CHANGING PLANS

Cowboys' Witten reportedly to retire, pursue gig on Monday Night Football

Jason Witten might be saying goodbye to football. Wikipedia

The Dallas Cowboys are in the national spotlight (as usual) this week, hosting the NFL Draft. The team, the city and Jerry Jones are all the talk of the NFL.

Leave it to the Cowboys to upstage themselves.

Longtime Cowboy tight end Jason Witten reportedly will retire and become lead analyst on Monday Night Football, replacing Jon Gruden, who left to take over as coach of the Oakland Raiders. The report says it is not official, but all indications are Witten’s football career is over.

Witten, who turns 36 a week from Sunday, will have played 15 years in the NFL. He recently had stated he planned to play “until he was 40.” Apparently those plans changed when the Monday Night Football gig became available.

If the reports are true, Witten ends his likely Hall of Fame career as the Cowboys all-time leader in receptions (1,152), receiving yards (12,448), games played (239) and third in touchdowns (68). He was selected to 11 Pro Bowls and is fourth all-time in receiving yards in the NFL, second all-time amond tight ends.

That it would happen during the draft at least allows the Cowboys to address the position over the next two days. On Friday, they selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first-round pick.

If Witten is leaving, it will represent yet another big name departing during what is clearly a transition time for the franchise. Last year, Tony Romo retired to the broadcast booth. Recently the Cowboys cut longtime star receiver Dez Bryant. And Witten is the most accomplished of them all. It’s clear that this is now Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot’s team.

The draft will continue in Dallas over the next two days, but in true Cowboys fashion, it will take a back seat to an even bigger story involving the team: the retirement of an all-time great.

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Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After the Mariners came alive late in Monday's series opener to hand the Houston the loss and keep their playoff picture hanging in the balance, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park on Tuesday to try and decrease their magic number. Here's how the middle game went:

Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 1.

Record: 28-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Casey Sadler (1-2, 5.40 ERA).

Both teams trade first-inning runs

The Astros struck first in Tuesday's game, not waiting around until the ninth inning to get on the board. Instead, they jumped out to an immediate 1-0 lead after a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the top of the first. The Mariners responded quickly, though, getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before a two-out RBI-double of their own to tie it 1-1.

Astros score five in the sixth

The 1-1 score held all the way until the top of the sixth when the Astros would flip the script from the night prior, taking advantage of some mistakes by Seattle to put up a big inning. First, Michael Brantley started the inning with a solo go-ahead homer to make it 2-1. Then, Kyle Tucker would get his third hit of the night with one out before eventually scoring after a walk and two wild pitches, making it 3-2. With two walks to keep the inning alive and put some insurance runs on base, Martin Maldonado took advantage with a big three-run home run to extend the lead to 6-1.

Valdez finishes seven strong, Astros even series

After allowing the one run in the bottom of the first, Framber Valdez recovered and put together a solid outing on the mound. He allowed just five hits total, two of which came in the first, then back-to-back singles in the fourth and a single in the fifth, while otherwise keeping the Mariners at bay. He would end up completing seven innings of one-run baseball while striking out eight. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 108 P.

After Valdez, Enoli Paredes would take over in the bottom of the eighth, working around a leadoff single to get a scoreless inning to keep it 6-1. In the non-save situation, Josh James would come in for the bottom of the ninth and finish off the win for Houston.

Up Next: The finale and rubber game of this three-game set will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA) for the Mariners going against Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) for the Astros.

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