Every-Thing Sports

Calculating the next bright spot for Houston sports

Photo by Matt Patterson/Houston Texans

The major pro sports are the big three: Football, basketball and, baseball. No disrespect to the others, but they don't move the needle in this country like the NFL, NBA, and MLB do. Sure, things are shaky because of the pandemic, but this isn't up for debate.

When it comes to winning a title in one of these leagues, you probably have better odds of getting bitten by a shark than seeing your team win a title in your lifetime. Those of us that have experienced that emotion are beyond blessed. Houston has experienced that feeling three times: back-to-back titles by the Rockets in 1994 & 1995, and the 2017 Astros. The Oilers got as far as the AFC conference title game, but could never get through. The Texans haven't advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs. So which one of these teams is currently poised to bring Houston it's next championship moment?

The Astros have the most recent title and still have the core from that team. But they're quickly becoming just another team in the race instead of a contender. Losing Gerrit Cole, the mounting injuries, a drop-off in play, and dealing with the fallout of the cheating scandal has turned them into also-rans. They're a game under .500, six games out of first place, and only a game and a half up on the Mariners for second place in the division. That's key since second place makes the playoffs. They also have big roster decisions to make with regard to who to pay and who to let walk. Factor all of that in, and I think their window may be closed or in the process of closing.

The Rockets are a complete mess. James Harden has the team by the jewels in a vise grip. I remember doing a radio show back in 2015 with Craig Shelton when he said Harden doesn't have championship DNA. I wanted to agree with him, but thought Harden could get it done eventually. I later came to realize Craig was right a season or two later. The Rockets are hamstrung with big contracts for players not many, if any, teams will want. Please stop calling into shows with ridiculous trade proposals. Use ESPN's Trade Machine and some common sense. In the next seven drafts (this year's included), they only have two first round picks ('22 and '23). Don't look for them to win big any time soon.

My odds on favorite of the three to win a title next is oddly enough the team without a championship history at all: the Texans. Yes, Bill O'Brien has made questionable moves as a coach and general manager. Yes, I know Houston has been cursed with failures with both of their NFL franchises. However, I believe Deshaun Watson is special enough to overcome some of O'Brien's shortcomings. I also think O'Brien would put his ego aside if it meant making a move (hiring a GM) to win a title. Either that, or the McNair's will put it aside for him.

Some will disagree with me here, and that's to be expected. But I will die on this hill. The Astros look to be in sharp decline and the Rockets are in purgatory. If either one turns it around, I'll be the first to eat my words. With the way the Astros completely fell apart this season, I've lost/losing hope. The Rockets performance in the bubble versus the Lakers confirmed what I've known for years. The Texans look to be in the driver seat of the three to bring that special feeling back to Houston, and I think it happens sooner than you think.

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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