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Jermaine Every: Don't look now, but Astros season is not too far away

The World Series champion Astros will report for spring training in just a couple weeks. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There’s a lot going on in sports these days. So naturally, there’s a lot going on in my head. Adult ADD isn’t so bad when you know how to control it and harness it for the sake of writing an article. So here goes…

Astros spring training draws near

The Astros are set to start defense of their World Series title. Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14, while position players report on Feb. 19. Spring Training always gets me excited for the upcoming baseball season. This season has me more pumped coming off the World Series win. General Manager Jeff Luhnow has done yeoman’s work in shaping this roster into not just a contender, but a contender for years to come. Pulling off the Gerrit Cole deal was akin to hustling the Pittsburgh Pirates at 3-Card Monte. Playing a 162-game schedule is a grind in and of itself. From their “pre-season” until the last out is recorded, a baseball season lasts about ten months. I believe the only thing standing in their way is staying relatively healthy for that journey. Speaking of the Astros…

Jose Altuve putting in extra work

MLB Network host and Houston native Robert Flores recently tweeted that A.L. MVP Jose Altuve has been at the Astros training facility for FOUR WEEKS! If you needed another reason to love this guy, there ya go. I applaud the fact that he’s gone about this without any shameless self-promoting social media posts (looking at you J.J. Watt). He simply told a media member and let the rest take care of itself. Never mind that, but the man could be resting on his recent accomplishments and taking it easy. Instead, he only took about a month off and got right back to work. He knows the big payday will come. Yet, with all the accolades in tow, he chooses to grind harder in order to stay at the top of the mountain. If only some other top athletes in this city would follow his lead, I wonder: where they could lead their teams?

G.O.A.T. talks

With the New England Patriots making yet another Super Bowl appearance, quarterback Tom Brady has been mentioned as perhaps the greatest athlete/sportsman ever, especially in comparison to Michael Jordan. Those types of arguments are great for debate, difference of opinion, generational divides, and overall discussion. However, one of the flaws I’ve noticed is the lack of inclusion of other athletes/sportsman. Roger Federer just became the first male tennis player to win 20 Grand Slam titles. No mention of him or the three women who did it before he did (Serena Willaims, Steffi Graf, or Margaret Court). What about Pelé, Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, or Cristiano Ronaldo of soccer? I’m guessing baseball players like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, or Barry Bonds get no love either? I’m not even going to mention some of the others from sports less popular. Let’s be sure we open our minds and broaden our horizons when making these types of arguments before we eliminate reasonable competition.

The Rockets are ready to contend

The Rockets are ready to contend for the NBA title…if they can remain healthy. Do they need to add some pieces? They sure could use the extra help. Fellow Sports Map columnist Joel Blank laid out his argument for help in the form of another big man. While I agree with him, I believe this team’s biggest obstacle is health. Their record of 19-1 with James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela in the starting lineup is astonishing. At 35-13 on the season with a fairly firm grip on the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, they’re currently four games back of the Golden State Warriors for the No. 1 seed and hold the tie-breaker. But that’s not enough. The Warriors are like a large corporation in a lawsuit against a very successful mom & pop operation. Sure the mom & pop operation may have a winnable case in court, but the corporation has longer money and better lawyers to outlast them and will eventually win out unless something drastic happens. Going 16-12 when their version of the Big Three is out doesn’t spell success in the postseason. Making a move is one thing, making the right move (no matter what they may look like) could make or break their chances this season.

The Texans’ blessing in disguise

The Texans’ coaching staff had the task of coaching the South team in the 2018 Senior Bowl. Going into the offseason sans a first and second round pick in the draft and a change at general manager, this came as a blessing in disguise for the Texans. Bill O’Brien and his staff got the chance to be up close and personal with a group of potential draftees, or undrafted free agents, this past week. Scouts, coaches, and front office personnel often attend these events en masse. I sincerely hope they used that time wisely and were able to pick up on more than they would have given normal access had they not been coaching in the game. This would be more beneficial given the stacked deck they’re facing when it comes to rebuilding this team on the fly, particularly this offseason, given that they’re already a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

Bonus!

-If you haven’t seen the footage of Nick Saban doing the Cupid Shuffle, it’s a must-watch.

-A New Orleans Pelicans fan sitting courtside had a brief run as a member of the team in warm-ups.

If you’re reading this, I love you. Thanks for putting up with me this long as my own attention span sometimes won’t allow me to do the same without at least three or four breaks. Remember, I’m available for rebuttal, debate, or general conversation on Twitter. Until next week, be good, or be good at it.

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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