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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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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