Sunday, September 25, 2016

Games That Matter (not that anything matters anymore) - September 25, 2016

Things were going swimmingly for the Astros and their fans for most of last night.  The Tigers got smoked on a furious five run rally by the Royals in the top of the ninth, with all runs scoring with two outs.  Eric Hosmer landed the big blow - a three-run shot that broke the tie off K-Rod.  The Blue Jays blanked the Yankees, cementing New York's position behind the Astros on the wild-card table.  And the Twins scored three times in the first four innings, then held the Mariners scoreless for the last five  to eek out a tight, 3-2 win.  The Orioles were the only team ruining a good night for the Astros, leading early and often over the D-Backs in a solid 6-1 win.   Well, the Orioles and the Angels combined to ruin the Astros' night.  Sigh.

So the Astros had an opportunity to close the gap on some wild-card contenders.  But then the top of the eighth happened, and when the dust settled six Angel outs later, the Astros' 4-1 lead had turned into a 10-4 deficit, and now the season looks toast.  This series has been an utter disaster.  The standings:

Toronto* +4.5
Baltimore* +3.0
Detroit +2.5
Seattle +0.5
Astros 0
Yankees -1.5

* current holders of the Wild Card spots.

So, it is not looking like anything matters anymore for this season.  Seven games to play, and three games to make up while leap-frogging two other teams is going to be a tough ask.  It is made harder by the fact that the Springer / Altuve / Correa core looks gassed, and no one else is hitting all that much.  The bullpen looks exhausted as well, and injuries have decimated the rotation and Ken Giles' wrist.  The 2016 Astros are now in serious trouble.

That said, there is a puncher's chance, so these are the Games That Matter for Sunday, September 25.

New York at Toronto, 1 ET
New York's elimination number is 4 so they are close to done.  Toronto holds a two-game lead over Detroit for a Wild Card spot, so they can drop out of the postseason quickly if they aren't careful.  The Blue Jays will be highly motivated to finish off the Yankees at home.  The match-up here is interesting: Michael Pineda toes the rubber for the Yankees, Marco Estrada takes the ball for the Jays.

Kansas City at Detroit, 1 ET
I wrote yesterday that KC has not been able wriggle out of games in 2016 using their patented 2015 late-game magic.  Like the stuff that ended the Astros' season last year.  Then KC overcame a two-run deficit in the ninth to beat Detroit the following day.  So, here goes: Kansas City will never, never manage a 10-run inning in an important game.  NEVER.  Edison Volquez versus Matt Boyd.

Arizona at Baltimore, 1:35 ET
It is official.  The cure for a four-game losing streak is to run into the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Baltimore's fortunes - perhaps more than any other team in baseball - will determine the Astros' overall fate for 2016.  The starting pitching matchup slightly favours Baltimore: Braden Shipley versus Dylan Bundy.

Seattle in Minnesota, 2 ET
The Twins pulled off the unlikely, keeping the Seattle team quiet for the last five innings of their Saturday meeting.  The pitching matchup looks interesting here - and fairly even given Walker's tough season: Taijuan Walker for the visitors, Hector Santiago for the home nine (10, including the DH).

Los Angeles / Anaheim in Houston, 2 ET
The Angels send someone called Daniel Wright to the bump.  He is a 25-year old righty out of Arkansas State.  He has a 7.36 September ERA and a 1.57 September WHIP, but none of that matters against the Astros' scuffling offense.  The Astros counter with Joe Musgrove, but a couple of the Angels hitters are hot, and the BABIP monster has not been friendly to the Astros as of late.  The Astros need this one.  Badly.

If any Astros fans want to hear some late-season uplifting music courtesy of The Pheonix Foundation, I can recommend this (also imbedded below).  It should work nicely on a number of literal and figurative levels: