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By Joe Kazmar
For the Record 

Kaz's Korner

Astros rate April as sub-par despite 11-10 record


Last updated 5/3/2022 at 10:05pm

More than half of the 30 major league baseball teams would be very happy with a .524 winning percentage for the month of April, but not our Houston Astros who finished the strike-shortened month with an 11-10 record.

Of course, one must understand the Astros are the defending American League pennant winners and losers in six games to the Atlanta Braves in the 2021 World Series.

Houston's record would have been much better if the entire starting lineup was healthy and the bats didn't fall asleep for most of the month.

But that's the way it happened and it's like the Civil War-history!

Houston was on the road twice as much as at Minute Maid Park but that's still not a valid excuse. They started the season strong against the Angels in Anaheim and enjoyed being in first place for that opening week.

But they were forced to play without the services of sparkplug Jose Altuve, who strained a muscle and was on the Injured List for most of April. In fact, he just returned from a rehab stint with Class AAA Sugar Land and should see action in the three-game series at home against Seattle which began Monday night in Houston.

About halfway through the month, All-Star closer Ryan Pressley had problems with his velocity and went on the IL where he remained through this writing on Monday.

To make matters worse, the Astros' best hitter Michael Brantley was slowed down with what the team referred to as "health and safety protocols" which means he probably tested positive for COVID-19 and swapped positions with slugger Yordan Alvarez, who played his left field post while Brantley assumed the designated hitter role when he played.

Most of the offensive players didn't even hit their weight-Chas McCormick .200, Altuve's replacement Niko Goodrum .111, catchers Martin Maldonado .095 and Jason

Castro .065, Aledmys Diaz .160, just to name a few of the weakest batting averages.

But there is good news about the first month of the season as ace starting pitcher Justin Verlander appears to be 100 per cent after his Tommy John surgery, giving up only 14 hits and five runs in 26 innings so far this season with an ERA of 1.73 and leads the major leagues with an 0.69 WHIP and a .161 opponent's batting average.

Verlander is scheduled to pitch today at 1:10 p.m. in the final day of the three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.

Last week's four-game series against the Texas Rangers was for the cellar and the Astros lost by winning three games and keeping the home team Rangers at the bottom of the AL West Division.

But 72-year-old manager Dusty Baker-he'll turn 73 in June-- never looked back. He still is on a mission to accomplish two great feats-be only the 12th manager in major league history to reach 2,000 wins (and he only needed two going into Monday) and manage a World Series winner, which he almost did last year.

Dusty was only the third manager to be hired at the age of 70 or older. He led the Astros to the seventh game of the American League Championship in his first season and then to the World Series last year.

Baker has won more games than any manager in major league history who hasn't won a World Series and also is the only one to win division titles with five different teams. Only two others –Billy Martin and Davey Johnson--have led four different clubs to the postseason.

According to Sunday's edition of the Houston Chronicle, ten of the 11 managers to win 2.000 or more games are enshrined in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.-about 100 miles from my hometown of Schenectady. All of them won at least one World Series title.

"You don't have to ask Baker which accomplishment would mean more to him. That he now can't capture a World Series without getting to 2,000 wins pretty much makes that a moot point," the article pointed out.

KWICKIES...Houston was the site of last weekend's PGA Tour Champions Insperity Invitational played at The Woodlands Country Club Tournament Course and won by Steven Alker. He came back from a two-hour suspension of play due to lightning Sunday to go six-under on six straight holes after the delay and shoot a six-under 66 to win the first-place trophy and $345,000 in prize money by beating Steve Stricker by two strokes.

And while on the topic, Spaniard Jon Rahm won the PGA Tour Mexico Open at Vidanta by a single stroke over Tony Finau and Brandon Wu and pocketed the $1,314,000 winner's share.

The NBA conference semifinals are under way with Golden State leading Memphis 1-0 through Sunday and top-seeded Phoenix playing the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference while the Milwaukee Bucks lead the Boston Celtics 1-0 while the Miami Heat takes on Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. Just for the record, I like the Phoenix Suns to win it all later this month.

There hasn't been much news yet about Saturday's Kentucky Derby that will be run at Churchill Downs where the favorite has won for the past few years. It could happen again this year, but don't count on it!!

The New Orleans Saints and safety Tyrann Mathieu agreed to a multi-year contract Monday. Mathieu was born and raised in New Orleans and hopes to end his brilliant career there after being a Super Bowl champion, four-time All-Pro, played in three Pro Bowls and was named to the 2010's All Decade NFL Team.

JUST BETWEEN US...According to Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN's draft guru, he rated both the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots with his worst grades of C-plus. However, the Houston Chronicle's grading system was much harsher in Monday's edition with the Miami Dolphins scoring F-plus with the San Francisco 49ers and Las Vegas Raiders grading out at D-plus. Our Houston Texans came out with an A as General Manager Nick Caserio addressed every need except an edge rusher. The New York Jets led the way with an A-plus by nabbing three starters in the first round. The Dallas Cowboys still got their C-plus from both entities.


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