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Astros suffer some adversity, J.J. Watt update and more: The update for May 22

Editor’s note: Neal Farmer is Executive Director of the Touchdown Club, a former reporter for the Houston Chronicle and an all around good guy. He does the Monday updates.
By NEAL FARMER

The Astros lost all three games this weekend to the Cleveland Indians, and did not lead after the fourth inning on Friday. And the reaction of a person who understands baseball should be – meh.
Some suggest that it smells like a slump. It has been said be people who know much more about baseball than me that a slump is like a common cold. They both last about two weeks no matter what you do.
Of course, three bad games may not constitute the equivalent of a runny nose for the Astros, especially after such a successful road trip to Yankee Stadium and Miami before hosting Cleveland. But it was the way the bats went silent at the same time that could indicate impending slumpage. A fly out to the outfield in foul territory seemed like a moral victory – until Sunday when the bats got hot late.
Some of the bad luck for Houston could have been that the Indians – the defending AL champions — got out of their slump in Space City. Cleveland entered Friday’s game losing four of its last six.  And the Tribe seems to have Houston’s number this year, winning the six-game series 5-out-of-6. As you know, the baseball gods are a fickle bunch. (See Houston’s numbers last year with the Dallas Rangers of Arlington. Yech.
Last year, the Astros started off with a one-month slump, but got it together after that. This year, the squad started off hot, and that’s what a team has to do in order to be in the race for the playoffs. The Men of Minute Maid are 17-6 in their own division, 5-2 against the AL East, and 5-0 in Interleague play. But Houston is now 2-6 against the AL Central.

There is a lot of room for slippage when you start out hot, and the Astros (29-15) still have the most wins in Major League Baseball. Hence the middling feelings fans should have about labeling the slip a slump after losing a 3-game sweep at home to Cleveland.
Conversely, injuries lend themselves to losing streaks, and with star pitcher Dallas Keuchel on the 10-day disabled list (for now) and catcher Brian McCann likely out with a concussion, that will make winning a little bit harder. But then, on the other hand and being outrageously positive, now is the opportunity for someone else to step up. Who would remember Wally Pipp if Lou Gehrig had not taken Pipp’s place when Pipp was injured.
unnamed (3)The reasons I think that things could be fine for Houston are the last at-bats for Marwin Gonzalez and Alex Bregman on Sunday. Gonzalez fought off reliever Zach McAllister for 13 pitches in the ninth inning. The last offering was a two-run homer. Bregman then followed with a solo homer to draw Houston to within 8-6. And despite Cleveland being 16-0 in games it led after seven innings, there was a buzz in the crowd and a feeling in the Astros dugout that they could come back. There was concern on the Indians’ bench, too.

unnamed (2)
Cleveland is now 23-19 and fighting for first place in the AL Central with Minnesota. The Fans of the Feather are saying they have gotten it together, especially when top pitcher Corey Kluber comes off the 10-day disabled list (for now).
The series between the two teams is over for the regular season. The only way the two teams will play each other again this year is in the playoffs. Judging on what happened so far this year between the two squads, Houston might hope that someone else takes out the Indians before they reach Houston. Slump or no slump, it appears the Indians have the Astros’ number in 2017.
ASTROS DOING IT BACKWARDS — The Astros are doing it backwards, in that they are bringing out the whomping sticks on the road and doing less at Minute Maid Park. The TV announcers on Sunday’s game suggested that the Astros are trying to slam pitches into the home-friendly Crawford Boxes, while they are just putting the ball in play on the road. I have to admit, I am one of the ones who has purchased cheap seats in the upper deck and then worked my way down to the Crawford Boxes to try and snag a homerun ball because I know several baseballs could reach out and touch people in those boxes. I got caught once, and told the usher I had a ton of relatives named Crawford, mostly in Greater Wichita Falls and Not-So-Great Baytown. The usher let me stay.
Here are the numbers:

ASTROS OFFENSE THROUGH SATURDAY 
                                                        HOME                                   AWAY
On-base percentage                      .324                                        .350
Slugging percentage                     .440                                        .435
Walks per game                               3.3                                          4.2
Singles per game                             5.5                                          6.7
Runs via home run                          49.5 percent                       36.4 percent

AND WHO HASN’T HAD THIS HAPPEN TO THEM? –http://www.unitednews.org/man-from-katy-tx-ordered-prostitute-discovers-wife/

SHAMELESS PROMOTION – The Touchdown Club, which is where I work, will have two major college football coaches at luncheons this week. Y’all come. University of Houston football coach Major Applewhite will speak about what to expect with the new-look Cougars at noon, Wed., May 24, at the JW Marriott, 5150 Westheimer in the Galleria. Then Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will talk about what to expect this fall with the Aggies and the SEC at noon, Thurs., May 25, at the Bayou City Event Center, 9401 Knight Road near NGR Stadium. Both have been great supporters of the TD Club.

Tickets are $50 each and can be ordered through PayPal on the TD Club’s website at touchdownclub.org. Or call the TD Club at 713-849-9860.

UM, OK — Lubbock Looks Like Iraq – and Houston looks like Vietnam. Can someone tell what the story is  here? http://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/tommy-tuberville-after-leaving-auburn-lubbock-texas-looked-like-iraq/

unnamed (4)WATT’S UP WITH THAT? – J.J. Watt hosted his softball tournament last week, and it appears that he can hit a softball. But the big question is, can he take a hit. He had two back surgeries in six months last year, and that is about as serious as it gets for someone who lifts so many weights and O-linemen.
He also had a broken hand and five torn core muscles that required surgery.
Jadaveon Clowney last year stepped up and has looked like the first-round draft selection he was. And Whitney Mercilus has improved.
Houston’s defense was stout last year without Watt. It will be better this year with him. But how many defenses can lose a player like Watt and still perform at a high level like last season?
unnamed (5)It says here that the defense has two good years remaining before injuries, salary disputes and old age tear it apart. And it says here that’s why the Texans traded up for the No. 12 pick in the NFL draft and select quarterback Deshawn Watson of Clemson — so they could win now with a better offense before the defense falls apart.

QUOTE OF THE DAY – Pitcher Tug McGraw, after signing a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1975: “Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other 10 percent I’ll probably just waste.”

HOTTIE OF THE DAY — The real reason the Astros were distracted against Cleveland this past weekend.

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