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1. It’s not Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle chasing the home run record in 1961… it’s better. I really hope Texas Rangers fans are soaking up the show that Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton have been putting on this season. The two have been going back and forth with big hits and big games all year and have turned the jets up to “turbo” since August.
Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre are both top 10 in Major League Baseball in both home runs and OPS. No other team in the majors can say that. They’re also both in the top 12 in RBI’s.
In last night’s 5-2 win over the Cleveland Indians, despite only notching one hit each, Hamilton and Beltre both homered and drove in a combined four runs.Their struggles from June to July seem long behind them as the two are putting on the best show in the majors that no one is talking about. Right now the headlines are on the race in the AL East and other tight races. But as we’ve been documenting for a while, Hamilton and Beltre show no signs of slowing down and you could make a strong MVP case for both guys.
Sadly, the two have something else in common. Both left yesterday’s game with injuries. Hamilton left the game with a sore knee. Not too much of a concern. But Beltre left with a strained shoulder, which could be a long-term concern. There’s no telling when Beltre suffered the injury. It could have happened on a hard swing in his last at-bat or maybe when he made a diving snag to rob a hit from Russ Canzler. We’ll find out more about both injuries later today or tomorrow. With Derek Holland going tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if both sat tonight’s finale against the Indians.
Speaking of pitching, Ryan Dempster pitched his 5th straight quality start and got his 5th straight win, only allowing two runs and striking out eight in seven innings of work. Dempster really has his cut fastball working well. When he’s hitting the corners on that pitch, it makes it really tough for the pitchers to get a read on his slider and he racks up the strikeouts. His performance, consistency, and veteran presence is exactly what this team needs at the #1 spot in the rotation when the playoffs come around. So far, it’s been the best move involving the pitching staff so far this season.
2. Now that we’re in mid-September with just a few weeks left in the season, we’re going to be keeping a close eye on the Oakland A’s as they push for a playoff spot and look to stay in the division race.
First of all, let’s acknowledge that it’s quite incredible that the wild card spot in the American League could go to a team in the AL West that isn’t the Texas Rangers or LA Angels. The A’s have really flown under the radar all season and continue to do so. Even now, they have a better record than the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays, all of whom are vying for the division title in the AL East which, right now, looks like it could be the only playoff spot coming out of that division.
Moneyball is back! The average baseball fan likely can’t even name more than one or two members of the A’s. Heck, the only reason I can is because I used to cover and still follow Oakland’s affiliate out in west Texas: the Midland RockHounds. Many of the players I covered from 2006 to 2008 appeared in the book Moneyball and several are either with the team now or with other clubs.
And that scrappy group of no-names just won their 6th straight game, the last three coming against the Angels. And that’s key because they had previously been swept at the hand of the Angels, allowing the Angels back into the wild card race. So now they have a chance to close out a four game sweep tonight on the road.
But this race is hardly over, for the wild card or division. Of the 20 games the A’s have left on their schedule, theirs is easily the hardest in the majors. Thirteen of those games are against teams that currently have or are tied for their division lead: seven against the Rangers (four in Arlington), three at home against the Baltimore Orioles (starting Friday) and three in Yankee Stadium (starting a seven-game road trip that also takes them to Arlington). There’s still a long ways to go before the playoff picture takes shape.
Photo courtesy Bob Levey/Getty Images
3. And now we move to the Houston Astros, where… well… at least they’re producing some interesting stories on their way to rock bottom. Yesterday we found out that Houston interim manager Tony DeFrancesco (yes THAT Tony DeFrancesco) is giving players an “expensive” set of $200 earphones to an Astros player after each win. I put “expensive” in quotation marks because, even though a vast majority of the Astros roster is making less than $500,000 this year, a set of $200 earphones probably isn’t much of an incentive to pay well.
Here’s how Jay Leno would report this story on the Tonight Show:
“Did you hear about this? The manager of the Houston Astros is giving out $200 dollar earphones… to players that play well when the team wins. The team never wins so any player that gets them would probably wear them during the games so they don’t have to hear the boo’s.”
One of the lone bright spots of the evening was Jed Lowrie’s return to the Houston lineup. Among the players on the Astros roster that have played in more than 80 games, Lowrie has the highest OPS (.793) and, even with all the time he’s missed with injury, still leads the team in home runs with 14. He’s basically the only consistent power bat in the lineup and may help the Astros stay away from losing 113 games.
Because that’s how low the season has sunk for Houston in 2012. With 19 games left, the Astros have a record of 45-98. Expecting a 5-14 finish is downright generous at this point considering they still have nine games against the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates left on the schedule.
4. Speaking of the schedule, the 2013 MLB schedule was released yesterday and Houston’s was among the topic of discussion for the team yesterday because the Astros are moving to the AL West next year. Plus, we can’t really talk about the Rangers schedule for next year yet. We’re still worried about the Texas schedule over the next few weeks and into October.
So the big news is that Houston will open the 2013 season at home against the Texas Rangers. Much the way the Houston Texans were welcomed into the NFL with a game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Astros will host the Rangers as fans will get a taste of what it will be like to play in the same division as Texas for the foreseeable future.
And since the MLB season will feature interleague play throughout the schedule, Astros fans will be eased in with a schedule that features games against the NL Central. In a funny twist, Houston will visit Boston in April, host the Red Sox in August and then finish the season with a three-game series against the New York Yankees.
At least attendance will go up based on the high-quality teams that will be visiting Houston. It’s hard to see an improvement in Houston’s record, though.
5. Apparently there’s a bug going around the Houston Texans locker room and Arian Foster was the latest victim as he had to leave practice early yesterday. Luckily, he’s a big, strong football player so bugs don’t affect those kinds of people the way they would you and me. We’d be out of commission for a week. But for a guy as strong as Foster with a vegan diet, taking care of his body, there’s no doubt that he’ll be just fine for Sunday.
Speaking of Foster, last season we touted the the awesomeness of the NFL Network show Sound FX and loved it when we caught a glimpse of any of the Houston Texans. Our personal favorite was when Brian Cushing was mic’d up against the Cleveland Browns and we saw why he decided to head-butt someone without a helmet.
Yesterday, Sound FX made its season premiere and Foster was mic’d up for the Texans game against the Miami Dolphins. The main thing you notice is Foster’s frustration with the running game and his inability to break plays throughout the game. He started feeling better in the 2nd quarter when the offense picked up and he finished with a couple of touchdowns, but even after the game it was clear that he was not happy with his performance, something that head coach Gary Kubiak stressed on Monday.
6. Saturday Night Live is almost back. This weekend we get the season premiere hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane (and we couldn’t be more excited about MacFarlane hosting). The first part of this season of SNL is going to be must-watch television because it’s an election year. As much as viewership may have dropped just because of the era of TV we’re in where there are so many other options, watching SNL lampoon the presidential candidates is something everyone is talking about on Monday.
SNL has made two surprising moves leading up to this season. They brought back Jason Sudekis after his contract was up at the end of last season. He’ll be reprising his role as Mitt Romney. But the other surprise is much bigger. Fred Armisen will not be back as Barack Obama. Instead the role will go to feature player Jay Pharoah.
Pharoah is a great impressionist, but we’ve gotten used to Armisen playing Obama because of his great impression. But according to Lorne Michaels, Pharoah has been using an Obama impression in his stand-up routines this summer. We certainly don’t doubt his talents based on his other impressions.
Although my favorite iteration of a Obama impression and sketch is done by Key and Peele. Not only is their impression spot-on, but the President having an anger translator is a hilarious concept.