BARRY WARNER'S VIEW

Off the top of my bald head: A look back at the weekend in Houston sports

Off the top of my bald head: A look back at the weekend in Houston sports
Justin Verlander will get the ball in Game 6. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The greatest asset of our city is the famed Houston Medical Center. In the early 1960s Dr. Michael De Bakey and his protégé, Dr. Denton Cooley’s revolutionary breakthroughs helped save millions over the years.

Heart palpitations ran through Astro fans early as the Dodgers jumped on Dallas Kuechel. The bearded lefty gave up four runs, with his teammates facing Clayton Kershaw.

Regardless of how physically fit you are, most sports fans felt they were having heart problems watching Game Five. All five hours, seventeen minutes of heart wrenching drama.

Ten innings, five Astro homers and three comebacks later, Alex Bregman’s RBI single ended with a 13-12 Astros win.  This time it was the Dodgers’ bullpen that exploded. The hang dog look of LA pitchers making their walk of shame to the dugout after they failed, spoke loud and clear.

There were too many heroes, too many twists and turns to last night’s incredible win. Once again, the loosest clubhouse I have covered here in Houston delivered on the field.  

Welcome to Houston, where a baseball team represents Houston Strong in the aftermath of Harvey.  

Welcome to drama, usually associated with Hollywood.

Welcome to Minute Maid Park, where dreams come true.

A win in LA Tuesday night with Justin Verlander on the mound in Dodger Stadium and Houston will have its first World Series title.  There will be the usual made for television presentation, with Jim Crane getting the hardware from Commissioner Rob Manfred.  Then the MVP award followed by another champagne and beer celebration in the clubhouse.   Josh Reddick will be wearing his red, white and blue Speedo.

And more than a few million Astro fans will feel like their heart is jumping out of their chests.

Texans

Friday a story broke indicating the Texans owner Bob Mc Nair made of one the dumbest remarks about “inmates running the prison.”  It topped comments made by the late Oilers owner Bottom Line Bud Adams.

Bob is stubborn.

Naïve.

Surrounds himself with yes men.

A politician.

Doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about winning in the NFL.

Follows Goodell and several other owners like a sheep.

Is non-conformational.

Cannot read a room and see African-American faces staring back at him.

His health has been slipping since Mc Nair was diagnosed with cancer. He is awaiting another stem cell transplant.

But he is NOT a racist.

People forget the act that even before his “hoof and mouth disease” moment, even before he owned an NFL franchise, he and his wife gave millions that benefitted citizens of all races here in Houston

But perception is reality, especially if you have donated $1 million to Donald Trump's campaign.

We live in an overly sensitivity society. People overanalyze every word, facial expression and syllable.

“As I said yesterday, I was not referring to our players when I made a very regretful comment during the owner’s meetings last week,” McNair said. “I was referring to the relationship between the league office and team owners and how they have been making significant strategic decisions affecting our league without adequate input from ownership over the past few years.”

And the moon is made of green cheese!

All but ten Texans essentially shot the finger at their now controversial owner by kneeling during the National Anthem.  But once the game started it resembled the good old days of the AFL, before the thriller ended with the Seahawks winning 41-38 in the best game of the season.

De Shaun Watson put on another spectacular performance, demonstrating how bright the future is with the elite leader.  The rookie from Clemson was 19-of-30 for 402 yards and four touchdowns while also running eight times for 67 yards.

The poised kid with an accurate arm that has shocked defenses continued his historic start, passing Kurt Warner with 19 touchdowns through his first seven career NFL games.  Last year, with Schlock Osweiller at quarterback, the Texans three for just 16 touchdowns.

In spite of no running game, the legend of Russell Wilson continues to grow like Apple stock. The six-year pro finished with 26 completions for 452 yards and four touchdowns against an alleged professional secondary that was a joke.

Cornerback Marcus Williams read an out pattern all the way and picked off Wilson on the Houston 7-yard-line with just under three minutes left in the game, the Texans were leading 38-34

We have heard the term “prevent defense,” for years. Against one of the best defenses we saw a prevent offense.  Rather than utilizing the amazing relents of rookie superstar in the making, the Texans Head Coach prevented a win.

But in true Texan fashion, O’Brien became more conservative than a Republican Tea Party member.   He showed zero confidence in the magical rookie quarterback who kept the Legion of Boom defense off balance all day. Running Lamar Miller three straight times was dumb, with such a special player like Watson.

As is the case after a Texan loss the emotional bully went back to his all too familiar O’Brien "I made some bad play calls today. I have to do a better job."

For the last several seasons the Achilles heel for the defense has been two-fold.  Linebackers who cannot cover and poor safety play. How else can you explain Jimmy Graham being wide open for the winning touchdown.

So was a tremendous individual game by J.D. Clowney that  goes down the drain.  He led the defense in shutting down Seattle’s running game with relentless pursuit from the backside.

Hopkins caught eight passes for a career-best 224 yards as Watson put more points on Seattle's CenturyLink Field than any quarterback in the last six seasons.

The Texans fell to 3-4, a game behind Jacksonville and Tennessee in the AFC South. They play the Indianapolis Colts (2-5) next Sunday back at NRG Stadium.

Will they stand or kneel during the Anthem?

Chirp!

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The Astros host the Orioles on Friday night. Composite Getty Image.

Say it with me: The Astros aren’t dead yet. The Astros aren’t dead yet. The Astros aren’t dead yet! The odds favor them missing the postseason for the first time since 2016, but they definitely aren’t dead yet. Too much season left.

The Astros sure hope they hit their season standings rock bottom in falling 10 games back of Seattle in the American League West Tuesday. Two wins over the hapless White Sox later, coupled with two Mariner losses in Cleveland, and the deficit is eight going into the weekend. The Astros’ real race may be for a Wild Card. On that front they sit six games behind Minnesota, six and a half back of Kansas City. The Twins and Royals currently hold the second and third Wild Card slots. The Astros also trail Boston by five games.

The Astros’ season needs some positive jolts if it is not to slip away. A shot at one comes Friday night with pitcher Jake Bloss called up from Double-A Corpus Christi for his Major League debut. He is merely tasked with facing the best offense in the AL as the Baltimore Orioles visit Minute Maid Park this weekend. Bloss was the Astros’ third round draft pick last summer. He turns 23 on Sunday. He started well this season at High-A Asheville earning the move up to AA. As a Hook, Bloss was spectacular in posting a 1.61 earned run average over eight starts with a scant 19 hits allowed over 44 2/3 innings. Bloss gets the fast big league call out of necessity (with Justin Verlander on the injured list), because he excelled, and because the Astros have no significant pitching prospect knocking at the door from Triple-A Sugar Land. Not one guy in the Space Cowboys’ rotation has given up fewer hits than he has thrown innings. The Pacific Coast League is a hitters’ league, but that is a damning stat.

Blame game

With the Astros’ season a big fail to this point, it is the nature of the beast for some to call for the head(s) of Manager Joe Espada and/or General Manager Dana Brown. Espada has certainly not distinguished himself as some brilliant rookie skipper, but blaming numerous lackluster player performances on him is classic scapegoating. Brown is in his second season and does have a couple of stains on his early record, but the foremost task Brown was charged with at hire was rejuvenating the Astros’ weak farm system. It takes two or three draft classes to infuse some depth of young talent. If the Astros are sellers as the trade deadline approaches, selling is another avenue through which Brown tries to add good prospects.

Brown picked Bloss. Brown’s first first round pick was shortstop Brice Matthews who also recently earned promotion to Corpus Christi. If Jeremy Pena doesn’t show improvement, and if Matthews is fulfilling his potential, he could be challenging for the shortstop job by the end of next season. 2023 second round pick, pitcher Alonzo Tredwell, has been bad so far with the Low-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers.

Midsummer Classic

The first phase of All-Star balloting ends Thursday at 11AM Central Time. The Astros’ representation on the American League team is simple: three definites and one maybe. Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez all rightfully are poised to be elected starters. Altuve has to hold off the Rangers’ Marcus Semien, but at minimum will be added as a reserve. For Altuve it will be his ninth All-Star team, adding on to his franchise record after not making the team last year because he missed the first month and a half of the season with a broken thumb.

Tucker and Alvarez will both become three-time All-Stars. Neither has been voted a starter before. Even with the time he’s missing on the injured list, Tucker belongs in the outfield with the Yankees’ superstar combo of Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. Alvarez’s opportunity to win the vote at designated hitter opened up when Shohei Ohtani switched leagues in signing with the Dodgers.

Last year the Texas Rangers dominated the AL lineup with five starters. It was not an omen that they would go on to win the World Series. This year Arlington hosts the game at Globe Life Field, but Semien is the only Ranger anywhere close to the lead in the fan voting.

As for the one Astro All-Star maybe, that is Ronel Blanco. The 30-year-old has come out of nowhere to be the Astros’ ace, but he is not a lock. I don’t think his foreign substance suspension hurts much other than it factors into Blanco having pitched fewer innings than almost all other candidates. It’s a matter of math. A maximum of nine starting pitchers make the squad, there may only be eight taken. It’s not hard to name nine guys who could get the nod over Blanco, especially when you factor in that every team must be represented. Tyler Anderson is the most deserving Angel. Erick Fedde or Garret Crochet is the most deserving White Sox (Sock?). The Seattle Mariners have no deserving everyday player, though some might argue Cal Raleigh if three catchers are taken. The M’s are dominating the AL West on the back of stellar starting pitching. It’s hard to see no Mariner starter getting picked, although only Logan Gilbert at 2.93 has an earned run average within 0.50 of Blanco’s 2.43. Blanco has three more starts to strengthen his case before the staff is named July 7.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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