The Pallilog

NFL Draft gives us some sports, and the SEC dominates again

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We're into week seven of no meaningful athletic competition, so the arrival of the NFL Draft Thursday night was most welcome. Interest in it around here wasn't great given the Texans had no first round pick, but the first round is always a big deal and this year provided a few hours of hope toward having sporting events we lust to watch being back by September at the latest. I'd have much preferred NBA and NHL playoff games to watch.

The Texans have the eighth pick of the second round and Bill O'Brien could go a number of directions. Emperor O taking a guard would be justifiable, likewise wide receiver with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills both free agents after the 2020 season, but the defense is in need of a bigger boost. A defensive tackle, edge rusher, corner, or safety who fills draft cliché number one (best player available) should be able to make some impact as a rookie. Alabama safety Xavier McKinney might be the guy most expected to go in the first round who did not. Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike would make sense if on the board for the Texans' pick at number 40.

For those who question whether the Southeastern Conference is overrated, stop. Nine of the first 15 selections were SEC guys. In all an amazing 15 of the 32 first round picks were SEC guys. LSU led the way with five. That's five more than the University of Texas which failed to produce a first rounder for the fifth year in a row. Going into Friday night UT produced just one second rounder in the last eight drafts.

In leading LSU to the National Championship against the toughest schedule any school has never negotiated its way through undefeated, Joe Burrow had the greatest passing season in the history of college football. 60 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. Still, Burrow is not a "can't miss" prospect the way John Elway, Troy Aikman and Andrew Luck were as they entered the NFL. If Burrow goes on to greatness, the four guys taken behind him will have to collectively be great if they are to match the collective careers of the top five picks in the 1989 Draft. The second pick in '89 was epic steroid-created bust Tony Mandarich. But picks one, three, four and, five? All Hall of Famers. Aikman went first to the Cowboys, Barry Sanders third to the Lions, Derrick Thomas fourth to the Chiefs, and Deion Sanders fifth to the Falcons.

Wonder what Aaron Rodgers was thinking as he called it a night. The Green Bay Packers took an offensive player in the first round for the first time since 2011. Rather than help for Rodgers, the Pack tabbed his prospective successor in quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State.


So weak of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to release his Red Sox investigation and punishment the day before the NFL Draft. The timing was not a coincidence. It was clearly designed to minimize coverage and blowback. Astropologists shouldn't go overboard in outrage at the relative wrist slap given the Bosox. At no point was there indication that the Red Sox' scheme was as extensive as the Astros' cheating. But for Manfred to completely exonerate Alex Cora of anything during his Boston tenure strains credulity to amazing levels.

Russell Westbrook told an amusing story during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week. When he was 10 or 11 Westbrook attended a Michael Jordan basketball camp in Santa Barbara not too far from Westbrook's California home. As the last day of camp was winding down, each team was allotted time to get an autograph from and picture with MJ. When Westbrook's team's turn came, he blew it off, to keep playing whatever game he was in at the time. When Russ got home his parents asked "Did you get your time with Michael?" Mom and Dad Westbrook had bought a basketball that he could get signed. Russ explained that he didn't because he'd kept playing instead. Then he cried over the opportunity lost. At least somewhat ironically two decades later, Westbrook gets Jordan autographs, on checks! He is an endorser of Nike's Jordan Brand.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. Playing them is one thing, but sitting through whole video baseball or basketball games being played? Can't do it. 2. Don't have to be desperate for sports content to find the Jordan/Bulls "The Last Dance" documentary riveting. 3. Best last dance songs: Bronze-Last Dance, Dua Lipa Silver-Save The Last Dance For Me, The Drifters Gold-Last Dance, Donna Summer. Of course.





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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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