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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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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