FAILURE AT THE TOP

Here's the latest instance of the Houston Texans operating in Bizarro World

Here's the latest instance of the Houston Texans operating in Bizarro World
Brandin Cooks clearly wants out of Houston. So why let him play? Composite image by Jack Brame.
It sure looks like Brandin Cooks is making a statement to the Houston Texans

Pyrrhus of Epirus had nothing on Lovie Smith.

In 279 B.C., Pyrrhus led the Epirus army against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum. Pyrrhus won the battle but lost so many soldiers that his army could not continue to fight the war.

Thus was born the expression “Pyrrhic victory.” It’s when you win something but at such a cost that you lose in the long run.

Fast-forward 2,302 years. Coach Lovie Smith and the Houston Texans had one thing to do last Sunday – lose a football game – a skill they had been quite proficient at all season. But true to form, they couldn’t even do that right.

They entered Sunday’s game on the road against Indianapolis with the worst record in the league. If they lost, they’d clinch the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. They’d have a clear shot at landing talented quarterback Bryce Young of Alabama and start their path back to respectability.

Lose one for the Gipper.

It looked like they had the loss wrapped up, too, trailing 31-24 with 3:29 left. And that’s when the Texans decided, “Let’s win this game!” Seriously? They drove downfield and scored a touchdown on a last-minute desperation pass. That made the score 31-30 still in favor of the Colts, the Texans still in firm grasp of losing. What to do now? Shank the extra point on purpose? Go for two and take a knee?

Suddenly Lovie Smith, criticized all season for playing uninspired, predictable football, became a riverboat gambler, went for two, made it, and won the game.

What were you thinking?

Smith, his job on the line, did the one thing that doomed him to the ranks of the unemployed. The Texans didn’t even wait for NFL Black Monday to dismiss him. He was dismissed Sunday night before the 10 o’clock news.

We don’t know if losing would have saved Smith’s job, but it’s for sure that winning didn’t help. The Texans operate in the Bizarro World, where “us do opposite of all Earthly things. Us hate beauty. Us love ugliness. Is big crime to make anything perfect.”

Us would rather pick No. 2 in the NFL draft and not No. 1.

With the Texans’ luck, another team that needs help at quarterback, say the Colts, will trade up with the Bears, grab the No. 1 pick and steal Young, who has a long, successful pro career and wins multiple Super Bowls.

He coulda been a Texan, and the Texans coulda been a contender. All they had to do was lose a simple football game. Losing is easy. You just need a game plan. You’ve seen the movie Major League. The team owner needs the Indians to lose so fans stay away and the owner can break the lease on their stadium and move the team to Florida. So the team signs a bunch of misfits and lousy players.

Fans already stay away from Texans games. The roster already is pretty underwhelming. They just needed to finish the job and lose on Sunday.

At the post-game press conference, Smith was asked about his future with the Texans and he expressed confidence that he’d be back next year. The Texans fired him a couple of hours later. Way to humiliate the poor guy one last time. They could have told him he was toast before the press conference.

Nice touch, Brandin Cooks, the Texans’ best offensive player, who makes $19 million a year, trashing the Texans after the game. Cooks said, “I want to be part of a vision where everyone is on the same page and has a stable vision.” He wasn’t talking about the Texans.

The Texans still may get a quality player with the No. 2 pick. Most draft experts point to defensive stars like Will Anderson of Alabama or Jalen Carter of Georgia. Both could be impact players, but no position can turn a team around like quarterback. And the Texans need to do a complete 180.

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Nationals defeat Astros, 6-0. Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images.

Left-hander Mitchell Parker threw seven shutout innings, and Luis Garcia Jr. had three singles and two RBIs and the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros 6-0 on Sunday.

The Nationals have won three of their past four series after starting the season 2-6.

After allowing two runs over five innings last Monday in his major league debut, a 6-4 win over the L.A. Dodgers, Parker (2-0) was even more effective in his second major league start, allowing three hits, striking out eight and walking none, throwing 57 of his 73 pitches for strikes.

“He has so much poise," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "He’s ready. He gets the ball, ready to get back on the mound. I watched him today. He threw a ground ball. The play was made and he got right on the mound and was holding his glove up as if, ‘hey, come on, give me the ball, like I’m ready to get back on there’. It was cool to watch. He understands what he wants to do.”

Parker mixed his 85-87 mph splitter, 81-82 mph curveball and 92 mph four-seam fastball. He struck out Jose Altuve and Jeremy Peña a combined four times. Dylan Floro and Matt Barnes each added a scoreless inning for Washington.

Parker was thrilled to be able to throw the splitter for strikes, something that did not come as easy against the Dodgers.

“100 percent, yeah," Parker said. "We were able to get in there for more swings and misses. They were more competitive pitches. Going to keep working on it, seeing if we can keep it where it is at.”

Astros right-hander Hunter Brown replaced scheduled starter Cristian Javier, who was scratched from Sunday’s series finale with neck discomfort. Javier was placed on the 15-day injured list retroactive to April 14, and right-hander Spencer Arrighetti was called up from Triple-A Sugar Land.

Manager Joe Espada said they have not decided yet on an MRI for Javier.

“Neck discomfort, started a few days ago,” Espada said. “He tried to work through it but just couldn’t happen. This kind of just came out of nowhere. So, we are going to see what happens here.”

Brown allowed three runs and three hits and a walk in the first but then settled down, lasting four innings when his pitch count reached 84.

“Even in the first I felt like made some good pitches," Brown said. "Came to the outing prepared. Kind of did what I wanted to and it just didn’t fall our way there.”

García Jr.’s two-run single to center field highlighted the three-run first inning for the Nationals.

“We try to score every inning,' Garcia Jr. said through a translator. "But definitely when we score the first inning it gives you a different kind of sense of confidence throughout the game and it carries on through the games a different feeling.”

Joey Meneses had a bases-loaded two-run single to right field off Shawn Dubin in the fifth to make it 5-0. Nick Senzel hit his first home run of the season in the sixth to close out the scoring.

The Astros' tailspin continues, having lost five of their past six and nine of their past 12.

“It is not ideal in the situation that we are in but we are in this situation,” Espada said. “And we got to fight through this. We have guys in there who are capable of giving us innings and some of them are doing that. We are going back to playing the style of baseball that everyone sees the Astros play. We feel pretty good about the guys that we have in there to get us some good innings."

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros left-hander Framber Valdez threw again Sunday and has a chance of starting one of the games in Chicago his week. “We will see how he feels,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “Once we see how he feels, we will start talking about the possibilities if he can pitch in Chicago or not.”

Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz said he is about “90 percent” recovered from the flu that placed him on the 10-day injured list on April 12. Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Ruiz will go on a rehab assignment this week to play a couple of games before returning to the club.

UP NEXT

Houston travels to Chicago to begin a three-game series against the Cubs on Tuesday. Espada confirmed JP France and Justin Verlander will start two of the games, but did not specify the order. Spencer Arrighetti, who was called up for Javier, is an option for the opener.

Washington has a day off before hosting the L.A. Dodgers on Tuesday night. Left-hander Patrick Corbin (0-3, 8.06 ERA) faces the Dodgers for the second consecutive start.

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