Astros 2021: The end game

On Friday, the Astros enter the last 10 days and nine games of the regular season with a seven-game lead over the surging Seattle Mariners and nine over the falling Oakland A’s. Much needs to happen in those ten days leading to what is hopefully a successful end game. Let’s look at the activities that need to occur soon.

Make the Playoffs. I’m not sure if stranger things have happened, but the city of Houston has seen defeat snatched from the jaws of victory many times, so this is the base need. The Astro need to win 3 of their remaining 9 games. Any win over the A’s in the 6 they will play against them ends Oakland’s shot at the AL West. Or even if they lost all six to Oakland, a single win over the Rays in that three-game set would eliminate the A’s. With the red hot M’s, they need any combo that adds up to 3 of Astro wins and M’s losses. The Astros also have a five-game lead over the Yanks for the second wild card, but we are not thinking about that….yet.

Grab a Playoff Seed. Assuming the Astros do take the AL West, they then have to get seeded into the playoffs. With the 99 win Giants and 98 win Dodgers way ahead of the 91 win Astros, the overall MLB best record is not coming to Houston. They are currently 3 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the top spot in the AL. Since they play the Rays 3 games at Minute Maid next week – it is possible to catch them, and they already lead the season series 2-1 over the Rays. Catching and passing the Rays would allow the Astros to play the one game play-in winner from the Wild Card teams, currently, the Yankees and Red Sox, though the M’s, Blue Jays and marginally the A’s all have a shot at one of those spots. If the Astros do not catch the Rays, they will play the White Sox in the first round of the playoffs, and they are five games up on the Sox at this point. Hanging on to that lead will give them home field over the White Sox in that round.

Get the real Michael Brantley back. Brantley had been on a pace to take the AL batting crown, and then his body started holding him back as his stats slid and he was shut down. Brantley hasn’t played in almost 2 weeks, and yesterday, Manager Dusty Baker said his recovery had “hit a lull” and was not progressing as quickly as they hoped. With so little time before the playoffs, this is not good news as Brantley has little time to get back and little time to get his eye back. He is a prime left-handed hitter when well, and he is missed.

The Playoff Makeup (Positional Players). Let’s assume when the Astros go from 28 man rosters to 26 for the playoffs that 13 of those spots will be positional players. Who will they be? Let’s assume Brantley is back (if not, that changes the narrative). Brantley, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, Kyle Tucker and Jake Meyers would be a normal front nine. Behind them are the threesome of Jason Castro, Aledmys Diaz and Chas McCormick. That means or should mean that the last spot on the playoff roster comes down to Jose Siri and Marwin Gonzalez. Siri has youth, speed and power, and Marwin has the experience and the flexibility to play all over the place. Since Siri is cooling off after a torrid start, it would seem that Marwin has the step up here.

The Playoff Makeup (Pitchers). This gets complex, but in all probability, this will consist of 4 starters and 9 relievers as the ALDS has the first four games spread over five days. The four starters will likely be…..Zack Greinke (even though he has slumped lately), Lance McCullers, Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia. Jose Urquidy could be used in place of Garcia, with either going tandem out of the bullpen with the other or with some other short-lasting starter. The status of Jake Odorizzi, currently on the IL? We will talk about that in a minute.

The eight bullpen spots beyond the Garcia or Urquidy spot? Ryan Pressly, Kendall Gravemen, Ryne Stanek, Brooks Raley, Blake Taylor, Cristian Javier and Yimi Garcia would seem to sew seven of those spots up. I know Raley is a contentious pick, but he is scoreless in his last nine appearances and has not let any of his four inherited runners score in that time. In his previous 18 appearances going back to the end of July, he has a 1.10 ERA, and the opponents are only slashing .151 BA/ .224 OBP/ .451 OPS and only let one of 6 inherited runners score. That leaves one spot for Odorizzi, Phil Maton, Josh James and on the very outside, Pedro Baez. Odorizzi seemed to have thin skin when he was not being used as he thought. Maton appears to blow up at inopportune times. James has looked good in a small sample the last few times out. Baez was good before he got hurt, but it does not feel like he will get back in time to show he is solid going forward. The brain may lean towards James here. But if they leave Odorizzi off the first playoff roster, will he be useless if needed in future rounds?

This will be a fascinating short time leading into the playoffs. What does your Astros to-do list look like?

73 comments on “Astros 2021: The end game

  1. The A’s really let us down. But the M’s deserve some credit. We need a win tonight. That’s all for now.

    Clinch and then worry about the next step. The White Sox do not seem overly concerned about the 2 seed. But again, all we need to worry about is winning one game at a time. If the Rays remain within reach, then the last series might mean something. But I don’t think the Astros will burn up the pitching staff doing everything possible to get that one seed. We can win on the road.

    Brantley will be back, whether we get the real one or not. His OPS is .744 since the break. Chas can give us that, along with better defense and much more mobility on the bases. But I’d still rather have an almost healthy Brantley in the post season line up.

    Do we need Stubbs as a third catcher? If so, both Siri and Marwin become non decisions. But if Stubbs is left off the roster, I’d probably go with Marwin, because he’s been there and can play all over.

    What if Grienke stinks it up again in Oakland? Does he have to remain an automatic? Tonight is an important game for him. I think it will take most of the next ten days for the pitching staff to be fully determined.

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    • And if LMJ wants to complain about the umpires, he needs to quit leading the league with 75 walks. Wild pitchers have not gotten the borderline calls since the “dead ball” era. His “stuff” is almost unhittsble and yet he doesn’t throw strikes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure with you on that astrocolt45. Maybe I’m being too hard on Lance sometimes, but he’s got so much talent. The worst thing a pitcher can do on the mound is to be demonstrative, unless of course he’s walking off after a big out. It pisses off the umps and lets the other team know you can be had. He’s not always going to be pitching with a 5 run lead. We need him to throw zeros when our bats are quiet. And getting visibly upset screws up his game.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. RIGHT ON TIME….Greinke has been put on the IL with “neck soreness”.
    Tonight will be a combo of Bielak/ Solomon and whoever else that can actually throw a baseball. Who knows….this might be a blessing in disguise since Greinke has had at least 2 very unimpressive starts. BUT Frankie Montas hasn’t had very many bad starts! We better hope our guys are going to get some runs on the board because you can BET YOUR LIFE Oakland will be out for BLOOD tonight! Think good thoughts and CROSS YOUR FINGERS AND TOES!!
    About last night’s game…they should have won that game. NO EXCUSE!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Keys to the game:

      1. Keep Marte off the basepathes.
      2. Keep Olsen in the park.
      3. Keep Chapman in the park.
      4. Pull Bielak at first sign of trouble.

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  3. Now is not the time to go into a late swoon. The A’s are having fun, playing with no pressure. The M’s are flat out hot, also no pressure on them. Today is the day to put together a good solid win. Framber, show us your ace stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Other than Solomon’s solid performance and Altuve’s offense the only good thing about this game was it was not a heartbreaker that is for sure. The team needs to continue their trend of shaking off a bad performance and turn it around today.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Astros 1
    Oakland 2
    Pitiful.
    In other news:
    Brantley isn’t coming off the IL anytime soon it appears, and he won’t be meeting with the media until he DOES. I wonder if he’s even going to finish the season, MUCH LESS the post season. Makes you wanna go “Hmmmm”.

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  6. Surely this team has too many excellent players to just lie down at the end, quit hitting altogether, and blow the Division – right? Uh, guys – today might just be a good day to start proving that.

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  7. I’m late to the dance. We fished yesterday, well into the night. Hurricane Sam has sucked all the good air out of our region, making for calm seas locally, for the time being anyway. We caught a bunch of Mahi and drank rum like pirates! Being on a placid dark sea with stars above is a real joy.

    Gosh, Framber gave us his ace game. I would have let him finish the 7th. That’s what you do with your ace. Graveman is a mess. Who is going to step up in the post season? I think Javier can.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I know Framber wasn’t happy to get pulled and watch his shutout go away. The hit off Graveman in the 7th was not well hit – just a hump back liner into left field. Gravemen then struggled mightily in the the 8th but to his credit did not let the go ahead run in, but Pressly did that in the 9th.
    But I’m not going to blame the pitching for a 2-1 loss. You have to put some runs on the board and I mean more than Tucker’s solo home run. 3 hits, 1 walk and 1 hit by pitch are not going to get it done.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dan, a few posts ago you asked: ‘The Final Stretch: Will it be a Dash or an Ooze?

    At this point the answer looks like: “Sorry, fans – the Final Stretch has been cancelled for lack of interest; what we will have instead is a home movie of Dusty Baker riding through the desert on a horse with no name.”

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Odorizzi can’t throw strikes, our guys don’t care. Are we watching these guys self destruct in on a day they COULD clinch the division😠 I’m soo over this game. Just keep sleep walking fellas….it’s not like you have ANYTHING to play for.

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  11. How many hits do our heroes have through four innings? What would be more appropriate – and define the season we have had – than for us to get no hit on a Sunday afternoon by a guy who came in with an ERA of around 5?

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  12. Apparently, the marketing slogan the franchise’s public relations gurus chose for this year is ‘That was fun’. What a crock! This franchise has taken a season in which we will probably [no guarantee at this moment] win the AL West Pennant and made it the epitome of ‘un-fun’. We are homers. We support the orange and blue no matter what. We stuck with our ‘Stros through the dark days of rebuilding, and the shame of garbage-can banging. We aren’t going anywhere. But DON’T YOU DARE CALL THIS ROLLER-COASTER OF CLUELESS MANAGEMENT, SPOILED, BORING BALLPLAYERS, INCESSANT CHANTS OF ‘CHEATERS’ (and worse) FROM THE REST OF THE LEAGUE; and REPEATING BOUTS OF PATHOLOGICAL SCHIZOPHRENIA ‘FUN’!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. A while back, 1OP and I had a little “tête-à-tête” concerning Jose Altuve and him getting to 3,000 hits and possibly the HofF. Right now he is sitting at 160 with 6 games left. He can still get the discussed “170” unless Dusty sits him every other game. Right now he has 90 K’s, the most in his career. My “eye test” shows he used to be able to swing at outside breaking pitches and foul them off. Right now, I just see a guy that is swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. I want him to do well and win another MVP, but he appears to me to be a slightly diminishing talent. Still great, but not on par with his previous years. I hope I am proven very wrong.

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  14. Altvue’s OBP is presently .351. That is good, of course. But in 2016 it was .396 and in 2017 it was .410. Assuming it wasn’t all based on banging trash cans and buzzers back then, there seems to be a significant reduction.

    Altuve’s .276 BA is 62 points lower than his 2016 average, and 70 points lower than his 2017 average.

    Altuve’s strikeout numbers with a comparable number of at-bats include 2012 and 2017. In those years he struck out 74 times and 84 times, respectively. He’s already struck out 90 times this year. What is worse, in years like 2013-2017, when he had significantly more at-bats, he struck out even less – averaging 71.8 per year.

    Obviously, Jose is still an elite player. But just as obviously, he is not – and will never again be – the kind of hitting machine we expect him to be based upon his better days.

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    • And that is why a smart club awarded him with a big deal for his prime years and not for his final years when production drops way below value.
      It just makes more sense to do that than it does to pay someone big money for ten years when you know they will fade in the last half of the deal.

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      • For reference, see the year-by-year stats of Biggio, Craig, or Bagwell, Jeff. Talent shines brightly forever; but skills and performance diminish significantly with the seasons.

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  15. Some are asking if the Cardinals will ever lose again. My question is ‘will the Astros ever win again?’ Does anyone project a single victory in the upcoming Rays’ series?

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    • Let’s see Mr. Bill about our series with the Rays….
      Tonight we have Urquidy against Wacha (ERA over 5)
      The next two we have Garcia and McCullers against TBD and TBD for the Rays
      So based on our recent history on pitching matchups the Astros should start packing for the offseason now.

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      • That is exactly it, Dan. The higher the ERA and WHIP of the guys we face, the worse our guys seem to perform against them. And throw either in a rookie making his first appearance in the bigs or a washed up, over-worked rag arm like TBD [man, he pitches a lot!] and it’s snooze time for the offense.

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  16. I’ve been doing other things over the weekend. I went to the city for a livestock show and found out what it is like to live in a city during 2021.
    I have some Astros thoughts:
    * Astros pitching will improve next year if the league provides a baseball with some tack on it’s cover. The Astros will still need to rework their bullpen and add a TOR starter. Pitching has borne the brunt of the penalties the Astros were saddled with for the scandal, which is ironic, considering it was hitters who benefitted from the “it”.
    * Whatever illness the Astros experienced hitters have, they have infected the younger hitters with it.
    *If the leader of the team has turned in his notice, maybe he is not the leader he was thought to be.
    * Who is the longtime manager who has gotten close to the promised land with a lot of clubs but never made it there?
    * Livestock judging reminds me of umpiring behind the plate. No accountability and only the judge has a clue about what he is looking for. The strike zone is what today’s judge says it is.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. No need to beat a dead dog, but this was a huge mistake in the 9th.

    From Brian McTaggart: “There was no bigger mistake than the one committed by outfielder Jose Siri in the ninth inning Sunday with the game tied. Siri reached on a one-out single and then tried to score from first base on a single by Bregman, running through a stop sign by third-base coach Omar Lopez and getting thrown out at the plate to end the inning. Yordan Alvarez was standing on deck.”

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      • He’s not doing much to win friends and influence people right now.
        The bat flip is something you can do once you’ve been in the Majors for awhile….not when you just got called up. Trying to stretch it out to score was STUPID and childless. Getting thrown out at home was STUPID, hopefully someone in the clubhouse had a few choice words with him. He’s not a young kid….he’s 27 yrs old….he SHOULD know better.

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  18. Tonight’s game between Seattle and Oakland will be a blood sport.
    BOTH teams are looking to knock off this team, and laugh all the way to the A.L. West crown. The Rays sit right on top of the East….and they would love nothing more than to help Seattle and Oakland defeat the Astros.
    Question:
    Are our guys actually going to TRY and win 2 more games or, will they sit back and hope Seattle losses….like they have for the past month? These guys didn’t fight this hard to win the West to lay down and give up.
    THIS is where a GOOD MANAGER should call a meeting and light their butts UP, instead of sitting in a recliner sipping ice tea. TRUST ME if I was 40 years younger and not disabled I would call THAT meeting in a New York minute.
    How’s that ugly taste in your mouth feel boys….GOOD I hope it’s still there.

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    • The Mariners may or may not make it to the WS – or even the playoffs – this year. But they have at least staked their claim to being the future rulers of the AL West.

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  19. So the M’s sweep the A’s in a four game series. Then the A’s sweep the Astros. Then the M’s come back and destroy any Oakland hopes. I don’t think Tampa Bay is going to mail it in. At this point, the Astros simply need to take care of business. Our present play only serves to further fuel my apathy. There are a bunch of teams playing much better baseball right now. No other post season hopeful is playing such crappy baseball.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. What Baker has stressed all season long is this basic premise: Win this series!
    If the Astros do this thing they have stressed all season, everything else falls into place.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Graveman to the paternity leave Josh James recalled. Brantley COULD be back in the next “few” days….but even then not sure he can play left field.
    Greinke “could” pitch out of the bullpen….*IF* they make the playoffs.
    Greinke is pitching for Sugarland on Tuesday. ONLY regular not in tonight’s lineup is Brantley…Diaz is in left and Chas is in center.
    CROSS YOUR FINGERS for a win!

    Liked by 1 person

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