In my humble opinion, there's nothing that brings a city together like a baseball team on a roll -- the anticipation of that day's game, then the game, the discussion during the game on social media, reliving the game the next morning with friends or co-workers and the anticipation of the next game. Because baseball is every day, it's a nonstop cycle of joy.
We saw this last year with the Chicago Cubs. We're witnessing it this season with the Houston Astros, who beat the Texas Rangers 7-2 on Sunday for their 10th consecutive win. George Springer homered twice, and I'd love to see him start in the outfield for the American League All-Star team. Carlos Correa launched a 444-foot homer, his 11th, and those April shouts that Francisco Lindor is better than Correa are quiet now. Brad Peacock fanned nine in six innings, and the bullpen tossed three scoreless frames. Everything is clicking.
The Astros have this reliever, Michael Feliz. He throws 97, 98 mph, and he has a 2.19 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings. He got four outs on Sunday. He's really good. Here's the thing: He's not even one of the team's primary relievers. He usually pitches with a big lead or when the team is behind. That's the kind of depth on this roster and why they're just the fourth team since 2000 to win 40 of their first 57 games:
2017 Astros: 41-16 (.719)
2016 Cubs: 40-17 (.702)
2002 Red Sox: 40-17 (.702)
2001 Mariners: 45-12 (.789)
For a parallel to those 2001 Seattle Mariners, who would win a record 116 games, their Game 57 was a 13th straight win on the way to 15 in a row. The Astros may get to 15 as well, with four games in Kansas City before returning home to face the Los Angeles Angels. If you want to go back further, the Astros are just the seventh team in the divisional era since 1969 with 41 wins in 57 games, with the 1998 Yankees (44), 1984 Tigers (43), 1970 Reds (42), 1986 Mets (41) and 1974 Dodgers (41) also on the list.
Some of those are legendary teams. All the teams we listed won at least 102 games except the 2002 Boston Red Sox, who peaked at Game 57, slumped in June and finished 93-69, missing the playoffs. That's not going to happen to the Astros. This team is going to bring a lot more joy to its fans.
If you can mention Rico Carty, then you have to mention Rico Carty. Ender Inciarte had his second 5-for-5 game of 2017, getting those five hits plus a walk in the Braves' 13-8 victory over the Reds (that's three rough starts in a row for Reds rookie Amir Garrett, as he has allowed nine home runs in 11 2/3 innings). Here's a list of players in Braves history with two 5-for-5 (or better) games in one season: Doc Miller, 1910; Bill Sweeney, 1912; Rabbit Maranville, 1913; Rico Carty, 1964; Felix Millan 1970; Fred McGriff, 1996; Ender Inciarte, 2017.
Four players had two five-hit games last season, but only Kris Bryant and Yunel Escobar went 5-for-5 both games. The last player with three 5-for-5 games in a season was ... Escobar, with the Washington Nationals in 2015. The most 5-for-5 games since 1950: Pete Rose with 10. This is yet another reason baseball so great and unpredictable: Random players like Inciarte and Escobar can have these five-hit games out of nowhere. Heck, Inciarte isn't even hitting .300 (he's at .299). By the way, given his Gold Glove defense in center, with Freddie Freeman on the DL, Inciarte is a good All-Star option for the Braves (his total package is more valuable than Matt Kemp's).
This is a warning from your emergency broadcast system. Now pitching: The Nationals' bullpen. Did that ninth inning in Oakland actually happen? It happened. The Nationals broke open a 6-4 game with five runs, including home runs from Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor. Closer Koda Glover, who got the final out of the eighth for the Nationals, proceeded to allow four straight hits and a walk, so Dusty Baker had to turn to Shawn Kelley. He got an out then served up a grand slam to Matt Joyce. An 11-4 game was suddenly 11-10. Kelley has now allowed seven home runs in 15 innings and is probably the bigger concern than Glover, who entered the game riding a streak of nine straight scoreless appearances.
Was Glover as bad as his line score indicates? Yes and no. Khris Davis singled on a line drive to center off a terrible slider. Yonder Alonso and Ryon Healy both reached on line drives to right field, but credit good hitting there, especially Healy, who took a 98 mph heater and went the opposite way. (Random thought: What if guys didn't try to hit home runs on every swing?) Stephen Vogt then reached on a dribbler down the third-base line, and Matt Olson walked on a 3-2 pitch. We'll see how the rookie bounces back, but at the minimum, the Nationals need to be on the search for a better setup guy than Kelley.
My mom made me write a note about the Mariners. A week ago the Mariners were on life support. They had lost seven of eight, scoring one run in five straight losses and then getting shut out in back-to-back games at Fenway Park. My friend KJ sent me a text with the start date of training camp for the Seahawks. But they beat the Red Sox last Sunday, took three of four from the Colorado Rockies and then swept the Tampa Bay Rays. With hits in his first two at-bats Sunday, Danny Valencia tied a club record with nine consecutive hits, and Ariel Miranda tossed his first career complete game. They're not back to .500, and they also lost Jean Segura, who is leading the AL with a .341 average, for maybe a month with a severely sprained ankle, but it's a minor miracle they're just 2.5 games out of the wild-card spots given their projected five-man rotation has started just 29 of the team's 58 games.
Random thoughts ... The fact that the Mariners are still in this is an indication of the AL's mediocrity, right? Sort of, except the AL leads interleague play 61-42. You can make an argument that the worst seven or eight teams are all in the NL. ... OK, time to say it: Justin Smoak is having a good season (.283/.346/.560, 14 home runs). So is Logan Morrison (.243/.347/.551)! Quick, somebody sign Jesus Montero! ... Aaron Judge's BPs are becoming a thing. ... Interesting take from Buster Olney on whether some players are focusing too much on launch angle. ... Finally, congrats to Albert Pujols for becoming the ninth member of the 600 home run club. Heard this: More men have walked on the moon than have hit 600 home runs.