FALCON POINTS

5 key questions in Houston sports once the teams return

Photo by Getty Images.

The sports world is slowly creeping back, with the UFC, German soccer and NASCAR staging events this past week. They were unquestionably all successes, which means the rest of the leagues will soon follow suit. (One other encouraging thing; horse racing has been there all along, with limited Rona-related issues. So sports without fans can be pulled off). With that in mind, here are five things to look forward to the most as the sports world returns in Houston (this is assuming, of course, that all the leagues and colleges do come back):

5) Can the Dynamo become relevant again?

Dynamo fans get angry when their team is left off lists like this, but the reality is this team has been a disaster, with only one playoff appearance in the last six seasons in a league that all but begs you to make the playoffs. They brought in a promising new coach in Tab Ramos, and hoped to bring a new attitude and new style. There were only two games to go on before the Rona hit, including a home draw and a bad road loss. For a team that has been a mess on the road for years, it was not a great start. Now, like everyone else, they have to hit the reset button. But they have a lot farther to go than most teams. Will they be able to pull it together after the break? Can they be anything more than a DNQ in the playoff race again? Those are the pressing questions.

4) Can the UH resurgence continue?

In football, Dana Holgorsen's first season was simply a disaster. But prior coach Major Applewhite left him little to work with. Holgorsen's track record though, should give hope. Yes, QB D'Eriq King is gone, but Holgorsen should have more talent around QB Clayton Tune in year two and the Cougars should be able to make a jump. If not, things could get a little testy on Cullen. Meanwhile, Kelvin Sampson's basketball squad would have made the NCAA Tournament had it not been canceled, but the team was very young and should be even better in 2020, even losing a couple players to the pros. The question is not whether they will be a good team; it's how good can they be? The bar is set pretty high, and it will be fun to see if they can reach it.

3) Do the Rockets have another gear?

Before the break, the Rockets were alternating between stretches where they looked like a title contender and other points where they looked like first-round fodder. The question was always going to be how this team would do in the playoffs. Since the postseason is likely to begin with their return, we will get the answer quickly. Will they thrive in a shortened postseason? Or are the bad Rockets headed for an early exit? The good news is we get to find out soon.

2) Is Bill O'Brien really smart?

His off-season moves have been well chronicled, and universally ripped locally and nationally. But at least he has his team. While most will remain skeptical, O'Brien is banking on being smarter than everyone else. He still has Deshaun Watson, who can overcome a lot of his coach's shortcomings. But will it be enough?

1) Will the Astros still have a shot in what looks like the last year of their window?

This was going to be a big year for the Astros, returning with most of last year's World Series loser intact. The off-season controversy surrounding the 2017 cheaters took on a life of its own. But perhaps the team to benefit most from this break is the Astros. The delay should be enough to get Justin Verlander back and healthy. More time and a shortened schedule should benefit Lance McCullers. And if there are no fans? The trash can crew will have no impact. Perhaps by the time fans return, the controversy will have faded and will not be an issue. How the Astros respond will be critical. Of all the teams on the list, however, they could benefit from this break the most. Will they?

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After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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