Houston wins both games against Oakland

Astros sweep doubleheader against A's to gain ground in AL West

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After the shortened series with the Angels due to hurricane Laura, then protesting Friday night's game to bring awareness to social injustice, the Astros played their first games in four days on Saturday afternoon. It was a doubleheader to make up Friday's game, giving Houston the chance to make a big move in the AL West standings if they could sweep the two seven-inning games against the division-leading Oakland A's. Here is a rundown of Saturday's doubleheader:

Game 1

Final Score (7 innings): Astros 4, A's 2.

Record: 18-14, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2, 5.06 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chris Bassitt (2-2, 3.72 ERA).

Astros jump ahead early against Bassitt

After a quick top of the first by Lance McCullers Jr. on the mound, the Astros put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the inning. It started with a walk by Michael Branley, followed by a double by Yuli Gurriel. That put two runners on base, which Kyle Tucker would take advantage of, hitting a three-run home run to give Houston the early 3-0 lead.

Oakland would get on the board in the top of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with no outs after a double and single to start the frame. McCullers Jr. did well to limit the damage to one run, allowing just an RBI-groundout as he would get the next three batters in order, holding on to the lead at 3-1. Josh Reddick got the run back immediately in the bottom of the inning, leading it off with a solo home run to make it a three-run game once again. The next two batters reached base, chasing Chris Bassitt out of the game after just three innings pitched.

McCullers Jr. gets the win as Houston gains a game in the division

Other than allowing the run in the fourth, McCullers Jr. was doing well through five innings and returned for the sixth. He fielded a one-out groundball in that inning, but an errant throw to first would allow the runner to reach and advance to third. That turned into an RBI-single later in the frame, cutting the lead to 4-2. He would finish the inning, ending his day as Houston went to their closer in the seventh. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 HR, 93 P.

Ryan Pressly took over in the top of the seventh to close the game out. He did so, retiring Oakland in order as Houston trimmed a game off Oakland's division lead, with a chance at another less than an hour later.

Game 2

Final Score (7 innings): Astros 6, A's 3.

Record: 19-14, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zack Greinke (2-0, 2.68 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Frankie Montas (2-3, 6.06 ERA).

Oakland scores first, but Houston responds

The A's would counter the Astros and get on the scoreboard first in game two, getting a solo home run by Ramon Laureano in the first at-bat of the game against Zack Grienke. Kyle Tucker would once again be the difference-maker in Houston's half of the first, bringing in three runs on a bases-clearing triple to give the Astros a 3-1 lead.

In the bottom of the second, they extended the lead on a home run by George Springer that flew out so quickly and far that statcast couldn't even estimate it. That made it a 5-1 game, but Oakland would chip away over the next few innings.

A's trim down the lead against Greinke

After the leadoff homer in the first, Zack Greinke was able to settle in and keep Oakland from scoring any further in the first three innings. Matt Chapman would change that with a solo home run to start the fourth, then back-to-back one-out hits by Oakland in the fifth would set up an RBI-groundout to cut Houston's lead to two runs at 5-3.

Greinke would finish the fifth, but with his pitch count at 96, would not go any further. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 2 HR, 96 P.

Houston's bullpen completes the doubleheader sweep

Blake Taylor would take over for Greinke to start the top of the sixth. He would complete the inning, erasing a leadoff walk with a strikeout and double play to put Houston three outs away from the win. In the bottom of the inning, Martin Maldonado led off with a single, then would eventually score as two more singles moved him to third to set up a sac-fly by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3.

Ryan Pressly, who was able to get the save in the first game on just eight pitches, was able to enter for a second save in the top of the seventh. He completed the impressive feat, giving Houston the doubleheader sweep and gaining two games in the AL West standings, putting them 2.5 games behind Oakland for the division lead.

Up Next: Houston will get back to their regular schedule on Sunday, with the finale of this three-game set against Oakland at 1:10 PM. The expected pitching matchup is Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.35 ERA) for the Astros going opposite Jesus Luzardo (2-1, 3.74 ERA) for the A's.

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The new-look Texans won't get started until September, but the Roughnecks' season is about to begin. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Without much fanfare, or seemingly any, the Houston Roughnecks are preparing for opening night of the XFL 3.0 season just a couple of weeks away.

The Roughnecks will host the Orlando Guardians, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 at TDECU Stadium on the UH campus. That’s less than a week after the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Before one pass is thrown, one run rushed, or one groin pulled, Las Vegas has set odds for the 2023 XFL season. Our Roughnecks and the Orlandos are tied for the longest odds on the board, +750. The early betting favorite is the St. Louis Battlehawks at +400.

Just a note: if you’re like Cosmo Kramer and think wagering on early-season XFL games is “some sweet action” – well, “you really need help, you need a team of psychiatrists working around the clock, thinking about you” and George Costanza.

Not surprisingly, good seats remain for opening night. Lousy seats, too. And seats in the middle.

If the Houston Texans and the all-mighty NFL couldn’t fill half of NRG Stadium, do the Roughnecks stand a prayer of drawing big crowds to TDECU Stadium?

One thing in the Roughnecks favor: affordable seats for their five home games on the XFL’s 10-game schedule. Season tickets for Roughnecks games start at $110 and go up to $480 at xfl.com. Individual game tickets, available on Ticketmaster, are $24 and higher. Reasonably priced food and drink (I kid because I love), plus an array of team merch will be available, including T-shirts ($25), baseball caps ($28-$34), sweatshirts and sweatpants ($45-$60), and bucket hats ($45).

Of course, nothing sells seats like winning. The Roughnecks were 5-0 and dominating the league last time the XFL played. That was 2020 when Covid-19 cut the season short. That was then …

This is now. Much like the Texans (as of this week), the most recognizable and popular figure on the field will be the head coach. The 2023 Roughnecks will be led by NFL veteran Wade Phillips, who has a lot of history and DNA in Houston. Quarterbacks currently on the roster are Cole McDonald from Hawaii, Kaleb Eleby from Western Michigan and Brandon Silvers from Troy State.

Most of the roster will be new names for Houston fans, although the league is bragging that 255 XFL’ers have been on NFL rosters at some point.

The Roughnecks will compete in the XFL South division along with the Arlington Renegades, Orlando Guardians and San Antonio Brahmas. That’s three out of four teams from Texas. The XFL North is comprised of the D.C. Defenders, Seattle Sea Dragons, St. Louis Battlehawks and Vegas Vipers.

Every XFL game (40 regular season, two playoffs, one championship) will air somewhere across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and FX, plus streaming on ESPN+. As they say, check your local listing to find the Roughnecks.

If you think that the XFL is just “too soon,” hold on until April when the Houston Gamblers take the field for the 2023 USFL season. Although don’t get too excited about attending home games. Houston’s “home” is in Birmingham, Ala. I know, silly.

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