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Powerful Astros poised for another series title

Columnist Bruce Pention says the Houston Astros are baseball's team to beat
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Houston, we don’t have a problem. We have a baseball power.

An embarrassment of riches both on the mound and at the plate should be enough to make Houston Astros the favourites to win the 2019 World Series.

The Astros, one of two American League teams with more than 100 victories as the regular season came to a close, were already stacked on the mound before they added Zack Greinke from Arizona and Aaron Sanchez from Toronto at the July 31 trade deadline.

How strong are they on the mound? Well, manager A.J. Hinch can call on two guys who might be 1-2 in the majors in the rankings of pitchers: Justin Verlander, the likely Cy Young Award winner, and Gerrit Cole. The addition of Greinke likely means that Wade Miley, who put together a 15-win season, will be shunted to the bullpen for the playoffs, since a starting staff of three is usually enough in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series.

And can the Astros hit? Uh, yes. Their run differential with a week to play in the 162-game season was plus-265, 60 better than their closest American League rival (the Yankees) and about 25 higher than the NL’s best, the Dodgers.

Averaging a major-league best 5.7 runs per game and a .276 team batting average, the Astros were humming along with offensive stars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Mickey Brantley, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel and then added rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez at mid-season, turning the Houston club into a virtual murderers’ row. All Alvarez did in half a season was belt 27 home runs, drive in 78, and hit for a .316 average. Houston’s 1-through-6 in the batting order of Springer (.295), Altuve (.301), Brantley (.318), Bregman (.295), Alvarez (.316) and Correa (.280) is the most intimidating lineup in the bigs.

OK, so we’ve established that Houston is the favourite to win the World Series, but it’s hardly guaranteed. The Yankees also won more than 100 games and have a now-healthy lineup nearly equal in offensive power. In the National League, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves are the class of the senior circuit, and both are stacked on offence and in pitching.

It says here, however, that the best team in baseball is Houston and they will be crowned champs for the second time in three years in late October.

  • RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Some Florida elementary schools are trying to fight inactivity by showing students fitness videos — but the kids don't have to do the exercises. It's about as useful as having the Maple Leafs watch Stanley Cup footage.”
  • Norman Chad of the Washington Post, on the well-travelled QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has a 50-75-1 record with eight NFL teams: “He’s the classic chicken-and-egg signal-caller: Did he just happen to play on a lot of bad teams, or did they become bad teams because he was their quarterback?”
  • Patti Dawn Swansson, the River City Renegade, on Triple Crown winner Justify, failing a drug test before the Kentucky Derby yet not being stopped from racing: “This was one case where the winning jockey, Mike Smith, really did have to get down off his high horse.”
  • Swansson again, on Justify’s trainer Bob Baffert alleging the drug must have come from a contaminated hay bale: “So I guess authorities are now looking for a needle in a haystack. Literally.”
  • Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com (Hampton, Va.): “The Jets tweeted out birthday wishes to 28-year-old safety Bennett Jackson. Later that day, they cut him. And then deleted the tweet.”
  • Chad again, on Twitter: “Tom Brady was just sacked in Dolphins game. The NFL expects to complete its investigation by mid-week.”
  • Omaha’s Brad Dickson on Twitter: “What names did Lovie Smith's parents reject before they went with something that sounds like a type of Pampers?”
  • Dickson again: “I'm pretty sure an NFL team with a depleted quarterback situation would offer a contract to the late Ken Stabler before they'd sign Colin Kaepernick.”
  • Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “The Miami Dolphins — outscored 102-10 in their first two games — are so bad that five SEC teams are already trying to get them on next season’s non-conference schedule.”
  • @Richie59FIFTY, on the Cowboys’ Wednesday waiving of former No. 1 draft pick Taco Charlton: “They should’ve released Taco Tuesday.”
  • Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg, with his early NFL MVP candidates: “Tom Brady (always); Dak Prescott; Pat Mahomes; Cam Newton’s personal stylist; Antonio Brown’s therapist.”
  • Another one from Swansson: “According to scientists, there’s been a dramatic decline in the North American bird population in the past 50 years, with a loss of 2.9 billion of our feather friends. If only something could be done to get rid of the Baltimore Orioles.”

Care to comment? Email brucepenton2003@yahoo.ca




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