THE PALLILOG

Here's what has to happen for the Texans to make the playoffs

It's not over until it's over. Photo by Getty Images.

Texans' playoff hopes live! Snowballs in hell have better survival rates, but purely mathematically: if the Texans win their remaining four games while the Colts and Titans both lose their remaining four, by virtue of having the best divisional record the Texans would be 8-8 AFC South Champs. We're better off buying Powerball tickets.

After Sunday's very creative way to blow a win over the Colts, it is very difficult to ratchet up much interest in their game at Chicago. The Texans are small road favorites over the Bears who six games ago were growling along at 5-1. They are now 5-7. Until they win another Super Bowl the Bears will never live down trading up to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky second overall in the 2017 Draft. Patrick Mahomes went eight spots later to the Chiefs, Deshaun Watson to the Texans two spots after Mahomes. Oops!

Quick: name the starting quarterback with the most regular season wins to his name in Bears' history. The franchise is in its 101st season.

Would you believe Jay Cutler with 51? Jim McMahon is second with 46. 46 wins is Matt Schaub's Texans record win total. Sid Luckman is the Bears' head and shoulders greatest ever QB, but Pro Football Reference does not credit him with his QB wins, and has him with only 61 QB starts among his 128 games played. May be a limited passing attempts thing early in his career, or just an error. Like my error not initially explaining this.

Not so quick: Only one team's winningest QB has fewer wins than Schaub's 46. Name him.

Hint: Buccaneers

Last Hint: He won a Super Bowl.

Answer: Trent Dilfer with 38.

Astros not so hot stove

A quiet start to baseball's virtual winter meetings. Credit to Astros' General Manager James Click for not running crappola up the flagpole when asked about Carlos Correa trade rumors. While of course not directly acknowledging Correa talks, Click talked about needing to plan for more than just 2021. Of course the Astros should listen to Correa offers as he enters his final season before free agency. The Indians are shopping the more accomplished Francisco Lindor as he approaches his walk year. The Astros have much deeper pockets than do the Indians.

With George Springer highly likely a goner and Michael Brantley quite possibly following him out the door, Click's top priority has to be adding a legitimate regular MLB outfielder. Or two. With Yordan Alvarez's knees seeming more those of a 43-year-old than a 23-year-old the Astros would be down to Kyle Tucker, with no quality prospects near the horizon. They have been linked to Jackie Bradley Jr. who is likely departing the Red Sox. Bradley is a better centerfielder than Springer, but would be a huge drop off offensively.

Rocket launch

The Rockets open their preseason Friday night in Chicago. Their traveling circus, errrrr party, is without James Harden as he goes through extended COVID protocols following his irresponsible behavior ahead of the start of practices. A Rockets-Harden divorce seems inevitable, but the Rockets need not capitulate (yet anyway) to Harden's desire to deal him to Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Miami, Milwaukee or wherever else he may deem desirable. I wonder if Harden gets that despite his offensive brilliance suitors are not banging down the Rockets' door. It's not a knock on Harden's historically prolific scoring skills, but on the unique style he was given run of the house to play here that would not cut it in many other places.

If I were the Rockets, I would tell Harden to bring us a reasonable trade. James might be insulted by the number of teams that would have little or no interest, or by what they would deem he's worth giving up to acquire. In the end Harden would be fine with the Rockets taking a sack of nothing to get where he wants. Not how it's going to work.

Bowl season?

What a joke for LSU to "punish" itself by declaring itself ineligible for a bowl game this season as the NCAA investigates rules violations within the Tiger program. The 2019 National Champions stink this year! They are 3-5 ahead of likely loss number six at Florida Saturday. All schools are bowl eligible this year regardless of record. That does not make LSU bowing out honorable.

Other than the Rose and Sugar Bowls which are the playoff semifinal games this season, why should any bowl games be played? Programming for ESPN is the biggest reason. Not a compelling reason. Bowl trips are supposed to reward teams for good seasons. That's been routinely laughable for years with plenty of 6-6 and 7-5 teams, and teams with losing conference records "earning" bowl trips. I'm okay with mediocre teams getting bowl experiences for all the time they put in, but what kind of bowl experiences will players get this year? The big group festivities and outings ahead of games can't be responsibly held. Limited numbers of fans will be allowed into stadia where any are allowed. 11 bowl games have already been canceled.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Quite a Sports Illustrated extended piece on Jack Easterby this week. You can find it at www.si.com

2. U.S. COVID deaths per day are now topping the death toll of the 9/11 attacks.

3. Worst Super Bowl winning quarterbacks: Bronze-Brad Johnson Silver-Nick Foles Gold-Dilfer

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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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