The Pallilog

Charlie Pallilo: Rockets suddenly find themselves in a series, Astros struggle, new gig for Witten

Chris Paul is slowing down. Tim Warner/Getty Images

So a series has broken out between the Rockets and Utah Jazz.  If they are to win the series the Rockets now must win a game in Utah. It’s a mildly daunting challenge but one a championship-worthy 65-win team should be able to conquer. A pitifully low defensive intensity start ultimately got the Rockets what they deserved in Game 2 Wednesday -- a loss. There was also the simple fact that the Jazz shot tremendously, making 15 of 32 three point shots. Coupled with the Rockets shooting a bricky 10 for 37 behind the line, the outcome was not a surprise. If both teams drift toward their overall shooting profiles, advantage Rockets. Covering Joe Ingles would be a good idea. Some stereotypes are true. Generally, white perimeter players in the NBA can shoot well! Ingles buried seven of nine threes in game two. He’s made 44 percent each of the last two seasons.

The Jazz is very good. It closed the regular season winning 29 of its last 35 games, then dispatched Oklahoma City in six games. The Rockets winning Game 1 so easily no doubt hurt their focus for game two. Shame on them for that, but it happens. If the Rockets lose Game 3 they’re not in deep trouble. If they lose Game 3 and then also drop Game 4 Sunday…

Even a 3-1 deficit wouldn’t necessitate doom though. The Rockets would find themselves in the spot they were in against the Clippers in 2015. Chris Paul can tell you how that finished.  Speaking of CP3, a concern now and if the Rockets intend to give him megadollars for four or five more seasons, is that his individual defense has slipped. Paul turns 33 Sunday. He is not as quick afoot as he used to be. So says CPme.

Whatever happens to the Rockets Friday night, they’ll be in better shape than the No. 1 seed in the East finds itself. The Toronto Raptors choked away Game 1 then cratered in Game 2, both on their homecourt. A little reminder: at 33 LeBron James remains the most devastating overall force in the game. He sure shut up Drake. God’s Plan may still include LeBron making an eighth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. Coming out of the East has been the easier path over this stretch, but there is no current player who if swapped for LeBron over the past seven seasons, would have gotten his team to the Finals every year.

No offense, Astros, but...

The Astros have a reeeeeally good team. They have virtually all of the core back from the 101 win World Series Champions, and to the starting rotation added Tom Seaver. Um, I mean Gerrit Cole. Despite a 98 win pace 20-13 start however, they just haven’t played all that well so far. The just completed homestand finished up a poor 4-6. Wiith scuffling teams, when one leak is plugged another springs open. Thursday against the Yankees the Astros’ impotent offense finally showed some life, only to have the bullpen fall apart in the ninth inning for the second time in three games.

Ten times already the Astros have finished a game getting shutout or scoring only one run. No offense has been that futile more often this season.  All of last season they managed zero or one a total of only 20 times. The Astros still have yet to win a game they trailed after six innings. Last season they won 14 times when down after six. Carlos Correa is their only everyday player playing at close to the level he performed at overall last season. Not saying Jose Altuve is having a bad season, but he is thus far markedly down from his 2017 MVP level. George Springer is down too. Alex Bregman also. And Josh Reddick. Marwin Gonzalez has been lousy. Yuli Gurriel has been weak since getting a late start to his season. Evan Gattis has been flat out pathetic at the plate, which is much better than Jake Marisnick. Derek Fisher has not hit like someone who belongs in the big leagues. Over 162 games water finds its level. The Astro attack should pick up, just as the starting pitching is extremely likely to taper off some.

Catching on with a new gig

Good for Jason Witten, retiring after a 15 year career with the Dallas Cowboys for the (critics aside) safer haven of the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. Witten missed one game in his NFL career, that in his rookie season. Almost certainly a future Hall of Famer, Witten was the Cowboys third round pick in 2003. Second round of that same draft, the Texans picked tight end Bennie Joppru.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Career receptions: Witten 1152, Joppru 0.  2. Big surprise, the NHL playoffs have been terrific.  3. Best ever HBO comedies: Bronze-Veep Silver-The Larry Sanders Show  Gold-Curb Your Enthusiasm

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome