The Pallilog

Astros, Crane get their apologies out of the way

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

Oh, those Apologizin' Astros! If the sincerity shown by some was electricity, a 10 watt bulb might flicker. One hopes they truly grasp what chump, cheating behavior they took part in and that their shame should feel real, because it is real. Unfortunately, at least some are likely mostly sorry that they got busted and face scorn for it. Decency demanded apologies, but if not sincere they are worthless.

While lead owner Jim Crane shouldn't be criticized for not having sensational oratory skills, at Thursday's press conference he more than once came across as ridiculous. There was no graceful way to please close to everybody, but laughable contradictions and absurd assertions don't make anyone associated with the Astros look good.

How can anyone but a fool or someone lost deep in denial maintain that the Astros' 2017 World Series championship isn't permanently tainted? Lady Macbeth fared infinitely better getting that damn'd spot out than the Astros ever can fare removing the stain they themselves put on 2017.

On the bright side, we're inside six weeks from Opening Day.

Whose house?

The best sports team in this city at its level, discounting the marginally apologetic Astros? Kelvin Sampson's Houston Cougars. A nifty achievement for the program already tucked away, a fifth consecutive 20 win season. The great Guy V. Lewis never accomplished that. Not during the Phi Slama Jama, not during the Elvin Hayes era. Never means never! Granted, teams do play more games in a typical season now than they did back then.

Whatever. After mostly a 30 year hoop coma between Lewis and Sampson, Cougar basketball is again sustainably a national factor. The Coogs stand alone top the American Athletic Conference, are ranked number 20 in the nation, and absolutely have a chance at a major March Madness run. And Sampson has one senior on his roster.

It's a wide open NCAA Tournament coming next month (including the South Regional at Toyota Center). There are no superpower teams this season. Baylor has been marvelous and is rightly ranked number one, but the Bears offense can be verrrrrry shaky. Beyond any Cinderella making major noise at the Big Dance, there are a couple of dozen teams that can harbor very plausible Final Four dreams. Last year's national runner-up Texas Tech is one of them. The Houston Cougars are another. Like the Rockets, UH's outside shooting isn't very good. UNlike the Rockets, UH's defense is outstanding, and Cougar rebounding, astounding. The Cougars have played 25 games and amazingly outrebounded their opponents in every one of them.

Taking their shots

Speaking of the Rockets, with their 34-20 record they hit the NBA All Star break living in the league's upper middle class, though they are closer to the eighth place Grizzlies in the Western Conference than to the frontrunning Lakers. The early returns of "super small" ball are encouraging, but the likelihood that the Rockets can shoot, defend, and rebound well enough to win multiple best-of-seven playoff series does not seem especially high. In fact, the likelihood is close to zero if James Harden and Russell Westbrook don't end their seasons long streaks of worse play in the postseason than in the regular season.

The Rockets yet again lead the NBA in three point shots. The math works. High volume three point shooting, Harden's one man free throw parade, and Russell Westbrook's now relentless attacking of the rim combine to give the Rockets the second most efficient scoring offense in the league (Dallas is number one). This is Daryl Morey's 13th season as General Manager. His tenure has produced six seasons with at least 53 wins and zero losing seasons. But Morey has failed the last couple of years in not adding premium three point shooting to the roster. The Rockets are 23rd of the 30 teams in three point percentage. The seven teams worse all have losing records.

'Neck time

After a rousing success in their debut, do the Houston Roughnecks show signs of sustainability or growth in interest in game two, again home at UH's TDECU Stadium. Another lovely weather forecast with no possible arrogant bumbling decision to close a roof should again help the turnout. Plus, you know what they say: When the Roughnecks and St. Louis BattleHawks get together you can throw out the records.

The XFL on-field product quality is obviously way behind the NFL's, but it took June Jones and the Roughnecks' offense three plays to do something Bill O'Brien and the Texans' offense did in none of the 15 regular season games Deshaun Watson played last season. Score an opening drive touchdown!

Buzzer Beaters

1. NBA All Star Weekend? Yawn. 2. But it's still way better than the Pro Bowl. 3. Best sports Harts: Bronze-Corey Silver-Jim Ray Gold-Jim.


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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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