CHANGING OF THE GUARD?

Is the Texans' reign as kings of Houston sports coming to an end?

Is Bob McNair losing the city to the Astros? Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Fall of the Kingdom on Kirby

We are living in the midst of a regime change. An uprising has taken place, the ruling party is faltering, and some upstart rebels are storming the palace.

For 15 years now, the Texans have ruled the Houston sports landscape with unchecked power.  No matter their record or level of ineptitude they wore the crown because, well… this is Texas and they play football.  Maybe they didn’t fill the stadium every single week, especially in down years, but they were still the center of this city’s sports universe. So why am I speaking of them in the past tense?  The Astros, that’s why.

The Astros have shown us what a competent franchise looks like, finally bringing a major championship back to Houston for the first time in 22 years. Yes, they had some truly terrible seasons, but they had a plan throughout those rough times.  Now that the city knows what it’s like to have a winner the Texans’ seemingly unending leash has finally been yanked back.  What’s more is that the Astros are bursting with exciting, young, talented, and, most importantly, likable players.  I would argue the Texans have only two players that move the excitement needle, J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson, both of whom are lost for the year and it remains to be seen in what form they return. Without them it is abundantly clear that this Texans team is just like those 100 loss Astros teams – nameless, faceless, and talentless -  though with one key difference, unlike those Astros teams the Texans have no discernible plan.

 In years past I would block out time to watch the Texans almost every week, no matter how bad they were.  This year though I haven’t.  And no, it has nothing to do the off the field issues the NFL is dealing with.  I really couldn’t care less about the anthem or Kaepernick BS.  My interest in football itself isn’t the problem, I still watch other NFL games, I just haven’t watched much of the Texans.  I watched a few games with Deshaun Watson and found him to be genuinely exciting but since his injury the most I watched of this team is about five minutes on Monday night before I turned on the Xbox to play Madden (again this isn’t an issue with football).  The World Series has played a huge role in the waning of Texans interest, and I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way.  After a month of riding the emotional roller coaster that was the playoffs with a team that was genuinely likable I just don’t see the point in devoting time or interest to yet another crap Texans team that simply isn’t.  Additionally, it feels as though the Astros fully embraced their role in the city’s recovery from Harvey and, notwithstanding the fantastic things J.J. Watt has done as an individual, the Texans as an organization have just carried on with business as usual (including getting blown out at home by the Jaguars in what was supposed to be their “we got you Houston” game).

With their success and youth the Astros have begun to both cultivate their own generation of young fans and re-convert old ones all while the Texans continue to give theirs little reason to care.  If this really is just the beginning of Astros’ success, as many believe it to be, this orange-clad rebel band will soon snatch the Houston sports crown from NRG, and once again make Houston a baseball town as it was in the '90s and early 2000s.   For the sake of sports in this city I hope this is the case.  Bob McNair and the Texans need a kick in the ass, need to be knocked down a peg, and need to be shown that just because they play football they don’t get a pass when it comes to doing what’s necessary to win, or even just to be interesting.

(And I didn't even mentioned the Rockets).

 

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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