The Pallilog

Astros still clicking along at a strong pace plus news on Keuchel, NBA Finals and Carson Wentz

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Just what the Astros wanted before a long flight home: a 14 inning five hour six minute game Thursday in Seattle. They won it, though If Justin Verlander finishes this season as a 19 game winner, Thursday's no-decision will be one to really rue. A.J. Hinch lifted Verlander after six and a third innings and just 94 pitches with the Astros leading 5-1. Will Harris, Ryan Pressly, and Roberto Osuna have all been excellent overall this season but they all failed and gave up runs as the Astros blew the lead. The first of the three earned runs charged to Verlander was tainted. In the bottom of the first with two out and nobody on Jake Marisnick and Michael Brantley combined to botch a routine fly ball which they let drop for a bogus double. A looping single by the next batter delivered the run.

No doubt Verlander would have preferred to stay in the game when hooked, but it wasn't an awful Hinch move. With the Astros a virtual postseason lock Hinch is rightfully mindful of the long game. In his prior start Verlander threw a season high 114 pitches. Conserving some pitches in Verlander's 36 year old arm from time to time is sensible. Under the same game circumstances in October, there is basically no chance Hinch takes out Verlander when he did Thursday.

The Astros certainly are not a flawless team and when the playoffs get here any opponent they face will be capable of beating them, but it seems as though the Astros are basically toying with the American League. Altuve out, Springer out, Correa out, and the Astros complete a 6-1 road trip to Oakland and Seattle. The A's are decent, the Mariners are horrible.

Just about 40 percent through the regular season the Astros are 43-21. En route to winning a franchise record 103 games last season, the Astros were 39-25 after 64 games.

Magic number

40 years ago (41 actually) Meat Loaf released "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." In Major League Baseball, winning two out of three on a regular basis is fantastic. Do it over a full season and a team wins 108 games. That's how many the Astros are on pace to win this year. For American League teams the regular season schedule expanded to 162 games in 1961, when expansion grew the AL to 10 teams. The National League went to 162 the next year, when the Colt 45s and New York Mets started play. So that's nearly 60 years of the 162 game schedule. Only eight teams have won as many as 108 games. For what it's worth, six of the eight won the World Series.

The Baltimore Orioles own two of those 108 win seasons, posting them back-to-back. The 1969 Orioles won 109 games but lost the World Series to the Miracle Mets. In 1970 the O's won 108 and did win the Series. These days the Orioles are a joke. Last season they finished 47-115. They're not pacing much better this season at 19-43. The Astros should whip up on them this weekend at Minute Maid Park.

Keuchel finds a home

Dallas Keuchel to the Atlanta Braves. He should be a good fit. Not knowing the market for his services would crash, Keuchel passed on a 17.9 million qualifying offer from the Astros, then on a reported 15 mil offer from them this spring. Keuchel will make 13 mil from the Braves (pro rata from a 20 million dollar annualized salary) then be a free agent again. No pity party is necessary but Keuchel and agent Scott Boras began free agency seeking 150 mil. They overshot the runaway a bit.

On the NBA

With the champions injury-addled, the NBA title is there for the Toronto Raptors' taking. Up two wins to one the Raptors face a still Kevin Durant-less Golden State squad in game four Friday night. Klay Thompson gives it a go after missing game three with a hamstring strain. If Thompson can't make a meaningful contribution the Raptors should win again and then have a chance to win the championship in Toronto Monday night.

The one year attendance ban imposed on the rich turd Warriors' minority owner who pushed Raptor guard Kyle Lowry along the sideline Wednesday night seems fair. It wasn't assault but it was a way beyond unacceptable jackass move.

Big deal for Wentz

Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Carson Wentz is three seasons into his NFL career, the last two of which included season ending injuries. The Eagles have agreed with Wentz on a four year $128 million dollar contract extension, $107 million guaranteed. 107! The clock ticks on the Texans as Deshaun Watson enters the third season of his career on a bargain contract.

Buzzer beaters

1. The Rockets have refreshed their secondary logo and are tweaking their uniforms. That's some nice sizzle. We'll see about the steak after the offseason. 2. Five games played in this year's Stanley Cup Final, four have been phenomenal. 3. Best Robert Redford movies: Bronze-All The President's Men Silver-The Natural Gold-The Sting

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans outmatched when it counts against Steelers

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Another game, another loss for the Texans. This time it was only a seven point loss to the Steelers as they fell 28-21 in Pittsburgh. This time around, Bill O'Brien looked to be on his game as far as decision-making was concerned. However, there is still room for improvement.

One thing that I did appreciate that O'Brien did was have trust in the offensive line. The Steelers pass rush could be problematic, but their defense overall is very stout. That's how they were able to nearly make the playoffs last year with a Duck at quarterback. While the Texans did give up five sacks, they weren't all due to poor offensive line play. The Texans lost 33 yards on those five sacks. Tytus Howard and Zach Fulton handled themselves fairly well after looking like turnstiles the first two games. O'Brien called longer developing pass plays and play action in spite of this and it paid off with Deshaun Watson and his receivers putting up 264 yards in the air.

There also wasn't an instance of Bumbling Bill this game. At the end of the first half, there was a minute and fourteen seconds left. The Texans were down 17-14 and had all three timeouts with the ball on their 25-yard line. Classic Bumbling Bill situation right? Wrong! Not only was the play-calling on point, but the players executed and the timeout situation was handled perfectly. First timeout was used after getting to midfield with 47 seconds left. Timeout number two was used after a 20 yard gain after the previous play. A 15 yard gain later to the Steeler 14-yard line and timeout number three was used with 28 seconds left. This set up perfectly for them to call a multitude of plays. They only needed one as Watson found Will Fuller in the end zone on a jump ball in which Fuller rose up and was physical enough to grab the ball over the defender. They went up 21-17 at the half.

Bill O'Brien's teams were 37-3 when leading at halftime. I say "were" because they lost this one after not scoring a single point in the second half. This was more on the defense not being able to fight its way out of a wet paper bag, and a lack of execution by the offense. Specifically, the run defense has been atrocious and Watson either needs quicker reads or to stop holding onto the ball so long by making quicker decisions. That's on coaching to put players in positions to succeed, but also the players to execute.

Ultimately, this was on O'Brien the general manager more than O'Brien the coach. This roster is woefully outmatched. The only time an outmatched roster can compete consistently is in college football with a wacky offense. It just doesn't happen in the NFL. Hey, at least Bumbling Bill didn't rear his butt chin today. Today's Culture Map play call menu was brought to you by Pour Behavior. I suggest getting over there and checking out their daily specials.

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