ASTROS FALL TO KC

Astros once again bested by Royals in lopsided loss

Astros' Jose Altuve
The Astros continued to struggle against beatable teams in a loss to the Royals on Monday. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Astros continued to struggle against beatable teams in a loss to the Royals on Monday.

After a disappointing 1-3 series against the Royals last week, the Astros entered the new three-game series with Kansas City hopeful for a different outcome with this series at home. Instead, they would fall again as the baffling trend of losing to beatable teams continues.

Final Score: Royals 7, Astros 1

Astros' Record: 73-52, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Daniel Lynch (4-3)

Losing Pitcher: Zack Greinke (11-4)

Greinke tosses another quality start

It was not the start that Houston, who dropped three of four to the Royals in Kansas City last week, hoped for on Monday. The Royals jumped out to an early lead against Zack Greinke, getting a one-out double and two-out RBI ground-rule double in the second, then a solo homer in the third, going in front 2-0.

Houston cut that lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Taylor Jones, who would later score on an RBI double by Yuli Gurriel, making it 2-1. Greinke kept it a one-run game the rest of his start, tossing a 1-2-3 fourth and working around a single and walk in the fifth before finishing with a scoreless sixth. His final line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 92 P.

Astros once again can't handle the Royals

Despite having the tying run on third with one out in the fifth, Houston remained down one run after Greinke was done, with Yimi Garcia taking over in the top of the seventh. He did not do well, allowing a walk, RBI double, and another run on an error, putting the Royals in front 4-1 before Blake Taylor would finish the frame.

Taylor remained on the mound in the top of the eighth, but things quickly spiraled out of control for Houston as after a single and an out, they would switch to Phil Maton, who would have a rough outing. He allowed three earned runs, one on a two-out single, then a two-RBI triple, as Kansas City broke the game open at 7-1. The six-run lead would hold for the Royals, who handed the Astros another loss, and after winning three of the four-game set at Kauffman Stadium, would claim the season-series victory with two games left to play.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday. The pitching matchup will be Luis Garcia (9-6, 3.39 ERA) for Houston and Brady Singer (3-8, 5.23 ERA) for Kansas City.

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The NFL hasn't scheduled a game for every day of the week.

Yet.

“We’re going to be the new 7-Eleven," New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "NFL, 24 hours, you can watch them play any given day.”

The veteran preparing for his 14th season has a way of lacing his critiques with playful satire that hits his intended target. With the NFL close to filling every day of the week with a game in the 2024 season, the league with a reputation of “any given Sunday” might just qualify for that new nickname.

It's all part of the NFL's plan to keep growing the game and the league.

“Our job is to be everywhere our fans are,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when asked about the league's new three-year Netflix deal that this year adds Wednesday games. “They have almost 300 million global subscribers. We are obviously focused on becoming more global. So it's a huge benefit to us.”

That deal is why the league that has scheduled and played games on Christmas for years will be playing not one, but two games on Christmas when defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City visits Pittsburgh as part of a holiday doubleheader capped by Baltimore at Houston.

The difference is this will be only the third time the NFL has played on a Wednesday since 1950.

The four teams involved all play on Saturday, giving coaches and players the kind of turnaround faced when a Sunday game is followed by a Thursday night kickoff. Tuesday is the only day the Chiefs won't play a game this season — technically the lone day off for NFL players with Sunday games.

Washington coach Dan Quinn said the key to preparing is sticking to a routine and shifting days. That involves trying to fool the body clock.

“This would be like a Wednesday, this would be like a Friday, this is what we do before the game, so it’s not as difficult as it seems," Quinn said. "You have some travel that you have to work in, shorter weeks, longer weeks, but staying true to a process.”

The Baltimore Ravens will only miss playing a game on a Tuesday and Friday in a schedule that includes a pair of Thursday games. Christmas will cap a stretch of three games in 11 days for Baltimore.

Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton said it's not so much a concern as more of a “shock factor,” but players will adapt and prepare for what may be the start of a new stage for the NFL. He said players likely had the same conversations when the NFL introduced games on Monday nights, then Thursday nights.

“I’m sure 10 years from now, that might be the norm,” Hamilton said of an NFL schedule featuring games throughout a week.

Arizona offensive lineman Will Hernandez said getting the body to bounce back quickly is tough.

"I just go back to this: We all signed for it. We know what it is. Let’s just go,” Hernandez said.

Monday nights used to be for a premier game for the NFL. A new contract added games on Sunday night.

Then the NFL started opening seasons on Thursday nights in 2006. In 2020, the NFL played its first Tuesday night game since 2010 because of the pandemic. Before that, the NFL hadn't played on a Tuesday since 1946.

The schedule released last week opens as usual on a Thursday night with Baltimore visiting Kansas City.

Then Philadelphia plays Green Bay in Brazil on Friday night — previously seen as a sacrosanct night for high school football.

Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets kick off the traditional Monday night slate on Sept. 9 at San Francisco.

Thanksgiving long has been a day for the NFL with games in Detroit and Dallas now expanded into Thursday nights with a triple-header. This will be the second straight season the league will compete with stores for attention on Black Friday, with Las Vegas visiting Kansas City for anyone not shopping.

Add in the international games, NFL players' body clocks and circadian rhythms easily could be thrown off.

Jordan said the league preaches about using Guardian caps for player safety. “But nobody cares about our protocol of how to get our bodies back from a Sunday game to now a Wednesday game?” Jordan said. “Not saying that sounds absurd."

Player safety didn't stop the NFL from expanding the schedule from a 16-game season to 17 games in 2021 by cutting a preseason game in the league's first expansion since 1978. Now expanding to 18 games at some point in the future is a topic for discussion as Goodell says people "want obviously more football.”

Then the schedule-maker has to find a day to slot those games, giving the NFL another chance to fill out the rest of a week where every day looks like just another work day for players.

“If anything, we were going to practice, so why not play?” Jordan said. "And now we can wear our Guardian caps in the game!”

___

AP Pro Football Writers Dennis Waszak and Josh Dubow and AP Sports Writers Brett Martel, Noah Trister, David Brandt, Stephen Whyno, Dave Skretta, Joe Reedy and Mark Anderson contributed to this report.

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