The Pallilog

Charlie Pallilo: Astros embark on key road trip

Jose Altuve's injury is lingering. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

There is nothing make or break for the Astros about this six game road trip that has them in Oakland for three then Seattle for three, but the set with the Athletics is the Astros’ biggest regular season series in almost two years. In 2016 the Astros were a mediocre team but in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. They were just one game out with 10 to play, then petered out with a 3-7 finish to wind up 84-78. Last year there wasn’t another good team in the American League West and the Astros had the division functionally clinched before Memorial Day. The Angels finished second, 21 games back at 80-82. This year the A’s have evolved into a legitimate threat, the Mariners don’t quite look up to it but are certainly pretty good on the back of relief ace Edwin Diaz and the M’s terrific record in one-run and extra inning games.

With the Astros starting the trek two games ahead of the A’s and four and a half up on the M’s, a .500 trip would be OK, a winning trip likely restores clear command of the division race. Last year the Astros stunk in August. The Dodgers had an 11 game losing streak in September. Building momentum for the postseason means nothing. It’s about getting into the postseason, and avoiding the Wild Card game in doing so. The Astros have no chance at catching the Red Sox for the best record in the AL. Their once huge lead over Cleveland has dwindled. The most likely AL Division Series matchup is Astros vs. Indians. Even though the Astros home record this season is a mediocre 33-29 while their road play has been phenomenal, you absolutely want home field for a postseason series. Last licks are a fundamental advantage.

The Astros are tending to much more important business, but it is a bummer that it’s all but over for Jose Altuve racking up at least 200 hits for a fifth consecutive season. Altuve’s “it’s nothing” knee problem turned out to be quite a problem. As I say on the radio upon occasion, “attendance is part of the grade.” Altuve has missed too many games to have a remotely plausible shot at amassing the 66 hits he is short of 200 for the season. A reminder that Pete Rose and Ty Cobb maxed out at three straight 200 hit seasons.  Which makes it darn near unbelievable that Ichiro Suzuki reached 200 each of his first 10 seasons in MLB. Though Ichiro’s best as an offensive player wasn’t really close in overall quality to Cobb’s best, Rose’s best, or what Altuve did the last two seasons. It doesn’t look good for Altuve’s shot at a fourth batting title either. There’s no shame in .329, but Mookie Betts keeps hovering around .350.

Football talk

Texans and Niners in the preseason home opener Saturday night!!! Did three exclamation points make it sound remotely exciting? I hope not. A tip of the cap to and a sanity check for all those tailgating mid-afternoon on a 96 degree day. What could be more sensible than getting a hot grill going while hanging out in an asphalt parking lot? But if you have a burger or some BBQ for me…

Like last week Deshaun Watson will hardly play in preseason game number two, Jimmy Garoppolo probably not a whole lot more for the 49ers (the ripoff that is the NFL preseason marches on!). They may be the two most intriguing quarterbacks in the NFL starting this season: Watson having torn up the league for five games before tearing up an ACL, Garoppolo having led the Niners to victory in all five of his starts to end last season.

All about the beard

James Harden’s JH-Town Weekend raising money for his charitable foundation is a cool deal. Hope the related activities are calmer than it sounds like some of Harden’s activities were last weekend. Harden is mentioned in a Scottsdale Arizona police investigation into a nightclub incident. Some club girl evidently claims Harden yanked a phone from her hand and chucked it. Club girl wound up going to the hospital claiming an injured wrist. Look, I think most people who shoot cellphone video hoping for something they can peddle to the TMZs of the world are losers. But a rule for all: you can’t be knocking/grabbing phones out of people’s hands who are perfectly within the bounds of the law with their actions, even if they are loser-esque actions.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Sorry Daryl Morey, LeBron James is not the best ever “by a bit of a big margin.”  2. But he may be the best ever. Jordan, Wilt, and Kareem are the only alternatives. 3. Best Aretha Franklin songs: Bronze-A Natural Woman  Silver-Freeway of Love Gold-Respect. Of course.


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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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