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 no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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