THE PALLILOG

A tough act for Framber Valdez to follow, but he's up for the challenge

The Astros are up 1-0 in the ALDS. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Well that was easy. In game one of their American League Division Series the Astros made the White Sox look as though all five AL Central teams are no good this year. We already know that to be true of the other four. Of course anything can happen in one game or in a short series, but except for a poor eighth inning on the mound from Kendall Graveman the Astros absolutely cruised to a 6-1 series opening win.

The Lots of Lance starting pitching matchup played out as a major mismatch in the Astros' favor. Lance McCullers was tremendous until fading a little in the seventh. Six and two thirds scoreless innings from your starter? Yes, please. McCullers made 28 starts during the regular season. In zero of them did he not walk a batter. Thursday against the White Sox, zero walks (he did hit one guy). Tough act for Framber Valdez to follow in game two. Chicago starter Lucas Giolito has an easy act to follow after the Astros chased Lance Lynn in the fourth. The Astros have owned Lynn over their last several matchups. Giolito has been a different story.

Jose Altuve is occasionally the guilty party of some of the Astros' occasionally silly baserunning. Thursday, he made a spectacular baserunning play with as a good a slide as you can make to beat the tag on the throw home from Chisox third baseman Yoan Moncada on an Alex Bregman grounder. Altuve slid past the catcher and tapped home plate as he went by. Just tremendous.

Part of the beauty of sports is sometimes good decisions can blow up in your face, other times bad decisions can work out fine. This season Kyle Tucker was definitely the Astros' best offensive player. If you throw out April it wasn't particularly close. The Astros' lineup is loaded so it's not as if there are lightweights ahead of Tucker in the batting order. Still, slotting your best offensive player seventh in the order as Dusty Baker had Tucker in game one is silly. The simplest move would be to move Tucker up to second in the lineup and drop Michael Brantley to the seven spot. So of course Thursday Brantley had two hits while Tucker went 0-4. Baseball!

Couple the Astros comfortable win over the White Sox with the Rays dusting the Red Sox in their opener Thursday night, an Astros-Rays American League Championship Series rematch isn't inevitable, but the needle sure is pointing in the direction of the Astros being in St. Petersburg next Friday night.

Belichick returns to Houston

The Texans play the Patriots Sunday. Not exactly compelling. Much more the exact opposite of compelling. The Texans are off of one of the most pathetic showings in franchise history in taking a 40-0 beating at Buffalo, the Pats off losing Tom Brady's return to Foxboro. One reckons there will be a few no-shows who opt for almost anything besides entering NRG Stadium. Though the Texans are only one game back of the pacesetting Tennessee Titans in the thus far punchline awful AFC South.

Countdown to liftoff

Inside two weeks to the start of the Rockets' regular season. The Rockets won't be compelling but the presence of rookie Jalen Green and several other young talents sure makes them more interesting than the Texans. That's not meant as damning with faint praise, though watching glue dry would be more compelling than the Texans.

The NBA is celebrating it's 75th anniversary season. As the regular season opens in a couple of weeks, the NBA will unveil its 75 at 75, a panel selected list of the top 75 players in the league history. A quarter century ago the NBA unveiled its 50 at 50. Such rankings will always cause arguments, which is part of the fun. Shaquille O'Neal being on the 50 at 50 was laughably premature, now of course he's a no-brainer for the top 75, and would be an easy selection if the list was the top 25 at 75. Interesting that in unveiling the 75 at 75, the NBA has decided not to protect the 50 players who made the 50 at 50. Kind of awkward to inform Bill Walton, or Nate Archibald, or the family of Pete Maravich (as the case may be) "We're sorry to inform you that you are/he is OUT."

Buzzer Beaters:

1. CBS opted for Alabama-Texas A&M in primetime Saturday night. Uh oh. Blowouts aren't ratings magnets.

2. The Big 12 is clearly football inferior to the SEC but Texas-Oklahoma is about 100 times more interesting than Tide-Ags figures to be. More ultimately successful in Austin: Tesla or Steve Sarkisian?

3. Sports greatest Lances: Bronze-Parrish Silver-Berkman Gold-Alworth (until proven a blatant cheater Armstrong would have been a lock)

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After the Texans recorded a win over the Saints on Saturday, we discuss some of the young players that really caught or attention.

Will Dameon Pierce's impressive performance push him into a starting role at some point this year? And better yet, how many carries should we expect him to get in the Texans backfield?

Plus, what about the defense? Jalen Pitre had some nice moments in his second series of action at safety. We discuss what plans Lovie Smith has for the rookie from Baylor.

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