For reasons I can no longer recall — hell, it’s been two weeks already — I placed a wager on Houston to get to the World Series. I’m guessing it was because of the Astros’ great pitching. One thing I know for sure: it wasn’t because of A. J. “Always Jittery” Hinch’s sagacity as a manager.
Yes, I know that the Astros’ won the World Series last year, but the real Hinch showed up this year.
The first sign of trouble came when the Astros decided to use a postseason roster spot for a rookie named Josh James. At the time, James had been in the big leagues for one month. No matter. James can top the 100 mph mark. Whether he can get batters out at this level remains to be seen.
At any rate, this was the fourth game of the ALCS, a game the Astros desperately needed because they were down two games to one. So when starter Charlie Morton faltered early, Hinch eschewed his seven or eight established lock-down relievers and went to…yes, Josh James. And boy, did that fastball sizzle. The guys in the front office had to be grinning especially hard as James struck out five batters in 3.1 innings. Trouble was, he also gave up three runs, and Houston never recovered, going on to lose 8-6.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox were letting their brilliant athletes do the winning. And in that one shining moment in Game Four, when Andrew Benintendi came charging in to making a daring, diving catch of Alex Bregman’s line drive, Boston took an insurmountable lead of three games to one. They also captured the admiration of a bitter old man who foolishly put his money on the Always Jittery Houston manager.
You probably saw the catch, and it’s impossible to avoid the replays, and your grandchildren will be seeing it if the planet survives. But the context is what it such a fabulous play. With two outs and the bases loaded, it was an all-or-nothing play, because had Benintendi failed to make the catch, Houston would have tied the game, and maybe even won it had the ball rolled past the boyish outfielder.
But Benintendi knew that his pitcher, Craig Kimbrel, hadn’t pitched two innings all year — until now. And Kimbrel was fading fast, with the filibustering David Price waiting to not only bore the crowd to death, but probably likely to serve up a game-winning hit. (The post-season is not Price’s best time of year, even though his one shining moment came when he shut down the dejected Astros to clinch the ALCS in Game Five.)
And while no one will ever know, it’s not difficult to argue that without that catch, the series was going to be tied and Houston might well have gone on to the World Series.
I’d argue that justice and karma combined to defeat Houston, even though I don’t actually believe in either. Still, I’ll allow myself a smirk or two even as I rue the loss of my money.
Sadly, Twins fans who are watching closely have little to smile about. Make that nothing. It’s hard to believe — especially if you spent the summer listening to Grandpa Bremer and his sidekicks talk up the locals — but the Twins don’t have one position player who could start for Houston or Boston. Perhaps Jose Berrios could come out of the bullpen for Houston or be the fourth or fifth starter for Boston. Even that I’m not sure of.
So while Miguel Sano is clubbing at 3 a.m. Dominican time and the Twins are looking to replace Paul Molitor with yet another candidate with no credible experience as a manger, we might as well resign ourselves to another decade of Minnesota Mediocrity.
It’s how we baseball.
As we near the mid-season mark, I have not yet achieved mediocrity. My head-to-head battle with Colton Molesky, which you can enjoy on our Minnesota Line podcasts, has been a see-saw adventure. Last week I limped ahead of Colton, but so far it’s fair to say that even as we attempt to beat the line, the line is beating us. My bankroll plays on Bob Sansevere’s podcast have put me slightly in arrears — down from a mythical $1,000 at the start of the season to $857 going into Week Seven — but if you’re into Schadenfreude, there is plenty of hope. I might be only a couple of weeks away from plunging into a bankroll abyss from which there can be no recovery. And it could well begin with these modest picks.
Dallas at Washington
The Cowboys are the momentum pick after crushing the Jags 40-7 last week. Dallas has owned the Redskins lately. With Dak Prescott at the helm, the Cowboys have won four straight in this series, covering three. But it’s possible that the public may have overreacted to the demolition of a very shaky Jacksonville team. I know, I know: Dallas has a huge advantage in the rushing category. Elliott vs. AP is like one-on-one hoops featuring anyone vs. me. Mismatch. But I’m going with revenge, value, and the fact that Washington has defeated two teams with a winning record, which is two more than Dallas.
The pick: Redskins 24, Cowboys 17 — Washington minus 1 1/2 for $40
Cincinnati at Kansas City
I guess KC could melt down, or let down, or even get down, after that 43-40 loss to New England last week. But Mahomes, Hill and Hunt are typically good for about 550 yards a week.
Besides, the Chiefs are as bad defensively as they are brilliant on offense. You want numbers? They’ve allowed a total of 2,809 yards this year, which, per Rotoworld, is the most any team has allowed through six weeks. Ever.
The pick: Chiefs 38, Bengals 31 — Over 58 for $40
New York Giants at Atlanta
This looks like the last, last chance Eli Manning has to throw for 300 yards. The consensus is that Eli is washed up, but, in all fairness, he was just as awful last year. The difference is that Saquon Barkley is a monster and the Falcons’ injury-riddled secondary is allowing opposing quarterbacks to have their way with them.
I reported last week that opposing QBs were throwing for more than nine yards per pass attempt, and then the Falcons went out and allowed Jameis Winston to pass for nearly 10 yards per attempt. Oh, and the Giants have allowed 33, 33, and 34 points in their last three contests (vs. New Orleans, Carolina and Philly). I’m hoping that Barkley can gain 200 yards and that Eli and draft in behind him for a couple of passing touchdowns.
The pick: Falcons 33, Giants 27 — Over 54 1/2 for $40