If Sunday's 3-2 win over Arizona was George Springer's last in a Houston uniform, he went out with a bang. Actually, two bangs as the slugger homered twice among three hits to pace the Astros to victory. A sacrifice fly by Carlos Correa in the eighth was the actual game-winner but Springer put the life into the Houston attack, sprinting around the bases on an inside-the-park homer off the left-center wall in the sixth then blasting an opposite field solo shot the next inning to tie the game.
Springer: Headed back East?
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Houston won 4-of-6 on the homestand but their offense was rather miserly the entire week. The once-vaunted Astros attack averaged a Dome-like 2.5 runs per game for the week. Fortunately, the Rangers and Diamondbacks scored even less.
Once leading the league in runs per game, the Astros entered Sunday tied with Toronto for sixth at 4.73. Once near the bottom in team ERA, Houston entered Sunday's action in seventh at 4.62. Add this up and the 27-26 season record seems well-deserved.
The Astros have to run the table this week to win their division while counting on Oakland to slip on a green-and-yellow banana peel. They also own a four-game edge over Seattle for second place which means they've just about locked up second in the division and the sixth seed in the expanded playoffs.
The Spacemen travel to war-torn and smoke-filled Seattle Monday through Wednesday for their first and only visit to the (ahem) Emerald City. The Astros have a 6-1 record against Seattle for the season but those were all at home. Lance McCullers, Framber Valdez and Zack Greinke are the scheduled starters.
Then the final four contests of the regular season will be in Arlington (Thursday through Sunday) at the new Globe Life Park that, on the outside, looks like a Lowe's and, on the inside, looks like a copy of Minute Maid Park. This time, our northern neighbors stuck a roof over the field, something Houstonians perfected a mere 55 years ago (Thanks, Judge!). Houston is 4-2 against the Rangers, again, with all of those contests played at home.
Then the Astros' Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Season will finally be over - except for a three-game road playoff series against a division champion, possibly Oakland where we were 1-7 this year.
But there will still be more horrors to come. Springer will be expected to file for free agency. Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick are likely to join him. I would not be at all surprised if the Mets make Springer an offer to be Carlos Beltran II. They'll have a new owner by then hoping to lure Gotham eyeballs away from the cross-town Yankees and the Connecticut-raised 31-year-old seems made-to-order for it.
The Astros are losing ace pitcher Justin Verlander too but not to free agency. Last year's Cy Young Award winner announced a setback in his effort to re-join the club after a forearm injury he suffered during his first start of the season. He's slated to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow ligament, which has a probable timetable of 12-14 months before he'll pitch competitively again. That would be November, 2021 which, coincidentally, is when his current contract extension with the Astros expires.
Personally, I would urge him to retire rather than jeopardize what is a certain Hall-of-Fame career as it now stands. He's done everything professionally that a pitcher can do, except win a World Series game and he's had multiple chances to do that. The Astros should give him a night, retire his jersey, make him a coach - whatever he wants - rather than tie up payroll waiting for someone who would be pushing 40 by the time he suits up again. Certainly he has better things to do in life than swap elbow rehab stories with Roberto Osuna, another elbow casualty of this horrid campaign.
If Drayton McLane were still running the ranch, J.V.'s extension would be pushed into a "personal services" contract where he still gets paid but just not counted against the cap. Making bank is going to be difficult enough after what COVID has done to the sport.
Finally, be prepared for a Super Soaker of a week with Tropical Storm Beta (Beto?) dumping rain on the Texas Gulf Coast through Thursday. You should know the drill by now - don't go surfing on I-10 and don't riot in any low-lying areas.
- Bob Hulsey