Verlander Wins 9th; Astros Win 8th
Bats Sweep A's With 26 Runs In Series

McCann: Two-run muscle
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Perhaps it is weaker pitching or perhaps the offense have finally awaken but the Astros have begun clicking like the machine fans of the World Champions have been expecting since last October. Houston has marched along on a seven-run-per-game pace during this eight-game winning streak that included Thursday's sweeper of the Oakland A's, 7-3. With the starting pitching Houston has, seven runs will be more than enough offense to win most games.

Multiply that when the pitcher is Justin Verlander. Despite allowing two homers and three runs, Verlander was never in serious danger of losing. The Astros scored twice in the first inning and coasted through a 13-hit afternoon that contained little drama.

Houston led, 7-1, after six innings on the way to Verlander's ninth win. The starters might leave manager A.J. Hinch with a delicious dilemma come the All-Star Break in another month. If Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton have more then 10 wins and are among the league leaders in strikeouts and ERA, who will Hinch, as All-Star manager, leave home? Surely, the Commish won't expect Hinch to carry along 80% of his pitching rotation to Washington, D.C. Let's hope he doesn't have to leave one at home due to injury or ineffectiveness.

Brian McCann socked a two-run homer while five Astros had two-hit games: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, and Tony Kemp. For the curious, Evan Gattis was 1-for-5 with no RBIs after driving in ten during the first two games of the series.

The Seattle Mariners are hosting the Boston Red Sox late. The outcome will determine if Houston has finally regained sole possession of first in the AL West or if they spend another night one-half game behind.

The Astros fly off to Kansas City for a three-game series against the Royals this weekend. Morton (7-1) will start the 7:15 pm Central opener Friday night against righthander Jakob Junis (5-6). Junis is 0-3 in his last four starts.

- Bob Hulsey