Matthews: Astros, Not Red Sox, Are Baseball's Best

WHY THE ASTROS – NOT THE RED SOX – ARE BASEBALL’S BEST TEAM...

THURSDAY’S VISIT FROM THE PEGULAS: THE GOOS AND NOT SO GOOD

GRITTY SU QUARTERBACK ERIC DUNGEY GETS SOME NATIONAL EXPOSURE...

B’S “BEST BET” IS CHARGERS OVER THE UNDERDOG  BILLS (+ 7 1.2)

The Boston Red Sox won their 101st game of the season Thursday night and obviously are a stacked outfit. Looking for a flaw? Maybe a few of the set-up men in the bullpen.

The Houston Astros entered Friday with nine fewer wins than Boston but I believe the Astros are baseball’s best team and likely to repeat as world champions.

A big reason why Boston has a better record than Houston is the time Astros terrific DP duo of 2B Jose Altuve and SS Carlos Correa missed a total of 67 games due to injuries. They’re healthy again and the team is rolling again.

I give the Red Sox slight edges in offense and team speed, the top starting pitcher (Chris Sale) and top bullpen closer (Craig Kimbrel).

But the Astros have nearly as much offense, play better defense and have considerably better pitching – starters (MLB-best 3.21 ERA) and relievers (MLB-2.89 ERA).

Houston has baseball’s best run differential (+242 to No. 2 Boston’s +225) and a remarkable 52-22 road record.

The Astros have added three important pieces: surprising hitter Tyler White (.303, 12 HRS, 38 RBI in 52 games, excellent defensive catcher   Martin Maldonado and former Toronto closer Roberto Osuna.

Here’s how baseball’s two-best teams measure up (ranking in the majors in parentheses):

Records – Boston 101-46 (1)...Houston 92-54 (4)

Run differential – Boston +226 (2), 790-564...Houston +242 (1), 724-482

Runs – Boston 790 (1)...Houston 719 (4)

Home runs – Boston 186 (10)...Houston 188 (t7)

Total bases – Boston 2289 (1)...Houston 2122 (8)

On-base percentage – Boston .338 (1)...Houston .329 (6)

Slugging percentage – Boston .453 (1)...Houston .430 (7)

OPS (on-base % + slugging %) – Boston .790 (1)...Houston .700 (4)

Fewest strikeouts – Boston 1115 (5)...Houston 1095 (t2)

Most walks – Boston 503 (10)...Houston 507 (9)

Stolen bases – Boston 109 (3)...Houston 63 (22)

Fewest errors – Boston 65 (6)...Houston 58 (t2)

Fielding percentage – Boston .987 (6)...Houston .989 (3)

Earned-run average – Boston 3.62 (3)...Houston 3.11 (1)

Starters ERA – Boston 3.71 (5)...Houston 3.21 (1)

Relievers ERA – Boston 3.46 (6)...Houston 2.89 (1)

Batting average against – Boston .237 (3)...Houston .217 (1)

Most strikeouts – Boston 1405 (3)...Houston 1521 (1)

Fewest walks – Boston 451 (15)...Houston 391 (4).

A FEW MORE BASEBALL THOUGHTS AND FACTOIDS

The St. Louis Cardinals this week clinched their 11th straight non-losing season. It’s the second-longest non-losing streak in franchise history, behind 15 straight from 1930 through 1953. The Rochester Red Wings were one of the Triple-A affiliates of the Cardinals from 1928 through 1960 and had some great teams here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a good chance to lead the National League in run differential (+133, ahead of the Cubs +107 and Atlanta +103) and fail to make the postseason.

The Philadelphia Phillies were 15 games above .500 (64-49) on August 7 but then reality set in and they’re 10-22 since.

Arizona is 3-12 in September and fading fast in the NL West.

Baltimore has used a team-record 28 pitchers this season (and 55 players overall).

Boston’s magic number is six (combination of Red Six wins and Yankees losses) to win the AL East title for the third straight season.

Update on Botson slugger J.D. Martinez’s MLB Triple Crown bid: Batting average – 1-Mookie Betts .340...2-J.D. Martinez .330...Home runs – J.D. Martinez/Khris Davis 41 each (t1)...Runs-batted-in – 1-J.D. Martinez 122...2-Khris Davis 110.

THE PEGULAS MADE AN EVENTFUL VISIT TO BLUE CROSS ARENA

Kim and Terry Pegula were in Rochester Thursday for a major media conference at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial.

The 1 p.m., conference followed an earlier media conference in Halifax, where Rochester Knighthawks owner Curt Styres announced that he’ll be moving the franchise – including most of the players he drafted or traded for or signed as free agents – to Nova Scotia for the 2019-2020 National Lacrosse League season.

Styres informed the NLL some time ago that he wanted to relocate from Rochester. He said Halifax was by far the best of many options.

He’ll continue to own and operate the Knighthawks here this season – the 25th anniversary of the franchise in Rochester. He wants go out a winner with a fourth championship team in his 11 seasons since purchasing the team July 9, 2008 from Steve Donner’s group.

Some shortsighted loyal Knighthawks fans are upset at “turncoat” Styres for “:stabbing us in the back.” But most fans probably appreciate that he has been a tremendous asset to Rochester and the sport he loves. He probably lost money here every year operating the Knighthawks.

The Knighthawks will remain in the NLL as an expansion team, owned by Kim and Terry Pegula, owners of the NFL Buffalo Bills, AHL Rochester Amerks and NLL Buffalo Bandits.

The Pegulas now operate Blue Cross Arena. The Amerks and the Knighthawks will be the main tenants. I assume The Basketball League Rochester RazorSharks – if they’re still in operation – will play somewhere other than BCA this winter.

The best news out of the media conference is $18 million in planned improvements to BCA. The money will come from the state, the city and the Pegulas. Jt’s another band-aid -- an expensive one, but any upgrades are better than none.

The plans include – among other things -- a restaurant on the river side of the building, better lighting, state-of-the-art rest rooms and – my favorite – a new HD video scoreboard that will – gasp – presumably  huhg above the center of the ice rink and basketball court. What a concept.

GRITTY DUNGEY ANOTHER SHOT AT FLORIDA STATE

Senior Eric Dungey is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football. He’ll get a rare chance to perform before a large TV audience on ESPN noon Saturday against Florida State.

The Orange lost 27-24 at Florida State last season. Dungey suffered a broken foot early in the game but gutted it out and kept his team in the game. SU missed a late field-goal attempt that would’ve sent the game into OT.

Dungey is a rugged 6-foot-2, 226 pounds and loves contact. Were he not a QB, he could’ve played several other positions at a major college.

Dungey’s career stat line at SU entering this season: 26 games played, including 25 starts...Passing: 225-of-377 (.597) for 2,495 yards; 248.9 yards passing per game; 40 TD passes; 21 INTs...Rushing: 359 carries for 1,239 yards; 47.7 yards rushing per game; 3.5 yards per rush; 20 TDs.

Unfortunately, he missed 10 games – including the last three gamers in each of the past three seasons – due to assorted injuries.

SU is 2-0 this season – 55-42 at Western Michigan and 62-10 home against Wagner. Dungey is 30-of-49 (.612) for 402 yards passing and has 26 carries for 244 yards (9.4-yard average) and 1 TD.

He’d love to avenge last season’s loss to the Seminoles and it will be interesting to see if Florida State’s battle plan will include knocking him out of the game.

BOB’S NFL “BEST BETS”

Are the Buffalo Bills as awful as they looked in last week’s 47-3 loss at the Baltimore Ravens?

I don’t think so. They can’t be that bad.

The Bills will play their home opener Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Bills won’t lose by 44 points again but the switch to rookie QB Josh Allen isn’t likely to help enough to keep pace with the potent offense of the Chargers, who had 541 net yards in last week’s 38-28 loss to Kansas City.

The “Best Bet: Los Angeles Chargers 30, BUFFALO (+7 ½) 13.

Sunday’s other games

(home team in CAPS)

ATLANTA (-6) 28, Panthers 20 – Falcons QB Matt Ryan figures to be sharper than le was in Week 1’s 18-12 loss in Philadelphia.

WASHINGTON (-6) 20, Indianapolis 17 – The Redskins should win but the 6-point spot is too tempting to pass up.

Houston 24, TENNESSEE (+2) 15 – I’m counting on Texans QB Deshaun Watson to be sharper than the Titans Marcus Mariota, who’ll be facing a ferocious pass rush.

NEW YORK JETS (-3) 24, Miami 13 – A rare matchup of undefeated AFC East teams (it’s early; they’re both 1-0). I prefer the Jets secondary and rookie QB Sam Darnold over Miami’s Ryan Tannehill.

Minnesota 27, GREEN BAY (+3) 13 – The Vikings are the better team – with or without injured QB Aaron Rodgers playing for the Packers.

Philadelphia 27, TAMPA BAY (+3) 17 – Ryan Fitzpatrick was terrific in last week’s 48-40 road win over New Orleans. His career pattern calls for considerably less success Sunday.

Kansas City 30, PITTSBURGH (-4 ½) 24 – The Chiefs have impressive firepower and the 4 ½-point spot is a bonus.

NEW ORLEANS (-9) 35, Cleveland 21 – The Saints should be ready to play after a disappointing 48-40 home loss to Tampa Bay last week.

SAN FRANCISCO (-6) 20, Detroit 17 – The Lions should have enough pride to hang tough after last week’s embarrassing 48-17 home loss to the Jets.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-13) 33, Arizona 10 – A complete mismatch.

DENVER (-6) 28, Oakland 17 – The Broncos are always tough at home and have the pass rush to frustrate beleaguered Raiders QB Derek Carr.

JACKSONVILLE (+2) 30, New England 27 – Assuming Blake Bortles plays a halfway decent game.

New York Giants 24, DALLAS (-3) 20 – I don’t know how good the Giants can be but I do know the Cowpokes are overrated – as usual.

Monday night’s game

CHICAGO (-3) 27, Seattle 15 – The Bears are a team on the rise and the Seahawks appear to be in decline.

Last week’s results: 10-5-1 picking winners straight up...8-8 picking winners against the point spread...the “Best Bet” is 1-0 after Baltimore Ravens (-7) beat the Buffalo Bills 47-3.

SHORT SHOTS

Gennady “Triple H” Golovkin, the 36-year-old undefeated middleweight champion (38-0-1, 34 knockouts), will take on 28-year-old challenger Canelo Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 knockouts; only loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., in 2013) Saturday night in Las Vegas (HBO pay-per-view). Golovkin and Alvarez fought to a controversial split draw last September. Many observers thought Golovkin was robbed. Odds from OddsShakr: Golovkin bet $155 to win $100; Alvarez bet $100 to win $125).

 Dan Patrick will replace Joe Buck as host of the cable TV long-form sports interview show Undeniable. This fall’s series will include Ray Lewis, George Brett, Carl Lewis, Jim Palmer, Cheryl Miller and Rod Woodson. Buck hosted the show for five years. Patrick, 62, left ESPN in 2007. He has his own syndicated weekday sports talk show.

Due to the threat of Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, the entire best-of-five Durham Bulls versus Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders International League Governors’ Cup  championship series was switched to Moosic, Pa. Durham won 3-0 Thursday night totake a 2-1 lead in the series. The attendance for the three games: The series was tied 1-1 entering Game 3 Thursday night. Attendance for the three games: 2,521 and 1,743 and 1,775.

The early favorite to be the No. 1 goalie for the Rochester Amerks this season is 26-year-old former Albany Devil Scott Wedgwood.  With Albany in the 2015-16 AHL season, he was 14-3-3, with 2 shutouts, a 1.55 goals against average and .933 save percentage. Last season, he played in 20 games for NHL Arizona. He was 5-9-4, 3.45 GAA and .893 save percentage. He was signed by Buffalo as a free agent July 1, 2018.

It would surprise no one if Fairport lacrosse legend Tim Soudan is the coach of the expansion Rochester Knighthawks for the 2019-20. Current K-hawks coach Mike Hasen is a cinch to accompany his players to Halifax.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, September 14

Deshaun Watson 23...Gary Harris 24...Gregory Polanco 27...Jimmy Butler 29...Jonathon Simmons 29...Michael Crabtree 31...Delmon Young 33...Frostee Rucker 35...Terrell Fletcher 45...Kurt Goveia 54...Tim Wallach 61...Larry Brown 78...Harry Sinden 86.

Saturday, September 15

Josh Richardson 25...Marshal Yanda 34...Mike Dunleavy Jr., 37...Patrick Marleau 37...Jason Terry 41...Will Shields 47...Sherman Douglas 52...Earnest Byner 56...Aubrey Matthews 56...Dan Marino 57...Joel Quenneville 60...LeRoy Irvin 61...Richard Brodeur 66...Pete Carroll 67....Gaylord Perry 80. Prince Harry 34, Tom Hardy 41 and Tommy Lee Jones 72 are invited to the birthday party.

Sunday. September 16

Aaron Gordon 23...Braden Holtby 29...Bobby Korecky 39...Dan Dickau 40....Greg Buckner 42...Mark Bruener 46...Mark Parent 57...Mickey Tettleton 58...Tim Raines 59...Orel Hershiser 60...Robin Yount 63...Ron Brewer 63...Wilbert Montgomery 64...Jerry Pate 65...Eric Vail 65...Rosemary Casals 70...Lucius Allen 72...sailor Dennis Conner 76...Elgin Baylor 84. Marc Anthony 50, David Copperfield 62 and Mickey Rourke 66 are invited to the birthday party.

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