THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: Texans will go as far as their health will carry them

Deshaun Watson's health is the biggest key for the Texans. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hi. It’s been a while. Hey, I used one vacation day in 10-plus months so summertime was my time to catch up on time down. Besides, while I love living in Houston, leaving for any place cooler in July is a smart play. The Texans aren’t in West Virginia for training camp again this year for the scenery. And on we go…

There is a ten-ton elephant of an issue in the room that impacts the Texans’ 2018 prospects more than do the next five issues combined. Will Deshaun Watson stay healthy? In four years as Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s offense has ranged from mediocre to atrocity, except for during Watson’s five game explosion last season. The guy was torching the NFL, then Watson suffered his second ACL tear and the Texans’ offense and season were as hopeless as former General Manager Rick Smith’s typical third round draft picks. New GM Brian Gaine imported multiple question marks as possible new offensive line starters. The answers from the likes of Senio Kelemete and Seantrel Henderson might not be great, but they can’t be worse (right?) than what the Texans put out most of last season. Watson will not survive having to run around and make chicken feathers out of chicken you-know-what on a series-in series-out basis. A healthy Watson is not going to come close to having the Texans average the 39 points per game they did during his five game phenom run (remember the Texans went 2-3 in those games). But one can conceive a 10 or 11 win thrill ride with him.

A horrifying reminder that Brandon Weeden is Watson’s backup.

If right now you could lock in a 14 game, nine sack regular season from J.J. Watt, would you take it? I would in a heartbeat.  After playing every game of his first five seasons, the majority of the time at an all-time great’s level, Watt’s last two years have been a disaster. He is now 29 years old. After two major back operations and last year’s horrible leg injury Watt is unlikely to approach being the dominant force he once was. In the four and a half games he played before the injury last season Watt was very average. Sacks are far from everything in judging a defensive end, but they darn sure aren’t nothing. Nothing was Watt’s sack output. Was he just more slowly than desired rounding back into form, or did the cruel combo of traumatic injury and Father Time shove him irretrievably past his prime? If superduperstar Watt is a goner, a merely above average J.J. can still add value to a defense that needs it.

Turning back the clock

In 2008, the Rockets adding Carmelo Anthony would have been spectacularly exciting. In 2018, well… You may know that I am a Syracuse University alum, so Carmelo will always hold a verrrry warm place in my heart for the national championship he was primarily responsible for delivering for the Orange back in 2003.

Anthony joining the Rockets is interesting for the “let’s see how this works” aspect of it. Any idea that Carmelo, Chris Paul, or anyone else may hold that the Rockets now have a Big 3 is ridiculous. Anthony is 34 years old, has never been noted as a defender, and for his career is a mediocre 3-point shooter. He could be a valuable role player, but will he accept the role? Melo chafed, and did not thrive in a complementary role alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George for Oklahoma City this past season. Anthony’s play in the Thunder’s first round playoff loss to Utah was downright awful.

Frankly, James Ennis is probably the more significant Rockets acquisition, because if Daryl Morey turns out to have successfully replaced the 3 and versatile D roles vacated by Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute’s free agency departures, it’s Ennis with the more matching skills.

Add in the Rockets not reaching contractual accord, yet, with Clint Capela, and this has not been a stellar offseason. If Capela really rejected five years $85 million, he needs to get a grip. There was basically no market for him in restricted free agency. If Capela signs the one year 4.75 million dollar tender offer he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. That could be a big uh oh. The Rockets’ chemistry, mojo, esprit de corps was so magnificent last season. It will be difficult to match in 2018-19.

Lots on the Astros next week. And everyday I’m on the radio show 11-1.

Buzzer Beaters

 1. Don’t panic yet, but Carlos Correa having back issues at 23 is definitely troubling.  2. I love Alex Bregman’s fire (and talent), but he was wrong about the fan interference call in Denver Wednesday night.  3. Best summer fruits: Bronze-Blueberries Silver-Honeydew Gold-Watermelon

 

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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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