THE HOUSTON SPORTS SCENE

If only the Texans and Rockets could be more like the Astros

Things were not so good for Ken Giles. Al Bello/Getty Images

 Now that we are a city of champions again we need to start acting like it. That means you Texans. And you Rockets. It’s not like they can take the Astros blueprint and copy it exactly. They each have their own challenges but there are some things they can pick from here and there, throw it in the pot and hopefully come out with a nice gumbo of sports greatness. The first ingredient they both need? They need to grow a pair.

What I loved most about this Astros team was that it had giant nuts. The kind you need a wheelbarrow to carry around. I mean huge balls. When you lead the league in hitting in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings it means you don’t give a bleep. Ken Giles agrees with this theory.

I’m not sure Giles is the guy that should be repping the “zero (blanks) given” shirt. I wish he would start caring about stuff like getting guys out. I’m referring more to the hitters that didn’t give a bleep about who the pitcher was, what his stats were, how hard he threw, what inning it was in what game or how much they were down.  Chris Sale? No problem. Craig Kimbrel? Knocked him around. C.C.? Come on. Clayton Kershaw? Pssshhh. Kenley Jansen? Bring it. Game 7? Twice? Whatever.

The Rockets and Texans? Not so much. You don’t earn a name like Elimination James unless you really wilt under the pressure of the big moment. This is not even arguable. The evidence is starting to pile up. It started in the 2012 NBA finals when he was with OKC. It got even worse in the ‘15 Western Conference Finals when he went 2 for 11 with 11 turnovers in the 5th and deciding game against the Warriors. Then there was last year’s Game 6 debacle against the Spurs. I don’t even want to go there. Come on man. $181 million deserves a better effort in the biggest games. I don’t know if you heard James but that’s not how we act anymore. That’s how we used to act back in ‘92 when we were playing the Bills and had a 32 point lead or in ‘98 when we struck out 11 times against Sterling Fricking Hitchcock. But we don’t act like that anymore. We just don’t.

Well, the Texans still do but that’s gonna have to change as well. One thing that hasn’t changed at all is their luck. Holy crap. This season had so much promise thanks to one guy and that guy’s gone now. Deshaun Watson out for the year with a knee injury. Add that to J.J. and Whitney and this is beyond cataclysmic. Those two were bad enough but there was still a thrill in the air thanks to Deshaun and if not for Bill O’Brien choking in the final minutes of the Patriot and Seahawks games this team could have been 5-2 instead of 3-4.

That’s the kind of behavior that has got to go. Maybe BOB can take a page from A.J. Hinch’s book and grow a pair when the game is on the line. Game 4 in Boston? Up one. What the hell, let’s bring Verlander in. What???!!!! Twitter exploded. You would have thought A.J. said something about inmates in prison. No. All he did was win a series.

Up 2 with under 3 minutes to play the Texans drive down to the Patriot 20. A touchdown puts it away. What does BOB do? Lamar Miller for 7 yards. Lamar Miller for 2 yards. Lamar Miller for no gain. Field goal. Of course you know how it ended. What a shock. Give Tom Brady the ball back down 5 with 2:24 to play and guess what happens?

In Seattle, up 4 with 2:10 left the Deshaun runs for a first down. One more first down and this thing is over. What does BOB do? Run Lamar Miller three times again, punt it back to Seattle and lose the game. You’ve got the most dynamic player in the game. He was probably wearing Ken Giles’ shirt under his uniform. He didn’t give a bleep about the legion of boom. He went in there and dominated the Seahawk defense but BOB stole all that thunder by playing scared.

Those two faux pas aside, BOB seemed to be a different coach this year. His staid and incredibly dull offense was scrapped in favor of originality and fun. The sign of a good coach is that he can adjust to the talent he has as opposed to the players adapting to his scheme. He was learning as much from Deshaun as Deshaun was from him and other than how he turtled at the end of those two games he was coaching his tail off. It’s going to be interesting to see how he’s going to be judged at the end of this year. He showed ingenuity for the first time as the Texans head coach and Deshaun was flourishing in this offense. Can you fire him now even if they don’t win another game? How can anyone expect him to make chicken salad out of this? Back to boring football. Damn.

One other thing that would be awesome is if BOB in some way somehow might learn to be a little more likeable like A.J.  

A.J. meets with the media twice a day. He sits down with pretty much the same guys before and after every game; 180 this year. That’s at least 360 sessions and that doesn’t count his radio obligations. It can’t be easy. When a reporter asks him about leaving Giles in while he’s blowing another save it really means, “What the hell were you thinking there? Have you ever seen him pitch?” But A.J. answers every question no matter how dumb or unintentionally insulting it might be and he does it thoughtfully and respectfully.

BOB? Again, not so much. I don’t care that you hate the media. I don’t care that you don’t respect the media. I don’t care if you never talk to the media again but since you have to you might as well be nice. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.  You’re not Bill Belichick. You haven’t won enough to act like him. Part of it could be that northeast upbringing. Those people (yes those people) are abrasive. It’s just how they are. But you’re in Houston now and I hope someday Houston rubs off on you a little.

So here’s what we need from our Rockets and Texans. Take a look at the Astros and grab some of that swagger. Grow a giant pair and don’t be afraid to win big. Try to be nice along the way and maybe people will like you. How about that? A championship team that’s likeable. Crazy but true. Someday maybe we can have a few of those in this city.   
 

 

  

  

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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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