Culture / Sporting Life

Astros Prove Their Staying Power Under Jim Crane and Jose Altuve — Best Show in Houston Sports Keeps the Winning Coming Through Another Summer

Being This Consistently Entertaining Matters and Shouldn't Be Taken For Granted

BY // 08.10.21

It turns out the Houston Astros are not in dire danger. Jim Crane’s franchise is not strolling unaware towards a cliff. No heroics worthy of a new Marvel show are necessary. These Astros of Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick (yes, Chas McCormick) are still very capable of doing Astros things.

Which means churning out wins like the 5-0 one over the road challenged Colorado Rockies on this temperature controlled Tuesday night. With their lead in the American League West down to two games in a suddenly intense overall AL playoff race, with the often dampening spirit of August very much settled in, the Astros get back to collecting Ws.

This isn’t a particularly awe-inspiring or dramatic win. But consistently excellent seasons are not filled with those. Instead, it’s about enough players doing something significant to dismiss an overmatched foe. It’s Kyle Tucker and Jose Altuve making sparkling defensive plays to end two innings — and two threats. It’s about Chas McCormick showing why general manager James Click picked him over Myles Straw. (McCormick doubles off the 409 marker in center field for Houston’s first hit and later drives in the first run on a two-out RBI single). It’s Michael Brantley doing Michael Brantley things, hitting his own two-out double to knock in another run. And push his average to .330.

“We made some excellent plays tonight,” Astros manager Dusty Baker says, particularly impressed with the defense after win No. 67.

That’s what this team does. It brings it almost every night.

Jim Crane’s Astros remain the gold standard of Houston professional sports, the most consistently entertaining option in America’s fourth largest city. On an ordinary August Tuesday, with not much else going on, the Astros put on a worthy show for the 28,931 in the stands. That should not be dismissed — or taken for granted.

While the Texans seemingly go out of their way to make the Deshaun Watson melodrama more obtuse and absurd by the day, the Rockets breathlessly hope that a 19-year-old would be star can help them win 30 games next season and the Dynamo bank on the new owner actually spending money, the Astros just continue to win. They’ve been the best show in Houston since 2015 — no small stretch in the world of professional sports.

Would going all in for Max Scherzer — and keeping the best ace on the market from landing on the Dodgers — have given their World Series vision a different clout? Sure. And the Astros may still regret that decision by the time fall is done. But Kendall Graveman sure looks like a more than worthy consolation price — and a different type of October weapon.

Dusty Baker Jim Crane Astros
Jim Crane interviewed a lot of candidates, but he quickly centered on Dusty Baker a few years ago. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

This win over the directionless Rockies pushes the Astros to 21 games over .500 (67-46) on August 10. They’re competing for the best record in Major League Baseball. Again.

That is no small accomplishment. Not a full six seasons since they first made the playoffs in Crane’s reign.

Just ask the Royals (World Champions that year), Rangers (88 wins) and Pirates (98 wins) how much what happened in 2015 can have relevance today.

Baker’s team come into this Tuesday night scuffling, having lost four of their last five and six of eight since the trade deadline passed. Overall, Houston is only 12-10 since the All-Star break. With this win. That may not seem like the stuff World Series contenders are made of, but there are many champs who have overcome much deeper swoons.

This remains a small stumble — a correctable one. One will likely be a blip in this sustained run of consistent excellence.

Jim Crane’s Astros remain the gold standard of Houston professional sports, the most consistently entertaining option in America’s fourth largest city.

Kyle Tucker does his best to right things. When Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon scorches a Jake Odorizzi pitch into the right field corner in the top off the first inning, he’s sure he has a triple. Tucker disagrees. And the still underrated Astros outfielder picks up the bouncing ball barehanded and fires a throw from the corner to Jose Altuve, whose relay beats McMahon to third by a full one and a half steps.

Early threat? Erased.

Jose Altuve does Tucker one better in the fifth inning, ranging far behind and wide of second base to turn another should be easy hit into an inning ending out. That bizarre 2020 October of Altuve struggling in the field is long gone.

“That’s a huge point in the game right there,” Odorizzi says of the face of the Astros’ fifth inning magic. “. . . For that to be an out instead of trickling through, I think that’s a huge statement right there. And it got us through the fifth inning. Go out on a high note.

“. . . He helped me quite a bit today. But that play was incredible — to be on that side of second base and be able to make a good throw like that — accurate. Just getting to the ball. He picked me up big time.”

The Alex Bregman Mystery

Alex Bregman will not be returning to save the day any time soon. In fact, the mystery around Bregman’s left quad injury and long rehab only seems to deepen by the day. And each uncertain update. Jose Urquidy — one of the Astros’ best starters — is not expected to return before September 1.

The reinforcements are not coming. The Astros will need to win the American League West — and set themselves up for a good chance at a long October run — with what they have.

They probably will. That’s what they do. Season after season. The best show in Houston pro sports churns on, one little win, one entertaining night, at a time.

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