I know the look of a soul-sick team. I’ve followed the Cowboys for longer than I care to admit (because I’m old, and jokes about jetskis and fidget spinners are less funny coming from someone as old as I am so just keep imagining me as a sharp-eyed millennial, not the property-owning Gen X’er I actually am).
The Astros are good. They were built to be good in a smart, straightforward way; they were bad, they took the spoils of being bad and turned it into talented amateurs, they took those amateurs and rode out their development. They skipped the temptation to move them, while they were still uncertain future goods, for temporary and known assets. That’s a good, smart way to build a good team.
It’s probably not the best way to run a good team, though. Each player puts skin and bone and blood on the line each time they play; doing so for a front office that refuses to do the (metaphorical) same breeds a disease.
Put another way; since 07/31, Astros starters have a 6.30 ERA, good for fourth-to-last in the MLB (and last up until Dallas Keuchel’s start yesterday). The deadline (and post-deadline) moves to address that? They got Francisco Liriano (and moved him to the bullpen) and Tyler Clippard.
And that introduces doubt into the minds of Jose Altuve and George Springer and Ken Giles and it would so for Alex Bregman as well but I think his twitter feed pretty convincingly tells us that most of what goes on in his mind is well set to Yackety Sax.
They’re still going to win the West, I mean, let’s not kid ourselves. But this isn’t the same smirking, presumptuous team from the season's first half.
It’s that H-Town, Altuve, and you know what it is
Cole Hamels again wavered back into real good Cole Hamels (seven shutout innings, striking out five and walking two) and Alex Claudio gave a standup 1 1/3 IP, 1 run save. ‘Hm’ you might say, noticing this leaves three runs unaccounted for in only two outs worth of baseball. That’s because Jose Leclerc was very bad, getting touched for three runs in the aforementioned 2/3 IP.
The bigger stories, though, are Hamels continuing his night strong after taking a ball off his kneecap in the fourth (no bad news has come out since), and Alex Claudio ending the game by striking out July’s hottest hitter, Altuve, with a changeup so good it made Altuve go apologize to umps after seeing it on video.
The Rangers scored four in the third inning without the benefit of an extra base hit, which is very unlike them. Elvis Andrus doubled to lead off the fifth and seventh and scored on each as an Adrian Beltre double brought Elvis in the first time, then a Nomar Mazara single brought Elvis home later on.
A young woman named Heather Heyer was murdered by politically-oriented violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. ‘Politically-oriented violence’ is a clunky misnomer. Let’s say it was terrorism.
The team retired Pudge Rodriguez’s #7. I would have loved for that to be the lede.
Tyson Ross weebled, and he wobbled, but he ended the day one out away from a quality start against a very talented offense. Brett Nicholas hit a three-run home run following a first-inning rain delay that left the field soaked. Matt Bush entered in the sixth with the bases loaded, started his game off with two clear strikes called balls, and ended his day with 2 1/3 innings pitched without a baserunner, throwing 20 strikes and 9 balls (two of which are aforementioned).
So a lot happened but let’s talk about the top of the fifth. Andrew Cashner grazed leadoff hitter Marwin Gonzalez. Ump Stu Scheurwater issued a warning, which, in all reality, was a good call, but out comes A.J. Hinch and Jeff Bannister. A discussion follows. Not a heated discussion, but a discussion. Shortly thereafter, Bannister is ejected. Weird.
Next up, Carlos Beltran, hit a harmless popup to Elvis Andrus. Andrus lets it drop in front of him, and, grinning, throws out the lithe Gonzalez and replaces him at first with lumbering seal Beltran. Smart, but weird.
Derek Fisher followed and hit a screaming, fading liner to the left field line. Delino DeShields, well, did this. In awe, 71 year old Carlos Beltran rounded second, then left his route back to first. So for the second time in the inning, Elvis Andrus grinned while tossing a ball to Rougned Odor at second, and the Weirdest Half Inning Of The Year was in the books.
Altuve and Beltre traded solo homers, but Beltran singled home Yuri Gurriel in the seventh for the winning run as Texas failed to score in any of their nine attempts with runners in scoring position.
What the furnace?
The Detroit Tigers come to Arlington for a three game set tonight. Detroit is 53-64, 11 games back of the division, and seven games back of a Wild Card (which puts them 3.5 back of Texas for said Wild Card). They’re not good but they have Ian Kinsler!
In Monday’s opener Martin Perez will oppose Michael Fulmer, who is returning off a two week DL stint for an elbow issue. He won the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year and is 10-9, 3.59 ERA on the season.
On Tuesday Justin Verlander will oppose A.J. Griffin, supposing Verlander isn’t traded, as he’s cleared waivers (his contract is very scary). Verlander’s not exactly Verlander anymore, but he’s 8-7, 3.97 ERA with a 4.07 FIP, and he’s still seeing Kate Upton, and she’s lovely.
In Wednesday’s finale Anibal Sanchez will oppose Cole Hamels, provided that knee bruise doesn’t bring bad news in the interim. Sanchez has weaved between starting (10 GS) and bullpen work (11 relief appearances) and has a 6.69 ERA with a 5.94 FIP and 4.70 xFIP. Free agent contracts are normally about a year too long.
Where will you be when the Astros collapse? Joe will be on Twitter. You can follow him there @thejoeursery.