POINT BLANK

Joel Blank: ESPYS will have a distinctive Houston flavor this year

Jose Altuve is up for best male athlete. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

If you’re a sports fan, one of the most difficult weeks of the year is on the horizon. Baseball is on its annual hiatus due to Tuesday’s All-Star game, there is no basketball to speak of except for the uneventful Summer League tournament, and NFL training camps don't open up for another 10 days.

For golf fans, the current major is the British Open, which means you either have to set your alarm for the middle of the night or rely on late night highlights. About the only prime time viewing option you have aside from the MLB All-Star game is the ESPY's on Wednesday night. Thankfully, Houston has a big presence this year as the Astros and Rockets are up for numerous awards. H-town has a shot to take home some serious hardware.

The Astros will be front and center, picking up nominations both as individuals and as a team, compliments of their storybook season and World Series Championship. George Springer is up for Best Championship Performance after taking home the MVP of the World Series. The team is up for Best Game, for their thrilling 10-inning Game 5 victory over the Dodgers. Jose Altuve is up for Best MLB player and Best Male Athlete and the team is also up for Best Team for all of last season.

Overall, that is quite a laundry list of nominees and you have to admit, they have a pretty good chance to take home several trophies when all is said and done. James Harden is also up for Best NBA Athlete, as well as Male Athlete of the Year. You have to believe that the team would have been up for a whole lot more had they found a way to pull out the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. Damn those hamstrings!

The interesting category for me is the Best Male Athlete Award, as you have two Houstonians in Altuve and Harden, as well as Tom Brady of the Patriots and Alex Ovechkin of the NHL's Washington Capitals. To me this should come down to Altuve and Ovechkin. Both have a great case to be made based on their franchise's title drought and the way they went about their business both individually and as a collective unit. Sure there was drama in the Stanley Cup and the Caps squashed the Cinderella story that was the Las Vegas Knights, but there is no denying Altuve and the Astros. Just looking at him, you have a soft spot for a guy that plays so big and looks so little.

Then you delve a little deeper and see that MVP, the laundry list of individual awards like Silver Slugger and Player of the Year, as well as statistics like another 200 hit season with 204, another batting title htting .346 and leading the American league in hits for the season. He was everything for his team from start to finish he deserves to be the Best Male Athlete of 2017. Don't get me wrong, Ovechkin was great, but Atuve just did more. Tune in to the ESPY's Wednesday night at 7 p.m. as see how all the local nominees fair and if you want to vote for your favorites, go to espn.com/espys and support your local jocks. With the sports world basially taking a Mulligan this week, what else do you have to do?

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Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

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