SportsMap's on the Map

Boisterous crowd celebrates launch of SportsMap.com at blowout bash

Mingling outside at Hotel ZaZa. For more photos see Houston.Culturemap.com. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam Photography

A few hours after the official launch of SportsMap, a by-invitation-only crowd of 150 gathered for a blowout bash at Hotel ZaZa Thursday night. They toasted the new sports website, which promises "all sports all the time" in a digital format. 

The party, sponsored by CultureMap and ESPN 9.75 FM, spilled out from the hotel's Monarch restaurant into the outdoor area, where DJ Senega’s hot spins set the lively tone as guests took a swing at mini golf and got a real-time view of the work of Franky Cardona, the artist who created the Astros street art display at Home Run Alley at Minute Maid Park. Cardona created a one-of-a-kind painting of Texans star J.J. Watt as guests watched and marveled.

Guests also posed for step-and-repeat photos by Smilebooth, and enjoyed an array of hors d'oeuvres and free-flowing drinks, including ice-cold Coors Light beers and two signature cocktails: The All Star, made with tequila, blood orange juice, lime juice, and agave nectar; and The End Zone, stirred with lemon juice, simple syrup, and a hit of gin.

SportsMap, featuring a variety of written, video, and audio content covering Houston's sports scene, is the latest addition to owner Gow Media's fast-growing multi-platform business ventures, which also include CultureMap, ESPN 97.5 FM, SportsMap 94.1 FM, the SBNation national radio network, PodcastArena, and Gow Media Audio Publishing, an audiobook hosting site.

Joining in the celebration were Gow Media CEO David Gow, Texas Monthly owner Paul Hobby and his wife Janet, SportsMap editor-in-chief Fred Faour, CultureMap editor-in-chief Clifford Pugh, KHOU11 sports reporter Daniel Gotera and his wife, Fox 26 anchor/reporter Rashi Vats, KHOU11 meteorologist Chita Craft and her husband Lane, Butch Alsandor, and Nick Scurfield.

Also spotted in the crowd were Mike McGuff, Tijuana Harvey, Cherry Pie Hospitality’s Lee Ellis, Brittaney Wilmore, Kevin Cooper, Jerry Flores, Gerard Torres, Lawson Gow, Graham McKernan, Jennifer Muller, Brandon Strange, Patrick Dugan, Mark Toon, Julie Griffin, Andy Martinand Leisa Holland-Nelson. 

On-air personalities from the Gow Media sports family on hand included Charlie Pallilo, A.J. Hoffman, Charlie Epps (aka "The Golf Doctor"), Joel Blank, and Robin Carlin.

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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