It’s finally here. The last Saturday of August. Landing today on the heels of a Houston week in which a mild hint of drier and cooler weather teases our appetites for change. And one other change even more strongly appeals. The hint of an Astros World Series possibility flirts with us daily like a fickle image of our late adolescent dreams. Down the stretch they come. The race for the playoffs, the pennant, and the World Series just got hot, hot, hot. It is almost time for the real champion of the baseball world to show up. And, unless or until they prove otherwise, our Houston Astros are the four-game leaders in the American League West, appearing ready to grind it out with the Rangers and Angels for their own division champion spot in the larger scheme of things.
That 14-Game Win Advantage Astros Ceiling
The Astros banged the drums hard on a ceiling they’ve reached three times this year in their final road game with the Yankees. By taking the third final game and the series, the Astros again raised their 2015 win total 14 games above their loss total at 71 wins and 57 losses. From New York, they flew to Minneapolis, had a fun off-day Thursday at the Minnesota State Fair and then went out to Target Field Friday night and lost their opener of another three-game road series by 3-0. The loss again reenforced the superstitious fear that the 14-game win bulge over losses is not merely a statistic for the Astros, but a ceiling blocking improvement. Now the club is back to a 71-58 13-game winning edge. The club will have to win Saturday to put the ceiling question to a test again on Sunday.
This is also the time of the year when the difference between winning and losing hangs heavily upon which club stays most injury-free. As an old sufferer in my youth from hamstring problems, my advice is take even the so-called “mild” ones seriously. Once you have the insult to hamstring started, it’s a very short hop or sudden move pop to a condition which could keep Carlos Correa out for the rest of the season. Astros Manager A.J. Hinch is to be applauded for erring on the side of caution by benching Correa Friday night.
As for Jason Castro, the quad injury he also picked up with his double in the 5th inning is serious. That isn’t an easy injury either, especially when your position is catcher and you face all that standing up and squatting down through out the game. No brainer. Catcher Max Stassi will be called up and in the Astros dugout today as the back-up catcher to Hank Conger.
Let’s just hope that George Springer’s rehab tour in Corpus Christi goes well and that he will soon return and help spark more of what we saw in the 2nd and 3rd games from the Astros in New York – and much less of what we saw of our club’s offense lack of offense in the 1st games at both New York and Minnesota.
The Lesson of Yesterday’s Game
From Twins starter Kyle Gibson to closer Kevin Jepsen, and all those Minnesota pitchers in between, the Astros batted yesterday with the same kind of sawed off bats and low spirit that they seem to pull out of the bag far too often for us fans to release all the strings we hold that keep our hopes from sailing off into the blue.
Good pitching beats bad hitting almost always. It did last night in Minnesota.
As an Astros fan, last night’s game was a reality check on unbridled hope, but it wasn’t the end of the world.
Call us pessimists, if you wish. We Houston fans call ourselves realists.
We already have raced several times to the cool palm-treed oasis of our dreams through the desert sands of our 54-year old Astros fan struggle, watching second division club baseball far too often, and we have fooled ourselves hardest in 1980, 1986, 1998, and 2005 about the tangible possibility of a World Series championship.
We still have hope in 2015, but now it is bridled to our experience in reality. And, although there is no total guarantee against another outbreak of the condition, we are far less vulnerable by experience to building mirages that disappoint.
That being said, “GO ASTROS!”