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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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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