Weekend that was

Fred Faour: A new direction for SportsMap, Sam Houston Race Park and a weekend you won't forget

Tom Brady is the last star QB standing. Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Today marks the start of a new phase here on SportsMap. All the on-air talent from Gow Media will be writing columns. So every day, you will get great stuff from people like A.J. Hoffman, Lance Zierlein, John Granato, Charlie Pallilo and more. You will also be getting a lot more videos. We have more great stuff ahead so please stay tuned.

Horse of a different color

On Friday, Sam Houston Race Park opens for live racing. (We will be broadcasting live from 4-7 and I will be doing an appearance after from 7-9 p.m.)

If you have never been, live racing is a unique experience. Take time to watch a race from the rail outside so you get a sense of the power of the animals. As far as wagering, check out my audio book Acing Racing 2016 for everything you need to know.

Final Four

Tom Brady we expected to be there. But raise your hand if you thought the three remaining quarterbacks would be Case Keenum, Nick Foles and Blake Bortles. Now put them down, because you are lying.

Minnesota might be the most complete team left. Keenum is playing at a high level, they run the ball effectively and their defense is off the charts. Don’t be surprised if they are hosting the Lombardi Trophy on their home field in a couple weeks. Have you seen a better finish? Wow.

Weekend wrapup

A lot happened over the weekend. Bill O’Brien got his contract extension. Patrick Creighton also weighed in on that.

The Astros made a monster deal, landing Gerrit Cole without giving up anything of note. Creighton had a nice take on that as well.

And finally, Astros FanFest was this weekend and Paul Muth was there.  

 



 

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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