The Final Stretch: Will it be a dash or an ooze to the finish?

When the Astros walk off the field after the last game of this road trip from Heck (not as bad as Hell, but not as good as Heaven), they will be exactly 4 weeks and 26 games from the end of the season. They have been a team stuck in neutral for the last two months. Since July 7, they have been a very so-so 25-23. Not bad enough to lose their lead in the AL West and not good enough to put the A’s and Mariners out of reach in the rearview mirror.

What will the next four weeks bring?

Home Cooking – The Astros will play 15 of their last 26 games at Minute Maid Park. On the season, they have won 62% of their games at home and only 55% of their games on the road, so theoretically (and isn’t this all speculation), they should benefit from playing more at home than on the road.

Home Division Cooking – The Astros play 20 of their last 26 games against AL West opponents. So far this season, they are 8-4 against the Angels, 9-7 against the M’s, 11-4 against the Rangers and 9-4 against the A’s for a terrific 36-19 record against the West. As with stocks, past performance is no guarantee of future gains, but they should feel positive playing the devils they know.

The Good vs. the Bad – The Astros struggles against the lowly teams of the MLB has been well documented, while they have been solid against good clubs. There is no real advantage here. They play two dregs teams down the stretch – the 45-92 D’Backs and the 47-80 Rangers. They play three very good clubs, including the best in the AL with the 86-50 Rays, 74-62 A’s and 74-62 M’s. And they play the right down the middle 68-68 Angels, also in this last stretch.

Speaking of the Last Stretch – Everyone has been looking at the last nine games on the schedule for a long time. That includes the home, and away series with Oakland sandwiched around three home games against the excellent Tampa Bay Rays. If the Astros put their pedal to the metal, it may not matter, but this team has had trouble playing sustained excellence since the All Star break.

The gut feeling is that the Astros will figure a way to win the West again. But they will have a tough time doing it if they don’t show more consistency in all aspects of the game going forward.

51 comments on “The Final Stretch: Will it be a dash or an ooze to the finish?

  1. Maybe Click can hire Al Conover, the ex-Rice coach, to come in for a pregame pep talk to include throwing a chair through a window. Something to either fire these guys up or wake them up. (Maybe that only works when you are playing the Razorbacks?)

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  2. At this point they appear to be “oozing”. They know they have a 5 1/2 game lead in the West, and maybe they’re just skating waiting for Oakland to keep losing. THAT attitude (if that is indeed what they’re doing) will come up and bite them in the a$$. EVERY GAME from now until the end if the month is or SHOULD be crucial….I hope they understand that, let’s hope they “get” it.
    Today’s game was a gut punch for the way these guys tied it up, and having 2 guys on and no outs, they did what we’ve seen them do time and again, fail to get the hit they needed. When Baker brought in Raley I almost turned my radio off, and the double play saved him BIG TIME! Dusty said Presley wasn’t available due to a sore arm….not what I want to hear! Stanek has been nails and one lousy pitch was hit out. I don’t blame Stanek, but not getting a hit when they had a golden opportunity to score, was in the end the stat of the day. Seattle and our guys got in late so I’m not optimistic either team will be up to playing their best, I hope I’m wrong and our guys put 12-15 runs on the board like they did the last time Seattle was here. The guys ALWAYS play better at home, hopefully they will during this nice long home stand!
    Isn’t it odd that Greinke is on the covid prodacal list, when that guy is the BIGGEST germ aphob (spelling?) in the WHOLE WORLD! He would purposely not set with the rest of the guys all last season, and really right now! I just find it odd that he supposedly has it…or as you guys have guessed he might needed a little vacation from pitching!

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    • One thing to point out now Becky is that they have a 5-1/2 game lead on the A’s, but now they are down to 4-1/2 game lead in the division because Seattle, who they play now passed the A’s in the standings.
      Greinke may have been like a lot of people, who were vaccinated, and thought they were safe, but were not. These guys travel so much you never know – could have got it from a waitress in a restaurant for all we know. Or he’s getting a Covid blamed vacation as you say.

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  3. Looking back on the season as it stands now, I can see where the lack of tack on the ball has hurt the Astros a lot. Because they did not have an ace to depend on, they don’t have a stopper. Without the sticky stuff, their rotation has become what they were supposed to be: Number 3, 4 and 5 starters, rather than TOR faux starters they might have teased us with when they were using sticky stuff.
    Where a young-at-heart Yuli carried the team in the first half of the year, his older body has started to wear down in the second half. Brantley still has managed to keep his BA above .300, but that was accomplished in the first half of the season and you can see those legs wearing down.
    I’m not saying that the loss of Springer has taken the heart out of the team, but I am saying that his not being in the leadoff spot has gotten rid of the one-two combination at the top of the order that used to, in years past, take turns getting hot and picking each other up, so that you always had one of them producing all the time.
    Bregman has just not been the guy this season that he was in the past and pitchers have not had to be afraid of him and because of him not producing, Yordan has been leading off the second inning a lot with no one to drive in.
    The Bullpen is a disaster because the better pitchers there got worn out and overexposed because everybody else out in the pen is bloody.
    Strom may be the bees knees, but who is responsible for the constant failures of young Astros pitchers in the bullpen. None of the Astros pitching prospects have helped the Astros out there.

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    • Having watched more minor league games this year than before, two things are being taught by most teams at the lower level. 1. If you can throw 90-92 with control or 97-98 with no control, continue to throw as hard are you can. 2. If you swing and come out of your shoes, try to swing harder.

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    • Just a lot of good points there OP. I think that even before the stick em crack down we really did not have a shutdown Verlander/Cole ace. But we seemed to have 3 or 4 No 2’s. When you watch the staff and wonder about them getting to 2 strike counts and not putting away hitters is that tied to not being able to get more grip on the ball and more break?
      Is the lack of development of young pitchers to succeed in the bullpen due to Strom or is it due to maybe not having top prospects to fill those spots?
      Right now there is really no reason to leadoff with Altuve. Not sure how to remake the lineup since as you pointed out both Brantley and Gurriel are slowing down and Bregman looks like he may never be Bregman 2019 again. Move Correa, Tucker and Alvarez up to get as many ABs as possible?

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  4. Brantley is gassed. He’s hitting .250 for the past month, with a .295 slugging % and a .608 OPS. 20 singles, a double and a homer.

    If Alvarez is going to sit with his sore knee, then Brantley should DH and the kids should play all three outfield positions until further notice. Maybe we’ll get a spark from Chas, Jake and Kyle, or even Siri. And if Alvarez is okay, maybe Brantley needs a week off anyway. He swung at a pitch yesterday that I’ve never seen him go after.

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  5. Some Astros thoughts:
    * Jake Meyers has played 28 games and, since he will soon not be a prospect, I thought I would look at his prospect profile one more time before it disappears.
    Remember that he didn’t become a “Top 30 Prospect” until after the All-Star break. Interesting bio things on him was MLB’s assessment of him being the best OF defender in the Astros system, despite an “average arm”.
    Also interesting was his power being rated higher than his hit tool.
    * Collin McHugh intentionally balked the gift runner to 3B in the 10th inning yesterday to keep Cora’s Red Sox from stealing and relaying the catcher’s signs.
    The runner ended up scoring, but the 2-run lead McHugh was protecting held up for an 11-10 win for the Rays.
    * Altuve broke out of his slump, despite a bad scoring call on a ball that should have been a hit and some real bad umpiring behind the plate.

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    • In his last at bat, two inside pitches that were over the width of the ball inside, were called strikes. I think some home plate umpires are “gassed” too. Odorizze and Framber had inside the box pitches called balls.

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    • That makes no sense. I know McHugh is smarter than most pitchers out there, but you change your signs depending upon how many runners are on, which bases are occupied, and the number of outs. A better plan is to tell the catcher to put whatever sign down he’d like, but you’re going to throw all curveballs until you shake.

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  6. Dusty said he is playing McCormick today since he is better vs rightys (.796 OPS vs .718 vs leftys) and Meyers hits better vs leftys (1.030 OPS vs .764 vs rightys).

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    • That was one of THOSE games Becky – a huge huge come from behind win that flipped a 4-1/2 game lead up to a 6-1/2 game lead.
      I thought Brantley tied it with his long drive that was just short of the wall.
      Tucker made a terrific catch against the wall in the 10th.
      Wonderful to see Bregman really tattoo one to tie it. Loved seeing Correa up there – he is great at going with the pitch and knocked the snot out of it.

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  7. We aren’t the ONLY ones that have had it with this manager…after the game Odorizzi said after taking him out after 5 innings. …it’s “bull sh*t”!
    He said he was glad they won, but was FURIOUS after being taken out in the 5th! I don’t blame him…he only had “66 pitches”. This is the 3rd time Baker has done that to him. Maybe Dusty didn’t want to fear losing such a close game, but Odorizzi was DEFINITELY not happy with him.
    It’s not cool to vent like that to the media, and I’m sure Click will address it.
    We won…that’s all that matters!

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    • Becky, I am in agreement with Odorizzi being pulled. He did a highwire event the inning before as he pitched over 20 pitches during the fifth inning and he had averaged 10 pitches the earlier innings. He was being figured out by the Mariners.

      If Odorizzi wants to have a real reason to be angry about being pulled, then pitch deeper into the games with a lower pitch count after five innings.

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    • I’m okay with Odorizzi being upset. I want him burning and fired up.
      I just don’t want it done to the press. If he has a problem with how he is being used, he needs to take it up in private with his manager.
      He didn’t handle this the way it should have been handled.

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  8. I’ve been waiting for this game. Hard to fathom the Astros were 3 and 45 before tonight when trailing after 8. The best teams do better than that. I really wanted Odorizzi to throw a meaningful pitch with two outs in the 5th to get out of that jam. He did not. His anger is misdirected. But as 1OP noted, I’d like to see him fired up out there. He’s the most tentative looking pitcher in the league. His July OPS: .823. August: .907. When pitching into the 6th inning: 1.457. That’s not a typo. If Dusty was unaware of what happens to Odorizzi in the 6th inning, I’m sure Strom reminded him.

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    • On the telecast last night, they posted his stats of first, second, and third time through the order. From memory it was .100 something, then .200 something, and then .320 something. But until he pitches through the 3 times in the order, those numbers won’t change.

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    • It was a game of tremendous frustration until it wasn’t last night. It seemed like we would get guys on and then not get the big hit to get the machine rolling. I thought when Brantley got under that pitch in the 9th and it was caught just short of the fence that our goose was cooked.
      Bregman has been hitting very well since returning from the IL, but that was the AB we haven’t seen in such a long time, where he takes that quick short swing and pulverizes the ball. That was exciting.
      The thing I love about Correa late in games is that he is not trying to jerk the ball – he will go the other way or in this case a little right of center, but he really is great at working it and putting good wood on the ball. Nothing better than seeing that one soar over Haniger’s head and bounce into the stands.
      Great win and the only thing better would be another great win today.

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  9. I went back and looked at Seattle’s at-bats in the fifth inning and they had five hard hit balls to the outfield and a pop fly over the infield that Correa made a nice play on to temporarily save a run. Seattle was starting to hit Jake pretty hard.

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  10. I would suspected that if jake had escaped the 5th w/o giving up a run, then he might have started the 6th but having given up a couple of runs I suspect Dusty went with the percentages. Jake was probably thinking that he wouldn’t have done that to one of the other pitchers so he wasn’t a happy camper. It didn’t help that yimi gave up a run on a long ball either.

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  11. The Tampa Bay Rays are 28th in MLB in average home attendance and 30th(last) in average road attendance, meaning they are 30th in total attendance in all of MLB. They have the fifth lowest payroll in the major leagues and fifth lowest Luxury Tax Payroll also.
    The Tampa Bay Rays are currently tied with the Dodgers for the second best W/L record in MLB, one game behind the Giants.
    They are tied with the Dodgers, whose Luxury Tax payroll is $166 million higher, and whose attendance is #1 overall in MLB.

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  12. Bregman’s hot bat has earned him a place on the bench today. He is 3 for 6, with 2 HRs and 4 RBIs against today’s Seattle starter.
    The Astros have an off day tomorrow, so Bregman’s bat will have two days to cool off again.

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  13. I’ve been watching a bit of the game at the Astros web site mlb.com for free – also is on youtube.com apparently…
    – First inning -Hard to see on my tiny screen, but it looked like the first hit – hit the third base bag or I think Marwin gets him. The next guy hits it off of Urquidy’s leg on what looked like a perfect DP ball right at second base with Altuve right there – so bad luck.
    – Tucker with another RBI double – the guy is on fire lately
    – And then…. Marwin makes the fans go wild with a 2 run homer. Oh who needs that Bregman guy anways?
    – Marwin made a nice play at 3rd a little later – maybe this guys will stick around
    – I assume Urquidy got pulled after 3 based on pitch count, I hope it was not an injury
    – I hope Javier settles in like old Javier used to

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  14. Blame it on my brother. He’s 2 and 7 when at the park this year. I’ve begged him to stay home. I’m starting not to like Honest Abe. The M’s are a scrappy club. Our guys just don’t show a killer instinct like they used to. Every time I think they are finally ready to beat teams down, they let me down instead. But alas, we’re supposed to be happy with 2 out of 3 and a 5.5 game lead. I’m not though.

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  15. While I would love to blame this give-a-way game on anyone, including Dusty, the reality is that all our relievers pretty much stink right now. No matter who Dusty throws out there, they look clueless and helpless. Tired arms? Then I see the Mariners throw a real reliever, Diego Castillo, at us, and the comparison is striking. Castillo is just light years better than anyone on our staff.

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  16. Guess Bregman will need Friday off with having to circle the bases after a pinch hit home run today. The bullpen will be rested after taking today off.
    What a bunch of crap they laid out on that field today.
    Had Seattle down and out and then gave it up. The bullpen should join the Order of the Sisters of Charity.
    Happy Sunday! How may we help you have a happy flight out of town? May I serve you some meatballs and a free pass?
    Send them all to Sugarland and watch the Skeeters say” No thanks. You have already given us enough noodle arms already.”
    I am not happy tonight.

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  17. The Mariners’ next series will consist of three laughers against the hapless Arizona Diamondbacks. They M’s aren’t even going to have to break a sweat -while our bunch of tired, bored, and overweight dilettantes flail cluelessly against Ohtani.

    The AL West pennant race looks to be getting tighter again this weekend.

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    • Meanwhile, after finishing up against a three-game series vs. the White Sox today, the A’s get three home-cooking games against the Rangers [against whom they are 9-7 this year].

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