OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: Madness, Kaepernick and more sports

Colin Kaepernick surprised Bob McNair. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Without question this is the most mind-blowing tournament I have ever seen.  Brackets have been busted, hearts have been broken, buzzer beaters, No. 1 seeds eliminated.

The best story of March Madness is the Loyola Ramblers. And not just because of coach Porter Mosier’s kids who upset both Miami and Tennessee.  It’s the remarkable story of 98-year-young team chaplain and scout, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.

She is getting more press coverage than the players, posing for selfies and signing autographs.  Sister Jean, the team chaplain since 1994, has had a TV camera trained on her during games and has been mic’d up for her pregame prayers.

The national celeb plans to be with the 11th seeded Ramblers in Atlanta on Thursday night at the Sweet 16 in Atlanta, where they will face No. 7 seed Nevada in a South Region semi.

Coogs just miss

The UH Coogs finish the season 27-8 under coach Kelvin Sampson as a

buzzer beater keeps them from advancing to the Sweet Sixteen and a game against the Aggies. But I still cannot figure out why Sampson, a defensive minded coach did not put two players on the inbound pass.

Strange indeed.

But it’s a boost for Kelvin Sampson’s program, as they move into their new state of the art facility.

A&M moves on

The Aggies made it to the Sweet Sixteen doing it in a manner that Kevin Sumlin’s football teams could not: With defense.

Once again coach Billy Kennedy’s kids clean the glass, pulling down 84 percent of their shots against former defending champ North Carolina and Providence. The keys are 6-10, 241-pound sophomore Robert Williams and 6-10, 266 pound junior  center Tyler Davis.

So much for putting a lot of stock in your conference, where the Aggies finished seventh in the SEC

Rockets roll on

Like a well-oiled machine, Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets continue to roll, even though they make a scary habit of letting teams get back into the games in the fourth quarter.  

The more you watch P.J. Tucker, the more you appreciate the unselfish play of the former Texas star.

Astros, Altuve stand tall

Astros owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow rewarded superstar second baseman Jose Altuve by signing the MVP through the 2024 season. It’s a five year, $151 MILLION-dollar deal.

Crane is one again putting his money where his mouth is by paying guys who grew up in their farm system.  When he bought the club, it was bare bones payroll and 100 loss seasons. Crane lived up to his promise of taking care of his stars.

They did the deal quietly with the toughest agent in baseball, Scott Boras, representing the Venezuelan package of dynamite.

Net Gaines

Huge props to new Texans GM Brian Gaine.  Unlike his predecessor Rick Smith McNair, who treated the media as maggots, Brian had a press conference to discuss the first few days of free agency.

How refreshing.

Communicating with you the fans through the media rather than Slick Rick hiding in his imperial office. On the day they lost out on left tackle Nate Solder, Gaine added three offensive linemen.

And that was before the shocking signing of Tyrann Mathieu on a one-year deal. The hard-hitting safety declined a pay cut from Arizona. With the addition of the Honey Badger the Texans have upgraded the back end of the defense with a great player on a one year deal.  He gives defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel multiple options in the back end.

But the key to secondary is the play of former first round pick Kevin Johnson. The kid is blessed with talent but can’t stay healthy.

Still at odds

Colin Kaepernick was seen last Thursday working out at a local soccer field, then flew to New York to participate in the collusion case.  Bob McNair, was part of the NFL deposition. According to sources, the Texans owner was shocked at Kaepernick’s presence.

Not from an optics perception but who I still think McNair should let Gaines sign Kap.  His mobility is perfect to back up Deshaun Watson

Still Luv ya blue

Big thanks to Titans owner Amy Strunk for a first-class day of golf and dinner for ex-Oilers.  Warren Moon flew in from Seattle, Kevin Gilbride from the East coast and Dr. Doom, Robert Brazille, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.

I had dinner with Rams legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.  He is like a little kid in the candy store with the acquisitions of Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters.  He’s never had a talent like the Chiefs former No. 1 pick.

Wade loves Watson and what Bill O’Brien did with him. “From the tape I saw the kid is destined for greatness. He has things that you can’t teach or coach.’’

Chirp!

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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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