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Kaz's Korner

Second game of Astros-Mariners series set at 2:37 PM tomorrow

The answer to the question of how the five days off affected the No. 1-seeded Houston Astros was learned last night.

It shouldn’t have made much difference to the pitching staff, who always have five days rest between starts, but it could because most starters—including ace Justin Verlander who pitched last night’s opener against the Seattle Mariners in the best-of-five series—have had more than that time of inactivity.

However, Verlander stands head-and-shoulders above today’s pitchers. He has his own personal regimen of activity between starts and it shows up in his statistics.

He won the MLB earned run title with a 1.75 mark, which is the lowest by any American League starter in a 162-game season since Pedro Martinez in 2000 and is a shoo-in for this year’s 2022 AL Cy Young Award, something he has won three times before. He hasn’t allowed a home run in 58 2/3 innings and hopefully that trend continued last night.

But Verlander’s career statistics against the Mariners going into last night’s start are below par for him—21-10 record and a 3.09 ERA. In fact, he had his worst start of the season against Seattle on May 27 when he was shelled for a season-high10 hits and six earned runs in six innings at T-Mobile Park. Seattle duplicated those numbers yesterday in only four innings.

Houston won 12 of the 19 games against Seattle during the regular season, but only finished with a plus-8 run differential, which means that most of the games were one-run affairs. Seven of Houston’s wins were by three or fewer runs but they still won the AL West Division by 16 games over the second-place Mariners.

Astros 73-year-old manager Dusty Baker used old school tactics about not revealing to the Mariners or the press information like who’s pitching in Game 2 tomorrow at Minute Maid Park or even who was left off of the team’s 26-man roster for last night’s game. I believe lefty Framber Valdez will pitch tomorrow, but the skipper has been closed-mouth about it.

The other American League Division Series playoff game last night was between the New York Yankees—who also had a bye in the Wild Card playoffs—and the pitching-rich Cleveland Guardians, who shut out the Tampa Bay Rays for 15 innings and won 1-0 Saturday. The also play Game 2 tomorrow.

The National League also played two games last night as former Astro Joe Musgrove pitched a shutout for San Diego to blank the New York Mets 6-0 at Shea Stadium amid shouts of “cheater” referring to the Astros stealing opponents’ signs in 2017 when they won the World Series. He still is lobbying for Houston to get a harsher sentence than MLB gave the team.

The Padres met the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers last night while the Philadelphia Phillies, who swept the weak-hitting St. Louis Cardinals in two straight games and met Atlanta, who also had a wild card bye last week. Both National League teams play Game 2 today.

It must be pointed out that the Astros and Seattle don’t like each other. Benches cleared between the two teams on June 6 at Minute Maid Park after reliever Hector Neris threw behind Ty France and almost hit Eugenio Suarez in the head. This happened after a couple of Astros who had homered were hit by Seattle pitchers, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Another publication that I receive, USA Today Sports Weekly likes the top-seeded Astros to topple the New York Yankees and then beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series in six games.

I agree with them!!!

KWICKIES…No major league team with fewer than 180 home runs has won a post-season series until the Cleveland Guardians did it on Saturday, nipping the Tampa Bay Rays—who also didn’t hit 180 homers—1-0 in 15 innings on a walk-off home run by rookie Oscar Gonzalez.

If the Houston Texans can name a Most Valuable Player from Sunday’s 13-6 victory over Jacksonville, it would have to be Jaguars’ rookie linebacker Trevon Walker, who slammed Houston quarterback to the ground after the short pass was ruled incomplete. The infraction occurred on a third-and-20 play that resulted in a 15-yard penalty and a Houston first down late in the game. The Texans went on to kill most of the remaining time and post the win.

The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule Monday morning after an 11-27 record in three years and a 1-4 start this season. Rhule still has four years remaining on his seven-year contract. Assistant coach Steve Wilkes was named to fill his job.

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman commented after Aaron Judge had set the American league single-season home run record with his 62nd homer, “A pot of gold awaits Aaron Judge. It’s already a big pot and obviously it’ll be bigger.” Judge rejected a seven-year, $213.5 million offer in April.

ESPN’s First Take host Stephen A. Smith, an ardent Pittsburgh Steelers fan for most of his life, commented Monday, “The Pittsburgh Steelers have their worst team I’ve seen in half a century.” He could very well be right.

JUST BETWEEN US…National Football League fans both in Texas and New York City were dancing in the aisles as their two franchises in each location posted upset victories Sunday. The then-winless Houston Texans held the Jacksonville Jaguars without a touchdown in their 13-6 win on the road as seven-point underdogs while the Dallas Cowboys traveled to Los Angeles to take on the World Champion Rams, who were favored by a touchdown, and showed them how defense should be played by overwhelming them 22-10. In the Empire State, the New York Giants had to travel across the pond to score a touchdown late in the fourth period to ease past the touchdown-favored Green Bay Packers 27-22 in London. The New York Jets showed Miami why they shouldn’t be three-point underdogs at home against the quarterback-less Dolphins and steamrolled them 40-17. It was a great day for the two states.


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