THE KING OF MEATS IN MINUTE MAID

Ken Hoffman catches up with a BBQ legend who's Killen it at Minute Maid Park

Photo by Kimberly Park

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

The Houston Astros may have lost an All-Star pitcher in the off-season, but the team has added an even bigger superstar who'll be throwing some serious heat in 2020. BBQ maestro Ronnie Killen, often called The King of Meats, has practically taken over the upper deck of Minute Maid Park in deep right field with his acclaimed, prize-winning meats, fixins, and sweet tea.

Wait till you see his new smoker they're installing in the ballpark — it's enormous. You could run the B&O Railroad off it.

"I met Ronnie about six years ago. We were looking for someone to sell BBQ at street festivals before Astros game and it was an instant success," says Mat Drain, the Dalai Lama of Dill Pickles for Aramark, which operates all the concessions at Minute Maid Park.

"Ronnie has been operating at NRG Stadium with Aramark the last couple of seasons. We approached Ronnie about bringing Killen's to Minute Maid Park in tour new entertainment and food area on the 400 level. Ronnie jumped at the opportunity and with his prior relationship with the Astros, we knew it would be an ideal fit."

I caught up with Killen at a recent Astros food tasting. Here you go — just a taste to whet your appetite for the 2020 baseball season:

CultureMap: What will be the name of your concession booth? Is it a built-in stand or a kiosk?

Ronnie Killen:
It will be a freestanding barbecue restaurant and the name will be Killen's Barbecue.

CM: Will you have a limited menu with a few things from your famous restaurant, or are you swinging for the fences?

RK:
We will serve more than we do at NRG Stadium. We'll have several different types of barbecue sandwiches, including sliced beef, chopped beef, sliced turkey, and sausage. We'll have BBQ plates with two sides, like brisket, sausage, pork ribs, turkey breast, and an occasional beef rib.

CM: How many restaurants do you own now?

RK:
I have two Killen's Steakhouses, one in Pearland and one in The Woodlands; Killen's Barbecue; Killen's Burgers; Killen's TMX; and Killen's STQ. Plus, two restaurants in NRG Stadium and coming soon to Minute Maid Park. So, technically, I have 10.

Continue on CultureMap to find out the secret to Killen's meats.

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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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