Culture / Sporting Life

Honestly Grumpy Zack Greinke is Saved by Cristian Javier, But What About That Max Scherzer Trade?

Astros Stand on the Brink of Doing Something Special, Will Jim Crane Push Them to Do It?

BY // 07.26.21

Zack Greinke is one of the most honest athletes in all of professional sports. Greinke has as much use for sugar coating as Tom Brady does in eating actual sugar. The Houston Astros ace in stature and contract is anything but pleased on this last Sunday in July.

And he is not going to hide that. Greinke’s loaded the bases with no outs, but that does mean he is ready for Dusty Baker to take him out. But there Baker is, striding to the mound, ready to relieve Greinke of the baseball. Which makes Greinke about as annoyed as Howard Stern always was in his bad boy prime.

“I was in one of the worst moods I’ve been in getting taken out in that situation,” Greinke says. “And pitching bad that inning. I was in such a bad mood.”

It might not be enough to instantly make him happy. Again, Zack Greinke is much too honest to play into such stereotypical false sports narratives. But Greinke can recognize and appreciate the excellence that comes next. Cristian Javier enters a game in the middle of an inning for the first time and proceeds to get the Astros out of the bases loaded jam Greinke created.

Showing the ruthless efficiency of TVA bureaucrat in Loki while doing it. Javier strikes out Texas Rangers centerfielder Eli White on a 95 MPH four seam fastball, a pitch set up by three earlier sliders. He gets Isiah Kiner-Falefa — the Rangers’ most dangerous hitter — to hit a harmless ground ball that sets up a rather routine double play.

Only, this one ends the inning, the big threat and effectively the Rangers’ last chance. The Astros get their 61st win (the San Francisco Giants are the only team in the Major with more). Greinke picks up his 10th win, the 13th time in his 18 MLB seasons that he’s recorded double digit wins. And Jim Crane’s  franchise may have found new reason to believe Cristian Javier can be a true bullpen difference maker.

“He’s our best guy, besides I guess (All-Star closer Ryan) Pressly,” Greinke says of Javier. “So feel good when he’s coming in.”

Houston Astros beat the Cleveland Indians at Minute Maid Park
Cristian Javier gives the Astros an important arm out of the bullpen. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Yes, these already October worthy Astros become that much better if Javier can seize this high-leverage bullpen role. But how about adding another difference maker with the trade deadline looming on Friday? How about pursuing Max Scherzer?

That would be the kind of World Series shifting trade that Crane pushed Jeff Luhnow to make when the Astros grabbed Justin Verlander at the very last minute in 2017. If the Astros owner gives James Click, his second year general manager, a similar nudge, Houston could pass the LA Dodgers as the modern dynasty of this baseball time. No matter what happens with Carlos Correa this offseason.

These Astros have been better than almost anyone outside of the organization expected this season. Jose Altuve has removed any doubt about his true standing in the game — no matter how much he’s booed. Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker are two of the best young hitters in the game. And they’re not even having their best seasons. Correa is a defensive marvel at shortstop who always seems to rise to the moment in October at the plate. And Houston’s six man (plus) starting rotation continues to knock down all those pitching questions.

But just imagine how an established 1A ace like Scherzer, who like Verlander in 2017 would have to approve any trade to Houston, could completely lift an already dangerous contender.

Hunting For Max Scherzer

Jim Crane is already clearly the best owner the entire Houston sports scene has had in a long, long time. Bringing in Max Scherzer would make him absolutely beloved.

Championship windows are fickle and notoriously unpredictable. Who knows when the Astros will have a better chance to win another World Series than in 2021?

Dusty Baker’s team has already shown a penchant for taking care of business. And not just against a Rangers team that has now lost 12 straight games and is about as much a rival to Houston these days as Space Jam 2 is to The Many Saints of Newark.

The Rangers’ first lead in an almost unfathomable 100 inning stretch is more fleeting than a Snapchat message on this day.

Exactly 17 pitches of game action after White gives the guys from Arlington a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning, Astros’ fill-in hero Abraham Toro sends a two run shot into the right field stands. And just like that, the Rangers are on their way to meekly losing another one 3-1.

“It was huge,” Toro says, “When they made that pitching change, our hitting coach gave me a good plan. And whatever they told me, the pitcher did exactly that. So that worked out pretty good.”

Most things are for the Astros this season. Including perhaps Javier finding his way as a reliever who can come in and snuff out a threat when needed.

“I felt really good,” Javier says of his first time entering a game with runners on this season. “I just wanted to help out my teammates. I didn’t have any kind of doubt about the situation.”

Houston Astros versus the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park
It’s anything but good to be a Texas Ranger at this point. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Acquiring Max Scherzer could remove any last doubts about these 2021 Astros being championship worthy. While delivering a double blow to the despised Dodgers, who find themselves in a Trevor Bauer prison of their own making. One that maybe only bringing Scherzer to LA could help fix. From a pure baseball perspective.

Jim Crane and the Astros can block that — and get Scherzer for themselves. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Despite what the Texans and Rockets sometimes seem determined to prove, Houston deserves nice things.

Jim Crane is already clearly the best owner the entire Houston sports scene has had in a long, long time. Bringing in Max Scherzer would make him absolutely beloved.

On a beautiful Sunday at climate controlled Minute Maid Park, with a horde of kids running the bases again in one of the happiest sights of the season, the present and the future seems so bright for the Houston Astros. Jim Crane can make it even brighter.

That might even make Zack Greinke smile. Honestly.

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