THE PALLILOG

Here's why it won't take long to judge the 2020 Texans

Composite photo by Jack Brame

The NFL released its 2020 regular season schedule Thursday night hoping it plays out as actual and not hypothetical. The Houston Texans have an opportunity to send the rest of the league a warning shot of their ascendancy toward greatness! They also stand a chance of getting buried early. Returning to the scene of the crime, or more accurately their humiliation, the Texans are slated to play their first game that counts at the site of their last game that counted. This time a trip to Arrowhead Stadium means a visit to the home of the reigning Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. That means a probable 0-1 Texans start. They open as early 10 or 10 1/2 point underdogs. If they are 0-1, the Texans will probably sag to 0-2 as the home opener in week two has the Baltimore Ravens visiting NRG Stadium. On the other hand, if somehow they start 2-0…

0-2 is obviously more likely than 2-0. At least it gets easier for the Texans from there. Easier does not mean easy. Week three, at Pittsburgh. Yoy! Week four, home vs. the Vikings. The first game that on paper is a definitely should win game for the Texans is week five vs. the Jaguars. That's followed by a trip to Tennessee then a home game vs. the Packers. Man. That's five 2019 playoff teams among the first seven opponents, plus the Steelers in Pittsburgh. After those opening seven games if I somehow could guarantee you the Texans will either be 6-1 or 1-6, which way do you go? Thought so.

Zero Sunday or Monday night games on the Texans' initial schedule. Flex scheduling could alter that. The season finale for instance if, say, the Texans' home game vs. the Titans is to decide the AFC South.

The Texans' zero prime-time games after the opener at K.C. are five fewer than Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have.

ESPN.com had its 32 team beat writers make a regular season record guess for the team he or she covers. 21 of 32 predict winning records, two guessed 8-8, just nine forecast losing seasons. I guess collectively that makes them homers.


Jose Altuve turned 30 this week. He has 1568 big league hits. When Pete Rose turned 30 he had 1540 hits. Altuve has no chance at making a run at Rose's Major League Baseball record hit total of 4256. When Craig Biggio turned 30 he had 1105 hits. He finished with 3060. In the four seasons after he turned 30 Biggio missed a total of four games. Altuve starts his thirties by losing out on dozens more. At 188 hits per season (his average over his eight full seasons as a big leaguer) Altuve needs more than seven and a half seasons to reach 3000 hits. Biggio ranks 25th on MLB's career hits leaderboard. Altuve is tied for 570th.


50 years ago Friday featured one of the most famous games in NBA history. May 7, 1970, game Seven of the Finals, the New York Knicks won their first title by beating the Lakers in what is pretty much known as the "Willis Reed Game." The Knicks center and captain tore a thigh muscle early in game five which the Knicks managed to win anyway. With no Reed in game 6 Wilt Chamberlain went for 45 points and 27 rebounds as the Lakers rolled 135-113. To the surprise of most, Reed hobbled down the tunnel to take the court for warmups before game seven, as the crowd at Madison Square Garden went berserk. Reed hit two jumpers for the Knicks' first two field goals, and the game was basically over. Reed didn't score again, finishing with four points and three rebounds in 27 minutes but the Knicks just destroyed the Lakers, leading 94-69 after three quarters before ultimately winning 113-99. It's known as the "Willis Reed Game" but really should be known as the "Walt Frazier Game." The Knicks' point guard went off for a ridiculous 36 points and 19 assists, arguably the greatest game seven performance in NBA history.


I've known Joel Blank for 25 years. Despite that, I think we'll have some fun as this Monday we start doing a show together weekdays 11-1 on ESPN 97.5. Joel will adapt to my sarcasm. I will adapt to his Green Bay Packer fixation. Producer Nick Sharara will serve as referee when needed. The show will be called The Press Box. Had to be called something I guess.


Buzzer Beaters:

1. Happy Mother's Day to all moms Sunday. Especially mine! 2. Next week takes us into the third month of basically no sports. Longest three years of my life. 3. Best synonyms for boredom: Bronze-torpor Silver-languor Gold-ennui

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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