Every-Thing Sports

Houston Sports: From national afterthought to most hated

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Sports fans everywhere have their hang-ups. Some are insufferable, some are idiots, some get violent. Others are dumb, humble...you get the point. Remember when Houston sports fans would be upset over lack of national media attention? They would whine and cry that they weren't get any respect or enough love or too little coverage. It wasn't that the national media had a biased against Houston sports, they simply weren't as interesting.

That all changed when the Astros won the 2017 World Series. They were a homegrown, fun-loving bunch of guys that played with swag. Deshaun Watson was in the midst of his rookie season with the Texans and was taking the league by storm. The Rockets had the NBA's best record at 65-17 behind league MVP James Harden and were a "hamstring away" from defeating the Warriors and going to the Finals. From those highs to now, what and where did it go wrong?

The Astros Cheated

This was low hanging fruit. The Astros had a reputation around MLB for being off-putting, specifically Jeff Luhnow and the environment in his front office. Sure, people may not like Alex Bregman's act, but you can't deny his talent. Jose Altuve and George Springer have awesome stories of overcoming obstacles. But when Mike "el soplón" Fiers decided to break an unwritten rule, it all went to hell in a hand basket. The commissioner asked teams to stop stealing signs and the Astros refused. It was stated in his report that their failure to comply was the impetus for their punishment. Now, the floodgates have opened and the hate is flowing freely. It's all deserved given what they did, but some is over the top and emotionally driven.

Harden And Morey Aren't Likeable Guys

Daryl Morey is very good at what he does. He's one of the top general managers in the NBA. James Harden is very good at what he does. He's one of the best players in the NBA. They've been a pair since Morey traded for Harden in 2012 and haven't won anything but some individual awards. This despite having paired Harden with Dwight Howard first, then Chris Paul. When those experiments failed, Morey made a move for one of Harden's childhood friends and fellow former MVP Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is another guy who's not very likeable. Whether it's his antics on the court or his handling of the media, he seems to fit right in. Now that "small ball" is in full effect, the national media is trying to find a way to poop on it, but are getting turned away because of the Rockets' play as of late.

Bill O'Brien Is A Powerful Dumbass

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Bill O'Brien is a prime example. The Texans were in a good spot. They drafted Watson and he brought them some credibility, as well as fulfilled their franchise quarterback role. However, O'Brien has managed to turn this team into a laughingstock. He's assumed so much power and control as GM and head coach, that the only people capable of firing him is one of the McNairs and they're the ones who've given him this much power! It's utterly ridiculous! After the playoff loss to the Chiefs, the national media finally picked up on the stench the local media has been smelling for years. Now, O'Brien and the Texans are facing the scrutiny nationally they've faced locally and it's well earned. He's turned this organization into a punchline.

Where does Houston go from here?

The only thing Houston can do from here is to lean into the bad guy role. I wrote about this concerning the Astros a few weeks ago. Looking at how the Rockets and Texans have been talked about nationally, it's time for them to embrace it as well. Harden shot back at Giannis Antetokounmpo when he threw shade his way. It was refreshing to see some fight out of him instead of the usual safe answers. Too bad the Texans don't have that in them. They need to start winning and winning big before they can talk big. As far as the fans are concerned: support your teams, wear their gear, but beware. The Texans won't give you any ammo in which to defend them with because they have an affinity for being mediocre. The Astros were caught cheating so there's not a whole lot you can do to defend them. The Rockets haven't been to or won a title since OJ was found not guilty. Look at the bright side Houston. You still have the Roughnecks.

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After grinding through back-to-back extra-inning games in the series with the Los Angeles Angels where they would ultimately come away with the victory, the Astros had a day off on Monday before getting back into action on Tuesday. They were in Arizona for the first of three games against the Diamondbacks. Here is a rundown of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 8, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 6-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.42 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 7.04 ERA).

Houston takes an early lead against Bumgarner and then piles on

Houston wasted no time going after Madison Bumgarner, with George Springer going after the first pitch of the game for a groundout, then Jose Altuve launching a solo home run on the next pitch to get an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first. They added to that lead in the second inning, with Carlos Correa leading it off with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-0. After two hit batters and a single, the Astros had the bases loaded for George Springer with one out, and he would deliver a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 3-0.

They would put runners on base in the next two innings, but would not score again until the fifth when a Bumgarner fielding error on a potential double-play would bring in a run and extend the inning. Houston would go on to load the bases, setting up Kyle Tucker for an RBI-single to make it 5-1 and end Bumgarner's night. Against Arizona's new reliever, Martin Maldonado worked a bases-loaded walk to make it 6-1, then Springer followed with a two-RBI double, blowing the game open at 8-1.

Javier gets first-career win in another impressive start

With a lead in hand when he went to the mound, Cristian Javier had another strong performance in his second-ever start. He allowed just one baserunner over the first three innings, a single in the second. After those three efficient innings, he would face some adversity in the bottom of the fourth. After allowing a double and one-out walk, he would give up his first run of the night on an RBI-single to make it a 3-1 game. Luckily, a great double play behind him would get him out of the jam and the inning.

Javier was able to settle back in after that rougher inning, getting quick, scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, earning him the win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 HR.

Yet another rookie pitching debut as Houston's bullpen finishes the win

Bryan Abreu was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the bottom of the seventh. He would not have an inning to remember, allowing a leadoff double followed later by two walks to load the bases. He then walked in a run, making it 8-2, and prompting another call to the bullpen. Enoli Paredes would enter and get the final out of the seventh inning.

Paredes ran into trouble of his own in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases after a walk and two singles, but with some help from Houston's defense would keep it a six-run lead heading to the ninth. In yet another Astros debut for a pitcher in 2020, Humberto Castellanos entered in the bottom of the ninth, and he recorded the final three outs to close out the victory for Houston.

Up Next: This series continues on Wednesday with the middle game of this three-game set at 8:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 5.40 ERA) will return to the mound in another start for the Astros, while Robbie Ray (0-2, 8.64 ERA) will look to turn things around in his early season with the Diamondbacks.

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