Charlie Pallilo: The joke that is the NFL preseason is under way

Deshaun Watson got in a few snaps in the opener. Jonathan Ferrey

The big joke that NFL preseason games are got under way for the Texans Thursday night in Kansas City. It was not exciting. Deshaun Watson handed off four times and threw one four yard completion.  J.J. Watt didn’t play. Neither did DeAndre Hopkins. Nor Benardrick McKinney. Nor Tyrann Mathieu. All of whom are fully healthy.

Brandon Weeden looked good! That’s a pretty good indicator of the meaning of preseason games. They just aren’t necessary. At all. A couple of intersquad scrimmages would suffice. Along with day in-day out practice performance, that would be sufficient to determine roster spots. Plenty of college teams jump right in with notable season openers, without any preseason games. Preseason games are not going to coalesce the massive question mark that is the Texans’ offensive line, or improve Bill O’Brien’s game and clock management.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has paid lip service to acknowledging that four preseason games is not something the fans want, and is something the NFL owners would look at. Yeah, they look and they laugh. 20 percent of an NFL season ticket is a ripoff for practice games that are un-needed, other than as cash cows lining the owners’ pockets. They generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The onus is on the owners, but the players are complicit in this too. They basically get 50 cents of every dollar generated.

Tough game for Verlander

So, after getting shelled then ejected Thursday, Justin Verlander has to wait at least one more start to earn his 200th Major League win. No reason to panic, but over his last 10 starts Verlander has an ERA of 4.03. The long ball has bitten him hard, 14 homers allowed over just 58 innings. Ken Giles might be thinking, “Geez, that’s a lot.”

For Verlander 200 career wins should be a major milepost on his path to Cooperstown and election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s not a lock just yet, but keeps making excellent progress and looks to be on the right side of the curve.

Only 111 pitchers have 200 wins. Historically however, 200 has not meant automatic Hall of Fame entry. Tommy John won 288 games (and had a surgery named after him!), he’s not in the Hall. Jim Kaat won 283 games (and 16 Gold Gloves), he’s not in the Hall. Andy Pettitte won 256 games. Pettitte goes on the ballot for the first time for the Class of 2019, he won’t be making it and not only because of his admitted dalliance with performance enhancing drugs. The only other active pitchers with more than 200 wins are Bartolo Colon (zero chance at the Hall) and C.C. Sabathia (an interesting candidate).

The way the game is played today though, going forward, 200 plus victories will make for a very strong candidate. Verlander is a good bet, especially since while he’s 35 years old, he is clearly not close to done. Verlander’s resume includes a Cy Young Award (and MVP the same season), two Cy Young runner-up finishes, and one third place finish. He’s obviously a solid Cy candidate this year.

If and when his time comes, Verlander will go into the Hall as a Detroit Tiger….unless he has something approaching Roger Clemens or Nolan Ryan-like longevity, and pitches the rest of his career as an Astro. Verlander does hope to pitch into his 40s.

If Verlander’s whole career had been with the Astros, he would hands down own the greatest Astros’ pitching career in franchise history (Roy Oswalt is that guy now). But, more than a decade of Verlander’s career was spent in the Motor City. At year’s end, it’ll be about a season and a quarter as an Astro. Even if this season ends with a second straight World Series title, Verlander will need much more Astro bulk achievement if his Hall plaque is to have an H on it.

Battling back

As the Astros welcome back Carlos Correa, the wait continues on Jose Altuve and George Springer. Collateral damage of Altuve’s first career disabled list stint, his streak of 200 hit seasons is  doomed to end at four. Altuve has 134 hits. IF he is back for the Colorado series starting Tuesday, Altuve will have 43 games in which to amass 66 hits. Coming off a gimpy knee, Altuve will not play every game the rest of the year after his return, so let’s say he plays 40 games. 66 hits in 40 games is pace that extrapolated over a full 162 game season would mean 267 hits. Even for Altuve that is a huge stretch.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Well, at least DeAndre Hopkins and Iggy Azalea can always savor their good times. 2. Can you stand the wait for Johnny Manziel’s 2nd CFL start?   3. Best ELO songs: Bronze-Sweet Talkin’ Woman  Silver-Livin’ Thing Gold-Evil Woman


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Houston gets another victory in Anaheim

Astros overpower Angels again as magic number dwindles

Kyle Tucker had 3 of Houston's RBI on Tuesday night, including a two-run homer. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

After a beatdown of the Angels on Monday in the opener, the Astros entered Tuesday's game looking to replicate that success. Though Los Angeles would put up more of a fight, Houston still used their potent offense to keep the game out of reach.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 90-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (8-3)

Losing Pitcher: Packy Naughton (0-3)

Houston's bats keep connecting to back up Urquidy

The Astros picked up on Tuesday's game where they left off on Monday, launching homers to take and extend a lead. A leadoff walk by Carlos Correa in the top of the second set up Kyle Tucker, who drove a two-run shot. Aledmys Diaz was next, making it back-to-back jacks to push the new lead to 3-0.

That gave Jose Urquidy a lead to work with, which came in handy as former Astro Jack Mayfield cut the lead to two runs with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the second. Other than that, Urquidy did well through five innings, allowing just two other hits over that span. LA got to him in the sixth, getting two singles to set up a three-run homer to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 79 P.

The runs keep coming

He would still leave in line for the win, though, as before that bottom of the sixth, the Astros had put up seven more runs across the fifth and sixth. A leadoff walk in the top of the fifth was followed by a two-run homer by Jose Altuve, then later in the frame, an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz made it 7-1. They pushed that to double digits in the sixth, with a leadoff solo shot by Martin Maldonado, a sac fly by Carlos Correa, and an RBI groundout by Kyle Tucker, putting them up 10-1 before the homer allowed by Urquidy cut that to 10-4.

Astros win to reduce magic number again

In the sixth, Cristian Javier took over for Urquidy, finished that inning, and returned for a scoreless seventh. He ran into Shohei Ohtani to lead off the bottom of the eighth and left a fastball in the zone, which Ohtani turned around 445 feet to make it a five-run game. Javier still got through the inning, leaving just the ninth for Houston's second reliever of the night, Josh James. James would get through a scoreless inning, erasing a leadoff walk as the lopsided win paired with an A's loss reduces Houston's magic number to 4.

Up Next: The third of this four-game series will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Wednesday. Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his third career start for the Angels, while Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for the Astros.

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