TIME FOR PAYBACK?

How Astros & Rockets fans could find themselves with more money in their pockets

Photo by Bob Levey /Stringer/Getty Images.

If you signed up for home delivery of bottled water, agreed to pay $20 a month for the service, but two months go by and no water … wouldn't you want your money back?

Well, I signed up for AT&T SportsNet because they said I'd get Houston Astros and Houston Rockets games, and two months have gone by and no games … so I want my money back. Or at least credit on future cable bills.

I sure didn't subscribe to AT&T SportsNet for taped replays of old footvolley (volleyball played with your feet) tournaments or IFA Redfish kayak races or the dreaded "paid programming." I watch AT&T SportsNet for one reason, two reasons really, and those are Astros and Rockets games.

So far, not a peep from the cable or satellite TV providers. I called Comcast, the biggest cable provider in Houston and asked, will you offer refunds or credit to AT&T SportsNet subscribers for no games, but lots of pain and suffering and fishing shows?

Comcast hasn't made an announcement yet, but here's the plan: "Any rebates will be determined once the NBA, NHL and MLB announce the course of action for their seasons, including the number of games that will be played, and of course we will pass those rebates or other adjustments along to our customers," said Michael Bybee, Comcast's director of external communications.

Plus I'm sure programming providers don't want to wait for the Texas attorney general to force them to refund money, like what's being threatened in New York.

Right now, and everything is totally tentative, baseball is hoping to re-start (it's still) spring training in June with Opening Day slotted for July 1. That would allow big league teams to play about 100 regular season games in this highly irregular season.

Baseball has a few scenarios up its sleeve. Teams may play home games in their usual home ballparks. Or teams could be grouped by geography and play in certain designated stadiums. Or they could play only in cities with smaller numbers of coronavirus infections.

NBA is trickier business because its season was almost completed when play was halted in March. There are several scenarios being discussed, including resuming the season in June or July, heading straight to the playoffs, or canceling the 2019-20 season altogether. As you'll recall, the Rockets had a 40-24 record, with 18 regular season games remaining. If the NBA moves directly to the post-season, the Rockets, sitting in 6th place in the Western Conference, would make the cut.

In all scenarios discussed, games will be played without fans in attendance. While I don't doubt that the Astros, like all MLB teams, are disappointed that the season is on hold, I'm thinking maybe the Astros are a little less disappointed. At least they have the most to gain if the season is played with reduced travel and no fans. It wouldn't be the worst thing for the Astros to play in empty stadiums.

Consider what's happened the past six weeks of no games. Star pitcher Justin Verlander was able to rehab his lat strain injury. How long was he supposed to be out of action? Six weeks. Meanwhile, Alex Bregman has been able to rehab his image by forming Alex's Army to raise $2 million to feed families facing financial problems due to COVID-19.

When games resume, oh no, you mean the Astros won't have to travel to New York, America's city hardest hit by coronavirus, to play the Yankees in front of 50,000 maniac Yankee fans who absolutely hate the Astros for cheating during their 2017 World Series season? Yankees fans are crazy enough without having an ax to grind. And the Astros won't have to play road games in front of Dodgers, A's and Red Sox fans who hate their guts, too? Such a pity. Thank you, coronavirus' silver lining.

If the Astros have to wait a whole year to play in front of fans, that's OK. America is a forgiving nation. Shoeless Joe Jackson got a lifetime ban for allegedly helping his White Sox team throw the 1919 World Series. I say allegedly because he went on trial with seven of his teammates in 1921 and a jury found them innocent. Two days later, the Commissioner of Baseball took it upon himself to ban the now-Black Sox forever. You didn't know that the Black Sox played the 1920 season, did you? Shoeless Joe played 146 games and batted .382 the year after he allegedly helped throw the World Series.

Now Shoeless Joe is some kind of folk hero. According to a poll, most Americans would like to see him in baseball's Hall of Fame. It was a lifetime ban, right? Well, the guy's been dead more than 70 years. His lifetime is over.

Pete Rose also was banned for life in 1989 for betting on baseball. Now most Americans think 31 years is enough and it's time to let the Hit King back in the game.

Yes, we may not forget but we forgive. In 1966 John Lennon proclaimed that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Some Americans, particularly in the Bible Belt, were so outraged that radio stations refused to play Beatles music and there were public bonfires to burn Beatles records. Lennon has since become a cherished (I almost said worshipped) icon of popular culture and his song Imagine is performed during the Olympic closing ceremonies.

Jane Fonda was the most hated woman in America in 1972 after she was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese cannon presumably aimed at U.S. planes. She was "Hanoi Jane." Within 10 years, she won her second Academy Award for Best Actress and starred in the first of 14 workout videos.

Mike Tyson went from convicted rapist to a lovable crazy person on Comedy Central roasts and star of a one-man show on Broadway. Alex Rodriguez, suspended from baseball for steroids, is now the voice of baseball on ESPN and Fox, and he's a panelist on Shark Tank and engaged to Jenny on the Block.

So the Astros may not be the cheating bad boys of baseball for long. Time heals all wounds. In a year or two, Jose Altuve will be cuddly again.

One note: this forgiveness thing? O.J. Simpson need not apply.

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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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