a big crowd.

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  28. Fun with numbers.

    There are 21 hitters batting above .300 right now. The Astros have 5 of them to start their lineup.

    Altuve – .308
    Brantley – .311
    Bregman – .312
    Alvarez – .343
    Gurriel – .338

    Myles Straw is hitting .344 (11-for-32) in his last eight games.

    Most runs in MLB:

    1. Astros 229
    2. Red Sox 224
    3. White Sox 222
    4. Dodgers 221
    5. Reds 210

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I would love to see these guys take the momentum from last night into today’s game and leave Oakland back in front of the division. Fully rested bullpen (though still afraid of half of them). Luis has been pitching well – would be nice to get out on top and continue scoring early – not wait until the 7th or 8th inning (though I’ll take that too). Just keep cranking boys.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lots of people don’t think it matters, but I was glad to see Garcia get his first win last time out. He’s pitched well and kept is in the game each time out. It would be great to see him get number two tonight.

      Liked by 2 people

  30. At the quarter pole, despite the guys we had out due to Covid and injuries we are still on pace for 96 wins. If Framber comes back and pitches like he did last year I see no reason why we can’t go deep in the playoffs again this year.

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  31. We’ve outscored the first place guys 13 to 7 and outhit them 28 to 12 in their home facility. We know our weakness. Had the pen not cratered on Tuesday night, we’d be in first. Our pen will improve. We have a better club.

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  32. Not much patience being shown by Astro batters so far today. Hopefully that will change before the game gets out of hand.

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    • I think MLB needs to remind the White Sox that Kevin Pillar got hit in the face and suffered multiple nasal factures this week. That wasn’t intentional. What do they think will happen if/when people do start throwing fastballs at them intentionally?

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      • LaRussa: “Just rub some dirt on it and move on. Nasal fractures only stop sissies….In my day we would grow new nasal bones overnight.”

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    • He was really good in 2019. Missing 2020 probably kept him from having a shot at making our opening day roster for 2021, but was surely in the discussions Click was having in preparation this winter. His first start for Sugar Land blew up – I don’t know what happened in his second, but I suspect they had made the decision he was first man up before that.

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  33. Glad we had some good hitting as the bull pen has me sitting on pins and needles. And AC, I just can’t figure Straw out. Can we try somebody else please? Dusty seems so predictable in Abreu in the 7th, Stanek in the 8th, and then the mop up guy or Pressley for the save.
    Isn’t it nice to have the 1st 5 guys in the line up all hitting over .300.?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky, in 18 IP, Rhyne S. has walked 14 batters (one intentional) and hit 3. That means he has indeed ‘stank’ in regard to control.

      Fortunately, there is another side to the story. He has struck out a whopping 27 [averaging 13.5 Ks per 9] batters, and has only allowed opposing hitters a miniscule .159/.329/.678 slash line.

      Bottom line – if he doesn’t walk you or hit you [which is always a strong possibility], he’s probably going to get you out. It’s an interesting trade off!

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  34. I am glad Tyler Ivey is getting a shot at the big time at a stadium just a few miles from his boyhood home. After all, that is every ballplayer’s dream.

    Nostalgia aside, however, Tyler’s mound opponent is going to be a guy with a 1.01 WHIP and a 2.32 ERA (3rd in the league). Compare that to Tyler’s present, minimal sample size WHIP of 1.895 and his present ERA of 7.11, so, on paper at least, it appears he has quite a challenge ahead of him.

    Historically in the minors, Tyler has struck out a lot of folks but has also walked a lot of them. Let’s hope that, with the help of adrenalin, he continues the former trend [after all, the Rangers are a high strike-out team] and that he discontinues the latter [the Rangers are not known as a patient, high-BB team].

    Key to the game: Our offense needs to keep rolling; a win tonight is likely to take quite a few runs.

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