FALCON POINTS

Have Houston teams sapped fans of their last glimmer of hope?

Is Justin Verlander the Astros last hope? Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Coming off what might have been the most hopeless day in the history of Houston sports last Thursday, things only went downhill from there.

The Astros, the one great hope for the city before the season, are hovering around .500. The Rockets were ousted by the Lakers and now need a new coach and maybe an all-new vision.

The Texans? Still no match for the elite of the AFC.

It is as if the city's sports teams are stuck in a Dr. Strange style time loop, where everything is the same.

The Rockets are just good enough to give people hope, but never good enough to get over the top. As long as James Harden is the best player on this team, this is the ceiling. They can tweak the pieces around him, but they will never do enough. Chris Paul's hamstring is as close as they will get. It doesn't matter who the next coach is. As long as Harden is the main guy, this will be the Rockets every year.

We also know what the Texans are. Good enough to compete for the division every year. Maybe win an occasional playoff game. But no real threat to do anything more.

The Astros have joined the circle of mediocrity as well. Their title window appears closed, and without Jeff Luhnow to re-tool the roster, there is no real hope for another title.

And that's what seems to be lost. Hope.

Rather than results, these teams are left to sell hope. Hopefully a coaching change and another roster retool makes the Rockets real contenders. Hopefully the Texans figure this out and Bill O'Brien's total power grab works. Hopefully the Astros will turn it around if Justin Verlander comes back. But with the one exception of the Astros 2017 title, nothing ever really changes. These teams aren't bad; they just aren't good enough to compete for the top prize. Whatever the Rockets do won't be enough. The Texans under O'Brien just won't be good enough. The Astros appear to have regressed and will not be good enough. It feels like we know the outcomes of the season before the games are even played.

Even the Dynamo offered some brief hope over the past few weeks with a win streak, but does anyone buy it?

How many times have you thought "this year will be different?" It isn't.

Yes, there is still time for the Astros, and the Texans have only played one game. But watching them against the Chiefs, did you not think we have seen this act before?

At least hope is something every fan has been able to hold onto when it comes to Houston teams. But with one team already eliminated, it sure feels like another year in the time loop.

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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