THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: Clutch Rockets take big win, but Paul injury could be devastating

If Chris Paul can't return, Thursday night's win might be for naught. Rockets.com

Two games in a row that were excruciatingly intense and exhausting. And that was just watching them. After three non-close games to start the series, the Rockets and Warriors produced two epics this week with the Rockets taking both. But the Game 5 victory that has the Rockets within one more W of the NBA Finals could turn out to be a quintessentially Pyrrhic Victory. Pyrrhus was a Greek general who won an epic battle with the Romans, but suffered massive losses in the victory that caused grave damage going forward.

Chris Paul has a history of postseason injuries. If he is knocked out now by the hamstring injury suffered in the final minute of Game 5 this is by far the most devastating. And absolutely the cruelest since it was Paul’s second half magnificence that lifted the Rockets to be in position to win.  

James Harden somehow missed all 11 of his three point attempts Thursday. Over the last four games he is a feeble 8 for 44. If Paul can’t go or is significantly hobbled, Harden will have to be tremendous in either Game 6 or 7 for the Rockets to win.

The Rockets Game 4 win in Oakland was one of the greatest in franchise history. Facing going down three games to one, trailing 12-0 out of the shoot, then by 12 early in the fourth quarter against the Warrior juggernaut at Oracle Arena where Golden State had won an NBA record 16 straight home playoff games? If the Warriors ultimately win the West again, it downgrades the ultimate importance of the win, but no one should try to un-ring the bell of what an in-the-moment accomplishment it was.

If the Rockets are to ultimately win the series, here’s hoping for an ABBA game Monday night. You know (or should). The Winner Takes It All. All of the Western Conference anyway. Most would expect the Rockets-Warriors victor to dispatch the Celtics or LeBrons with relative ease, though if it’s the Rockets involved Paul’s condition would have something to say about that.

Big stretch

The play-out of the Rockets-Warriors series is the rightfully dominant topic of interest right now, but the Astros keep going about their business racking up wins. As the schedule works out, the Astros are in the midst of a stretch of four consecutive series against what very well could turn out to be the other four American League playoff teams. The Astros spend the weekend in Cleveland. The Indians have been mediocre this season but mediocrity should be enough for the Tribe to again win what is a woeful AL Central. Next the Astros visit Yankee Stadium for the first time since their three game collapse there during the American League Championship Series. Then it’s back home for four vs. the Red Sox then two vs. the Mariners.

The Yanks and Sox both look like 100+ win teams. If so, we will have the best team of the two Wild Cards per league era. Imagine going 103-59 but finishing second in your division. That’s what happened to the San Francisco Giants in 1993. There was no Wild Card yet then. The AL East runner-up will have to survive the one game season of the Wild Card game, but that’s a lot better than not making the playoffs at all.

On a historic run

Justin Verlander doesn’t have Randy Johnson’s mullet. He doesn’t have Roger Clemens’s force of personality. Verlander is as stupendously great right now as the Big Unit or Rocket ever were. Giving up one earned run in six innings vs. the Giants Wednesday increased Verlander’s ERA to 1.08. No American League ERA champ has finished below 2.00 since the awesome Pedro Martinez posted a 1.74 in 2000 (with hitter friendly Fenway Park as his home field, and in the peak of the steroid era). Verlander’s career best ERA is 2.40 in 2011. That year he won both the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. And Kate Upton turned 19.

Cup runneth over

Imagine if the 2002 Houston Texans had reached the Super Bowl. The expansion, David Carr running for his life almost every passing play Texans. Good one, right? Monday night the National Hockey League’s expansion Vegas Golden Knights have home ice advantage as they begin the Stanley Cup Final against the Washington Capitals. It’s already an incredible story. If the Knights actually win the Cup, it’s one of the most amazing team sports stories ever. This is the Capitals’ 43rd season. They have never won the Cup.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Indy 500 pick: Tony Kanaan. He was a good guest on the radio show this week.   2. Isn’t the NFL owners’ collective favorite color green? As opposed to red, white, and blue.  3. Best ever pro wrestling announcers: Bronze-Jim Ross Silver-Gordon Solie Gold-Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome