Happ, Granderson Slap Verlander
Loss Shrinks AL West Lead Back To 3-1/2

Miss Texas USA tries out for closer
(c) Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle
The sports media really needs to shut up their chatter about Justin Verlander winning this year's Cy Young Award and MVP Award (he's done both before). It's not even July and such talk can be a big motivator to unheralded players and teams.

Former Houston pitcher J.A. Happ, cast off six years ago in the Great Astro Arson Fire, won his tenth of the season Monday night in a 6-3 verdict for Toronto over the World Champs - a game that allowed Seattle to creep back to within 3-1/2 games in the A.L. West race.

Happ won as Happ often does, with a lot of junk and a pedestrian pitching line - six innings, seven hits, three runs allowed and four strikeouts. But with partners in crime like Justin Smoak and Curtis Granderson, the 37-41 Bluebirds were still able to make it work.

You could have guessed this would be an abnormal night in the first inning when Granderson popped a foul behind home plate that got stuck in the roof and did not come down. Smoak smoked a two-run double into the right field corner for a 2-0 lead. The Astros got one run back when Yuli Gurriel chopped one into left to score Jose Altuve.

Alex Bregman golfed a homer into the Crawfords to tie the score in the third and then untied it an inning later with an RBI single.

That should have been the beginning of Crunch Time for Verlander but, instead, he gave up a tying solo shot to Granderson into the fourth row of the right field seats. In the seventh, Granderson went the opposite way against his ex-teammate and launched one into the front row of the Crawfords for a 4-3 Canadian bacon.

Rosenberg-born Randal Grichuk banged one up to the railroad tracks in the eighth with a man aboard for insurance and then saved the day in the bottom of the ninth when he stole a three-run dinger away from George Springer to preserve the 6-3 decision.

Former Astro Teoscar Hernandez received his delayed World Series ring before the game and was 3-for-5 in the contest.

Now Charlie Morton (9-1) gets his chance to be the first Astro to ten wins when he pitches Tuesday night's duel against Ryan Borucki who is scheduled to make his big league debut after going 6-5 at AAA Buffalo. Did we mention the 24-year-old Borucki is a lefthander? Everybody has to throw their southpaws at the Astros. Sheesh, that gets old.

The game time is 7:10 p.m. Central. It will be game #81, marking the halfway point of the season.

- Bob Hulsey