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By Joe Kazmar
For the Record 

Astros again underdogs in ALDS against Oakland A's


Last updated 10/6/2020 at 7:10pm

Kaz's Korner

I have to apologize to the area’s Houston Astros fans for portraying them as a feeble team in their Wild Card Playoffs against the AL Central Division champion Minnesota Twins last week.

I watched a Minnesota team that was feebler than the Astros ever were accused of being. But I really think the Astros merely remembered how well they have played in previous post-season years.

I gained a lot more respect for Manager Dusty Baker by the impressive way he used the Astros’ pitching staff. He looked like a genius for relieving former Cy Young Award starter Zack Greinke with Framber Valdez, who held Minnesota to the one run Greinke allowed and went on to get credit for the 4-1 opening game victory.

And then to show that wasn’t just a lucky move, Baker replaced second-game starter Jose Urquidy with rookie Cristian Javier in the fifth inning with the score tied 1-1, got out of that jam and then went on to get credit for the 3-1 win to clinch the best-of-three playoff.

Baker won’t be able to use that “piggy-backing” method with his starting pitchers in this week’s best-of-five American League Division Series but he did start Lance McCullers, Jr. Monday who didn’t see any action in the Wild Card Series.

The 71-year-old first-year skipper is no stranger to the game, having managed 3,560 regular-season games and 57 post-season contests.

As a player he was in 2,079 games from 1968 to 1986, spending eight big-league seasons with the franchise that eventually finished second in the 2017 World Series—the LA Dodgers.

The Astros never had much trouble beating the Oakland A’s until this abbreviated 60-game season when they lost seven of 10 games and never won a nine-inning game. The doubleheaders were seven-inning games.

Oakland caught fire after about 20 games and kicked the Astros out of first place in the AL West Division standings and went on to win the pennant handily, ending the Astros three-year run as AL West champions.

The A’s advanced to the ALDS after beating the Chicago White Sox 6-4 last Thursday, which was Oakland’s first playoff series victory since the 2006 ALDS, after wild card losses in 2014, 2018 and 2019. The two teams are playing all five games--if necessary--at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Oakland is managed by Bob Melvin who evaluated this year’s team. “This is a group that has been together for three years, more or less a few additions, and a few subtractions,” Melvin said. “It’s a group that expects to win. When we came to spring training this year, we expected to be in this spot.”

After seeing how successful the hockey and basketball seasons and playoffs did with the “Bubbling” technique, MLB decided to use this procedure for the 2020 playoffs.

The eight teams that survived the wild card playoffs will pair off in the ALDS. “Here, no team will be playing in its home park, as the “bubbles” for the American League will be at National League parks—Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Petco Park in San Diego.

“The two NLDS clashes will be at Minute Maid Park in Houston and Globe Life field in Arlington, both AL markets. Again, there will be no travel once each series begins,” according to this week’s edition of USA Today Sports Weekly.

Weather was the first consideration and secondly MLB wanted the two venues to be within busing distance from each other. This eliminates the risk of virus spread on airplanes, although they will have to charter a plane from San Diego to Arlington to get the AL winner to the World Series, the article pointed out.

Here’s hoping the Houston Astros’ tough pitching continues through the ALDS and the hitters continue pounding the baseball like they did in Monday’s game 1, thrashing Oakland 10-5 with 16 base hits including 3 home runs.

KWICKIES…Heisman Trophy winner from LSU Joe Burrow got his first NFL victory Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals defeated Jacksonville 33-25 Sunday. He became the first NFL rookie in history with three straight 300-yard passing games.

The Buffalo Bills won their fourth straight game by downing the Las Vegas Raiders 30-23 Sunday. It marked the first time Buffalo started a season 4-0 since 2008.

This week’s Associated Press College Football Top 25 Football Poll is unchanged at the top two positions with Clemson and Alabama, with the next two spots—Georgia and Florida swapping places. Notre Dame and idle Ohio State maintained their fifth and sixth places, Miami moved up one spot to No. 7, Mack Brown’s North Carolina catapulted four places to No. 8, idle Penn State moved up one notch to No. 9 and surprising Oklahoma State leaped from No. 17 to No. 10. Texas A&M dropped from No. 13 to No. 21, the Texas Longhorns sunk from No. 9 to No. 22 while Oklahoma dropped out of the poll.

The Miami Heat utilized Jimmy Butler’s triple-double to down the LA Lakers 115-104 Sunday for their first victory in three games in the best-or-seven NBA Finals. Butler became the third player in the NBA Finals history to accomplish the triple-double after scoring 40 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and getting 13 assists.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns to lead his undefeated team to a 31-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Wilson’s 16 passing touchdowns are the most through four games in NFL history.

JUST BETWEEN US…This is advice to both Houston Texans general manager/head coach Bill O’Brien and Dallas Cowboys idiot owner Jerry Jones. You both screwed up by not signing Earl Thomas to bolster your respective defenses which are leakier than a sieve. Word is that the Texans were set to sign the Orange native, but the players revolted and said they didn’t want him in their locker room. Well, Bill, your team is 0-4. Only one team—the 1992 Chargers-- ever made the playoffs after starting 0-4. That’s probably why your team will decide they don’t want a loser like you in their locker room and fired you on Monday. And Jerry, do you realize that the last Cowboy team to give up 38 or more points in three consecutive games was in 1960? Your great defense allowed the mediocre Cleveland Browns to score 34 straight points, including 566 yards of total offense with 307 coming on rushing yardage, while your quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 502 yards trying to win the game himself, because it didn’t seem like anyone else wanted to. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next person signed by either team will be a new head coach!!!


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