The Palillog

Despite nice win over Lakers, no end in sight for Rockets title drought

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General Manager Daryl Morey's preseason assertion that the Rockets were the favorites in the Western Conference was dubious when he said it, and in hindsight, ridiculous. The Rockets confirmed as much with the trade that shipped Clint Capela and a first round draft pick to Atlanta with the Rockets netting Robert Covington and the already ex-Rocket Jordan Bell. The Lakers and Clippers are not shaking in their sneakers, despite Russell Westbrook's brilliance leading the Rockets to a doozy of a win over the Lakers in L.A. Thursday night.

The Rockets had, and have, a good team, but not a great one, and certainly not one to take seriously as an NBA title contender. They weren't going to win the West with what they had, so they roll the dice with super small ball, which in all likelihood won't be good enough to do the job either. They'll continue to jack up three point shots like no other team, too bad they've not acquired one close to elite three point shooter. The Rockets were a bad rebounding team with Capela's nearly 14 boards per game. It should be a worse rebounding team without him. The Rockets now have zero legit shot blocking or rim production. Their mediocre defense likely remains, mediocre.

It's also obvious that Morey had marching orders from owner Tilman Fertitta to dump some salary going forward and avoid the luxury tax this season. No one likes to pay taxes they can avoid. And remember, Morey's moral but for business moronic China tweet is costing Fertitta millions of dollars.Capela has more than 50 million guaranteed dollars guaranteed left on his contract after this season. Covington has about 25 million. Nene and Gerald Green outgoing, simply salary dumps.

Two seasons in a row the Rockets have passed on using their mid-level exception. Two seasons in a row the Rockets have had a below average bench. In the coming weeks they will shop the buyout market from which last year they added Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert. Yippee.

This June will mark the 25 year anniversary of the Rockets having last played in the NBA Finals. Who next plays for their sport's championship first: the Rockets or the Texans?

Seems a good time to note the Astros open spring training next week.

Another body

In what amounts to a meaningless swap the Rockets traded Jordan Bell to Memphis for Bruno Caboclo, who has shown basically nothing to suggest he's an NBA player. When the Toronto Raptors drafted Caboclo in the first round ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla had the great line "he's two years away from being two years away." Fraschilla said that over five and a half years ago.

XFL, part deaux

The second version of the XFL launches Saturday, including the Houston Roughnecks playing the Los Angeles Wildcats. An eight team, 10 game late winter-early spring football league can be of only limited interest, but the Roughnecks will not arrogantly and/or absurdly have a closed roof for any of their home games. They'll play at UH's stadium. The XFL is trying some interesting rules. Among them, offenses can throw two forward passes on the same play provided both passes are made behind the line of scrimmage. There will be no kicks for points after touchdowns. The scoring team can go for one point from the two yard line, two points from the five yard line, or three points from the ten yard line.

Chiefs set the standard

So the Texans had a 24-nothing lead over the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Hail to the Chiefs for snapping Kansas City's 50 year drought between Super Bowl victories. Next season, Houston will probably make it 0 for 50 in pursuit of winning a Super Bowl. Probably 0 for 50 in getting to a Super Bowl. The Oilers were 0 for 31. The Texans are 0 for 18.And counting. Only three other existing franchises have failed to reach a Super Bowl: the Browns, Lions, and Jaguars.

Or just maybe next season, the Texans produce a little football miracle. Hey, the 49ers went from 4-12 last season to the Big Game the just concluded season. For your planning purposes, Super Bowl LV will be played in Tampa.

Watt vs. The Emperor

Which is funnier: J.J. Watt's Saturday Night Live host performance, or the idea of Bill O'Brien coaching a Super Bowl winner? J.J. was okay in the comedy realm. O'Brien delivering a Super Bowl seems more the science fiction realm. However, keep in mind It took Andy Reid 21 seasons as a head coach to finally clutch a Lombardi Trophy. Bill O'Brien has 14 seasons left to beat that! Of course, Emperor O for eternity is more likely.

Buzzer beaters

1. Maybe the Roughnecks win the XFL championship this spring! 2. Good in town hoops doubleheader Sunday: UH-Wichita St at 2, Rockets-Jazz at 6. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.

That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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