By NEAL FARMER
You could almost taste the tension in the air – it appeared to me that some of the Astros were nipping at each other’s heels. Houston entered Sunday’s game against Toronto having lost 8-of-10 games. And it looked like it was weighing heavy on the mental health of the squad.
Teams will go up and down during a baseball season, because the season is 162 games long. Except for the 1927 Yankees, the nature of the game at some point is to lose several contests in clusters. And it is better for the Astros to have their slump now rather than at the end of the season, just like it is not better to be streaking right now (can you say LA Dodgers?)
But there was some inharmoniousness between Jose Altuve and Yuri Gurriel in the second inning of Houston’s game at home on Sunday against Toronto which I think spoke volumes about the pressure the team is feeling with a losing streak. Even AT&T Sportsnet said something about it and re-showed the plays on TV.
Altuve lobbed a soft toss after fielding a grounder to throw out a base runner at first, and beat the runner. But Gurriel said something to Altuve – I assume about about the lack of mustard on the throw. Altuve stood there, having negotiations with Gurriel and even took his glove off while speaking and waving his hands. Altuve looked frustrated and angry. Two outs later, there was a grounder to Altuve, who fielded the ball and threw it as hard as he ever has during a game to Gurriel to get the runner at first. Was it a message delivered from Altuve to Gurriel with a special, undeniable meaning? Personally, I think it was, although I doubt you could get the two of them to talk about it to the media.
When AT&T Sportsnet came back from break in the top of the third inning after Houston batted, Altuve was still talking to himself when he patrolled second base. I don’t think he was giving any teammates pep talks, but it appeared to me from his body language and chin-wagging he was in the middle of a gripe session. In other words, I don’t think he was complementing Gurriel on the first baseman’s award-winning haircut.
I watched the two players throughout the rest of the game, and I did not see them discuss anything again. However, the telecast does not show much except for the immediate action.
But it turned out to be a happy ending on Sunday, with four runs scored in the ninth inning. Alex Bregman knocked in two runs with a two-out triple off of Blue Jays All-Star closer Roberto Osuna to tie the game, 6-6. And then little-used catcher Juan Centeno, called up recently from AAA Fresno, hit the first pitch he saw into right field, just over the outstretched glove of Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak for a walk-off single. Houston took an unlikely victory away from the Blue Jays, 7-6. I would even categorize it as an extremely unlikely victory.
There was joy, jumping around and harmoniousness as the Astros swarmed Centeno.
I know I had some questions about the recent losing streak and when the Astros would bounce back. I would urge the Astros to do what I did: I looked up the record of the Dallas Rangers of Arlington and felt much better immediately.
VIDEO OF GAME-WINNING HIT – Here is the MLB.com video of Centeno’s single for the unlikely won over Toronto on Sunday.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW – Is there any chance we can get Nori Aoki and Francisco Liriano switched back? Although, I still agree with Barry Laminack’s HS&S piece on Aug. 3 that says the Astros have the pieces to win.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT – One website has college football talent ranked state-by-state. I think it means crap to do this, but I sure sat down and read it.
MEAT AND GREET — Hi. My name is Neal and it has been 11 days since my last taco.
USAIN FINISHES THIRD – Usain Bolt of Jamaica finished third in the 100 meters in what has been announced as his last competitive meet on Saturday. The 100 traditionally means whoever holds that record is considered the Fastest Human on Earth.
I think this is big news because Bolt is the only person to hold the 100-meter and 200-meter world record since fully automated times (FAT) were put into place. He was defeated by Justin Gatlin of the USA on Saturday, who twice was convicted of doping. Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (in the USA we call it Track and Field, not Athletics), said the sport’s biggest challenge was not doping but remaining relevant to young people. Bolt was important to the sport, because he was a superstar wherever he went in the world due to his wins in the Olympics and in other world stages. He also has been spotted partying with the best of them, which is another reason to like him. (Think Tiger Woods, but without the wife whacking him with a driver.)
If Bolt is doping, he has not been caught. So we can assume he is clean (see Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens). But either way, it would have been a better story if Bolt had gone out as world champion.
SUPER SOAKER DELUXE – I’m always overdoing it, and this is the way I would do it if I had a Super Soaker.
QUOTE OF THE DAY – “If I wanted to kill myself, I would climb your ego and jump to your IQ.”
– something for you keep in the back of your mind when you start arguing with a Dallas Cowgirl diehard.
HOTTIE OF THE DAY – Make you own joke about a female pole vaulter.