CHANGE IS COMING

Here are all the reasons Houston sports fans should embrace 2021

A lot can change in a year. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Where's my thermal underwear? It was 61 degrees when I stepped outside to take my dog for a walk this morning. What is this … the North Pole?

You know what it means whenever the temperature drops below 70 in Houston. TV reporters will be wearing gloves and bundled up like the Michelin Man. Such weenies.

Seriously, wasn't last night just the best? I absolutely jumped up from the couch when Carlos Correa blasted a shot over the centerfield fence for a walk-off homer. Everything is falling into place for the Astros – we're throwing pitchers who don't even have a baseball card yet, our second baseman can hit 400-foot home runs but can't throw the ball 30 feet to first base, and our best hitter can't buy a base hit.

Yeah, the Astros are on their way to the World Series, after dropping the first three games to the suddenly puckered-up Tampa Bay Rays. It's going to happen. It's destiny.

Don't worry about these 2020 Astros. Of more concern, though, are the 2021 Astros. And 2021 Texans. And 2021 Rockets.

Houston is the 4th largest city in America, a big-time market with fans that see the regular season merely as opening acts for the playoffs. Yet all three of our teams seem to have precarious futures, trending in the wrong direction. At the least it's a fair question: who's minding the store?

The Astros may be losing its entire outfield, possibly in a matter of days. Slugger George Springer and professional hitter Michael Brantley are headed to free agency for big bucks (no whammies) that could be too rich for the Astros' blood. Josh Reddick also looks destined for another team. At some point soon, the Astros will have to back up the Brinks' truck if they hope to sign Carlos Correa long-term.

Meanwhile, manager Dusty Baker, suddenly a genius the last two games, is really a seat filler until all the dust settles from the Astros cheating scandal. He's signed for next year, not to infinity and beyond.

The Houston Texans have neither a general manager nor fulltime head coach. That's what happens when you give both jobs to one person who does not play well with others, and the team starts 0-4 with the highest payroll in the NFL. And the team traded away its best receiver with little to show in return. The cherry on top, the Texans don't have a first-round pick next year.

Over at Toyota Center, the Rockets also don't have a coach and its much-admired general manager quit for "personal reasons." I've got a feeling that Daryl Morey's personal reasons will vanish in another NBA city pretty soon. The Rockets have a new, first-time general manager Rafael Stone, who will guide their search for a new coach. Jeff Van Gundy seems to be the front-runner for the job, with John Lucas moving up fast on the outside. Van Gundy is excellent on ESPN games, and Lucas knows the organization.

The Rockets appear ready to unload Russell Westbrook to the highest bidder, with the Knicks the most likely trade partner. Rockets better hurry if they want Westbrook to be happy in New York - Fashion Week is in December.

All that to say, enjoy these moments right now. A pandemic robbed us of a normal sports year but these are highly interesting, if not historic times. Houston sports may not be this interesting for quite a while. Be thankful you're not rooting for the Pirates, the Knicks, or the Jaguars. Change is uncomfortable but can be bundled with hope. In the absence of hope, a fanbase becomes generally disinterested like the aforementioned teams. And as the famous Seinfeld quote goes, "that's not gonna be good for business. That's not gonna be good for anybody."

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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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