Astros’ biggest obstacle could be Harvey's impact

Sep 5, 2017 3:08 AM

Distractions can cause even the best teams to fall apart late in the season or lose the necessary focus to finish on a championship task. For the Houston Astros, their World Series hopes were seriously affected by a natural disaster.

Still, what the young men from around the United States and the Caribbean that comprise the roster of the team that wears “HOUSTON” across their chests will do over the next several weeks will define and enrich their lives forever.

Sure, kids don’t sign up for disaster duty when all they dreamed about was getting to the major leagues, but over the next few weeks – right in the middle of the most important season in most of these players’ careers – the Astros’ players will be asked to donate their time and money to helping their relatively new neighbors get their lives on track following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.

And they should. We all should, especially if we are blessed with the talents pro ball players possess.

There will be those who will empathize with the plight of the guys that may do little more than hand out clothes or help fix up homes, making it seem like a photo opportunity. But if we all could afford the opportunity to help, I would hope we would.

Astros’ owner Jim Crane was actually criticized by some for the organization’s $4 million donation with the Rockets apparently giving $10 million and Texans’ defensive star J. J. Watt’s public fundraising securing over $15 million. All the efforts should be lauded and applauded.

The Texas Rangers ended up in a no-win situation when the Astros asked that their series with Houston be switched to Arlington at the last-minute, switching an upcoming series back to Houston when the situation calms. But the Rangers thought it would be unfair to their ticket holders, although they offered to host the series with the Astros. Houston declined and took the series to Tampa, getting out of the state altogether, where the Rangers proceeded to hammer them over the first two games before the Astros avoided the sweep.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians took an 11-game winning streak into this week’s schedule, after being all but forgotten behind American League contenders Houston, Boston and the Yankees.

But after having to claw their way to the top of the AL Central standings, the Indians have won an almost Dodger-like 32 of their last 43 games.

The rush has closed Cleveland to within just a few games of Houston for home field advantage in the AL postseason.

Chicago Cubs (-120, 8o20) at Pittsburgh Pirates (Wed., 4:05): Gerrit Cole has still found a way to win 11 games with the Bucs and he’s done pretty well against this group of Cubbie bats, limiting this roster to just over a .200 avg. over 150-plus ABs. Cole has just two losses over the last two months. Kyle Hendricks, of the Cubs, also has good numbers against the expected Buc lineup, allowing around a 215 mark in over 75 PAs. Hendricks has won two-straight starts and has lost just two of his last nine outings.

Houston Astros (-108, 9o20) at Seattle Mariners (Wed, 7:10): Houston’s Lance McCullers has an ERA around nine over his last five starts, raising concerns heading into October. He has a 4.76 ERA on the road this season. For the M’s, lefty Ariel Miranda has a 3.61 ERA at home this season, but just one win to show for his last 10 outings.

Minnesota Twins (-145, 10.5o20) at Kansas City Royals (Thu., 5:10): Kyle Gibson has pitched with a sense of urgency with his three consecutive stellar-outing wins, lowering his overall ERA to 5.11 (4.60 on the road). Minnesota has worked its way into the second Wild Card position, while the Royals are far more desperate as they have Cuban rookie Onelki Garcia, who has not fared well in his first two appearances (13.50 ERA).

Colorado Rockies (+200, 7o15) at Los Angeles Dodgers (Thu., 7:10): Clayton Kershaw makes his second start off the DL after overwhelming San Diego last Friday putting a sore back behind him, it appears, but he had LA’s only win over a nine-game stretch last week. This is a decent test with Jon Gray going for Colorado. Gray had an ERA of nearly 5 on the road, but has been putting in some decent effort of late, keeping COL in games.

San Diego Padres (+160, 9u20) at Arizona Diamondbacks (Fri., 6:40): The underdog Padres have been a nice money maker in the second half and their top starter Jhoulys Chacin goes here, though his road ERA is just under 7. Arizona has distanced itself from Colorado and seems destined to hold the Wild Card playoff. Tonight’s starter, Patrick Corbin, has been lights out of late and has a 2.64 ERA at home this season. He has won five-straight starts, but allows this Pads roster to over a .350 avg. over 90 PAs.

Los Angeles Angels (-105, 10o20) at Seattle Mariners (Fri., 7:10): Seattle trying to keep their pitching together and get their top starters back in time for some outside chance, but for now Marco Gonzalez gets another shot in the rotation after some nice long relief work against OAK on Saturday. The Angels are just ahead of the M’s but appear to have a little more momentum, although Ricky Nolasco goes here with his 5.17 road ERA. Nolasco has won just twice over the last two months.

Milwaukee Brewers (+115) at Chicago Cubs (Sat., 1:05): Swing man Mike Montgomery is taking some key turns in the rotation for first-place Chicago and he’s looked relatively sharp of late with four runs over his last 18 innings covering three starts. The Brewers’ Chase Anderson has been serviceable since his return, winning two of three starts, allowing six runs over 18 innings.

Tampa Bay Rays (+200, 9) at Boston Red Sox (Sat., 4:10): Chris Sale hit a rough spot in the Sunday night game at the Yanks and only lasted 4.1 innings, allowing 7 hits and 2 walks in a 9-2 loss. Sale holds these TB bats to about a .190 avg. over 125 PAs. Rays Matt Andriese has been decent on the road with a 3.18 ERA, but gave up 5 runs in 5 innings on Sunday at the White Sox as he’s been bouncing from bullpen to starter of late.

Colorado Rockies (+150, 8.5) at Los Angeles Dodgers (Sun, 1:10): Somehow Rich Hill has been a slight units loser on one of the winningest teams in major league history. Still, he’s spun a 3.19 ERA at home so we can blame some run support. He’s coming off Monday’s home effort against Arizona as a -150 favorite in a key game. Rockies’ Antonio Senzatela got smashed pretty good by this lineup this season, giving up 7 hits in 18 ABs with a couple of homers.

Baltimore Orioles (+200, 11o20) at Cleveland Indians (Sun., 5:05): Chance to talk about those Indians on the Sunday night game, as Trevor Bauer goes for the Tribe with his four ERA at home, however, he has been sharp winning seven of his last nine starts with two NDs. Chris Tillman has pretty much been the worst starter in the majors and has an 11.86 ERA on the road. Tillman has a 1.95 ERA with 80 IPs this season.