I’ve covered the Yankees twice already. So yes, they are still piping hot and no, I am not going to write about them yet again.
Houston Astros (53-32, 1st Place AL West, 6.5 Game Lead)
The Astros have six all-stars. Now I’m not going to get into how much this new voting format stinks, but there are some serious snubs from this year’s team (Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers). Anyways, Houston is sending Alex Bregman, George Springer, Michael Brantley, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Ryan Pressly. Six all-stars. What? Although Rafael Devers should have not only made the all-star game but started instead of Alex Bregman, the Astros third baseman will be the starter of the mid-summer classic for the first time in his career.
Over the weekend the ‘Stros hosted the Mariners for an AL West bout. Game one went in favor of the Astros in a quick 2-1 victory. The game went to extras as Yuli Guriel blasted a walk-off home run in the 10th inning after Josh Reddick tied the game at one in the 8th frame.
Game two provided some more offense, meaning Justin Verlander did not have his greatest start. He allowed four runs over five innings, including home runs from Tim Beckham and Domingo Santana. The ‘Stros put up five in the 2nd, and were shut down since, giving the Mariners an opportunity to come back from a 5-2 deficit. All-star Daniel Vogelbach tied up the game in the 7th inning with a solo home run to bring the game to extra innings yet again. The stage was set for Yuli Gurriel yet again as he hit a walk-off double over the head of center fielder Mallex Smith to bring in Michael Brantley for the second walk-off in as many games.
Game three was all Houston, as Gerrit Cole demonstrated why he is an all-star. He pitched seven innings allowing only one earned with ten strikeouts. The ‘Stros waltzed to a 6-1 victory behind Cole’s outing. Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez carried the freight on Sunday’s game. Altuve went 3-5 with all singles, and Alvarez continued his fantastic start to what could be a great career going 2-3 with three RBI’s.
The Astros completed the sweep, padding their lead on the 2nd place Rangers who have dropped two straight. Tuesday, Houston will travel to Colorado to face the Rockies, who split the series against the Dodgers this weekend. Marquez and Cy Sneed are slated as the starters.
Pittsburgh Pirates (39-43, 3rd Place NL Central, 4 Games Back)
The Pirates have been one of the worst franchises over the last two decades. However, there are some great young studs on this year’s Pirates team. While their pitching is a problem, Joe Musgrove has showed flashes of what his potential can reach. Their lineup is consistent from top to bottom, as they boast 7th best average in the league. Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman have become crucial pieces to this young Pittsburgh lineup, as they are both hitting above .320.
Over the weekend, the Pirates played the brewers and dropped two of three. They took game one 3-2. Bryan Reynolds went 3-4 and Kevin Newman parked a home run over the fence. As I said earlier, these two have been incredible for this young Pirates team and they are branding themselves are two of the league’s most consistent hitters. Chris Archer did not get lit up for once, as he only allowed two earned in his four-frame outing. He also fanned six Brewers in the process.
Saturday was not friendly to the Bucco’s, as they were flattened by Brandon Woodruff 3-1. Woodruff went 7 2/3 innings giving up one run striking out six. Eric Thames blasted a homer and a triple in this one as well. The only run on the Pirates side on Saturday came from Colin Moran. The Bucco’s were also held to one run on Sunday’s affair as well. Starling Marte’s 3-4 effort was not enough as the Pirates only run came off the bat of Melky Cabrera on an RBI double. Pittsburgh would drop two of three this series.
Although the Pirates did not play well this afternoon, it is important to keep an eye on them. They are definitely one of the more interesting teams in baseball to watch. Josh Bell has shattered expectations. Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds have come out of nowhere to lead this team with their consistent hitting and impressive OBP. Even Felipe Vazquez has shown his importance to this team in the closing role, even though he too was snubbed of an all-star appearance.
Waiver Wire Targets
Alex Verdugo (36.7% owned/ESPN)
Alex Verdugo has become an everyday outfielder for the LA Dodgers. He was working for a spot on the bench in Spring Training but come June Verdugo has become a top three bat on this stacked Dodgers team. On the season, Verdugo is hitting .311 with nine dingers and 37 RBI’s. He’s slashing .385/.429/.654 in his last seven days. His OPS is over 1.000 as well in his last seven days. Although Verdugo may not be available in your league, he’s definitely a hot back to pick up.
Luke Jackson (38.0% owned.ESPN)
Luke Jackson for the most part has done fairly well in the closer role. A couple situations he has let get out of control, but for the most part he is a very effective closer. He has 57 k’s over 41.0 innings pitched with a 2.85 ERA. His ERA is not fantastic, but it certainly is bearable. The Braves win a lot of games, giving Jackson the opportunity for many saves. Pick him up before others do since his stock is quickly rising.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.