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Houston Astros will visit the White House

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Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports that the White House has invited the Houston Astros to visit president Trump later this year and that the Astros will make the trip. It may be as early as spring training, actually, as the Astros do not visit Baltimore until the last series of the season and do not play the Nationals in interleague play this year.

This would not have been a story at all in years past, but since Donald Trump took office a number of athletes, such as the Yankees’ CC Sabathia, and one professional championship team — The Golden State Warriors — have either declined Trump’s invitation (Trump said they were “disinvited,” but did so after they said they would not come) or said they would not go if the occasion presented itself.

Earlier in the offseason the Astros as a team said they were undecided, but several individual players said they would go if asked. That group included World Series MVP George Springer and ace Dallas KeuchelThird baseman Alex Bregman, who has been sharply critical of Trump, said that he’d follow whatever two of his teammates decide, saying “I’m going to do whatever Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa do.” Beltran is retired now. Both he and Correa have been critical of the Trump Administration’s response to the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. There are always some no-shows for presidential visits. It would not be shocking if Bregman, Correa and Beltran, who would likely be invited along given that he was a leader on the World Series-winning team, are among the no-shows.

The rest of the Astros, however — at least most of them — will be here.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.