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Running away with the division and Garrett Stubbs says hi

The Juice Box Journal
Welcome to the 11th issue of The Juice Box Journal, where I give you a recap of all the great things you may have missed in Astros baseball.
I apologize for the delay, I had a work trip and was out with COVID… but we back baby!!!

The Astros are the best in the West
Houston leads the AL West by 9 games, which is a lot. To put this in perspective, the Astros didn’t have a lead this large in 2021 at all. You have to go back to 2019 for when they lead by 11 games.
Angels are a mess, Rangers are lost, Seattle is confused, and the A’s are dead. Life is nice for the Astros in the AL West.
Also, Astros playoff chances look good.
Michael Schwab
Astros have a 12.1% chance to win the World Series, which is the 2nd best chances in MLB.

Houston also has a 98% chance to make the playoffs, 96.8% chance to win the AL West, and a 87.6% chance to clinch a bye in the playoffs. (Per @fangraphs)
Yordaddy is here for years to stay
We talked about it in the breaking JBJ issue, but Yordan Alvarez signed a 6-year extension with the Astros. This is significant because it’s the first 6 year extension given out by the Astros, and now Houston gets to see Yordan in his prime for many years. He will be 30 by the time he reaches free agency.
Alvarez was also named the AL player of the week for May 30-June 5. During that time Alvarez hit a sizzling .565 (13x23) with four home runs and eight RBI.
Fun fact: Yordan has hit five home runs in nine of his last games
Justin Verlander is a freak
I can’t stop talking about Justin Verlander.
What should have been a slow bounce back year has been another Cy Young campaign. In the AL, he is tied with the most amount of wins (7), ranked 5th in ERA (2.13), and 6th in strikeouts (73).
But here is the craziest stat, he has thrown the most innings pitched (71.2) in the AL. This is wild based on the fact that he just recovered from Tommy John surgery. He is a machine.
Verlander pitched on Tuesday vs the Mariners. He went 7 innings and threw 12 strikeouts, which allowed him to pass John Smoltz on the all-time strikeout list - 3,086 Ks.
What should we be concerned about?
It seems that hitting is starting to pick up, which is very good. Pitching has leveled out a bit with several pitchers, such as Urquidy and Garcia, getting lit up. June is the dog days of summer, so I expect them to pitch better again.
As for Bregman and Yuli, their hitting has been very slow to take off but I believe it will pick up by the All-Star break. I think we are in the midst of seeing Alex Bregman go on a major hitting streak.
Another concern of mine I will touch in the “What to expect” section.
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This is an ad. A delicious ad.
Catching up with former Astro Garrett Stubbs
I had the opportunity to speak with Garrett Stubbs, former Astros catcher. He was traded to the Phillies for outfield prospect Logan Cerny.
I nicknamed Stubbs the “Hype Man” after seeing him go all out in the dugout for the team, even when he wasn’t given the chance to be on the field. (Here is the back story on “hype man”)
Stubbs is a beloved player throughout Astros fandom, so it was hard for many fans to see him go. Here is what Garrett told me has been going on since the trade.
“When I first got traded to the Phillies I didn’t know if I should be excited about the new opportunity, I was going to have with a new ball club or sad for the end of a chapter that has molded my professional career.
Since leaving Houston there is no doubt I have missed the players and staff that I developed relationships with over the years, but the locker room with the Phillies and the opportunity I have had over here as a player has been everything I could ask for. It has been a ton of fun getting to know the guys and to be on another team with sights on playoffs and more. Can’t wait to see what the rest of this year brings.”
Stubbs has played in 12 games with the Phillies, where he is averaging .344. He also has 2 homers, 6 RBI, and a stolen base.
With Maldonado and Castro on the Astros’ roster, it was hard to see where he would get playing time in Houston. Now Stubbs is making big league money and getting his opportunity to shine.
What to expect next week?
The Astros start a series at home vs the Marlins. Garcia, Framber, and Verlander are the probable pitchers against Miami.
After that, Houston heads to Arlington to face the Rangers and then heads back home to face the White Sox.
Something that concerns me about the Astros schedule: Houston has faced 9 teams in a row with losing records, and is about to face two more. The schedule has been relatively easy for Houston and their schedule shows it.
The Astros will now play in 9 games vs the Mets and Yankees, who both having winning records and lead their division. This will be a huge test for the team.
Injury updates
Lance McCullers is slowly easing into pitching again. The other day, he started throwing off-speed pitches (his cutter) and picked up his MPH on his fastball. There is no timetable on his return.
Taylor Jones and Jake Meyers are on their injury rehab assignments with the Sugar Land Space Cowboys right now. Jones is slashing .273 with a homer and Meyers .231. They both have around less than 20 days to stay on their rehab assignment.
Something to watch, both of the Astros left-handed relievers, Blake Taylor and Parker Mushinski, were placed on the 15-day injured list. We don’t know the full issues, but it is both of their throwing arms.
What broke the internet?
TWO managers were fired from their teams this week.
Joe Maddon of the Angels and Joe Girardi of the Phillies.
That’s two Joes in a row.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have relieved Joe Maddon of his duties as Angels Manager today.
Jeff Passan
The Phillies fired Joe Girardi and named Rob Thomson interim manager for the remainder of the season. President Dave Dombrowski said they needed a “new voice” to turn around what has been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball at 22-29. They went internal for that voice.
What should I read?
You get a link, everyone gets a link!
Meme of the Week
And now, I leave you with the Meme of the Week.
That's all folks!
Have a great weekend, drink a Crawford Bock, and go Stros!
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Michael Schwab
Michael Schwab @michaelschwab13

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