The Pallilog

On Kelvin Sampson's 21-1 Cougars, the Rockets, Astros and Texans

Kelvin Sampson is rolling along.

Blackjack for the Houston Cougars! 21. 21 wins just one loss. They will never be a citywide big deal, but they are a heckuva story. With some help this weekend UH could crack the Top 10 when the polls come out Monday. The Coogs get the weekend off ahead of their biggest back-to-back games of the season (at Central Florida then home vs. Cincinnati). Right now they'd likely be looking at a number three seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Shooting blanks

It's on to February for the Rockets, who will be challenged in the short term to move on from the stink of the gigantic rotten egg they laid Tuesday against the Pelicans. The Rockets would do fine to split their back-to-back games at Denver and Utah Friday and Saturday, coming off of their worst loss of the season. And remember the Rockets have a loss to the Cavaliers.

Without Clint Capela the Rockets are a simply awful defensive team, but Tuesday night was especially lame as they gave up 121 points to a ravaged Pelicans' lineup that was down superstar Anthony Davis and three of its next four leading scorers on the season. The silver lining in defeat was James Harden extending his 30 point games streak to a crazy 24 in a row, though Harden was part of the night's overall mess in making just 11 of 32 shots. It may just be a shooting slump, or maybe the fact that Mike D'Antoni continues to let Harden lead the league in minutes played per game is taking some toll. Over the last four games, Harden from deep, has been more The Brick than The Beard making just 17 of 63 3 pointers. That's a wretched 27 percent.

Overall, Harden's January was one of the most prolific in NBA history. 14 games played, an average of 43.6 points per game. No matter how you slice it, that is stunning output. But it is also fact that Harden's January shooting percentages both overall and from three finished lower than his season averages.

Speaking of Anthony Davis (and Capela), unless Tilman Fertitta balked at what would become a massive luxury tax bill going forward it's likely Daryl Morey offered Capela to New Orleans as the centerpiece of a Rockets' bid for Davis. Problem is the Rockets have no other assets worth a darn in trade and while Capela has evolved into an elite role player there is no way that an offer of Capela and chaff can compete with what the Lakers and Celtics can offer.

Another arm

Inside two months to the Astros' season opener, General Manager Jeff Luhnow finally fulfilled his objective of adding a starting pitcher. Turns out the Astros still have a bearded soft-tossing lefty in their rotation! It's not that exciting. It's also not Dallas Keuchel. At one year for four and a half million dollars, Wade Miley is a favorable risk/reward investment. The 32 year old Miley basically stunk for four years before reviving his career in 2018 with the Brewers. He posted a 2.57 ERA over 16 starts then was sensational in four abbreviated playoff starts, though a couple of things seem fluky about Miley's '18 results. For the Astros, he's rotation depth who at minimum helps bridge the gap until superstud prospect Forrest Whitley's expected Astros' debut sometime this year.

Miley's signing slams the door on any possible Keuchel return. Keuchel went into free agency with agent Scott Boras "demanding" a five year contract, target range 100 million dollars. Dreams don't always come true. Keuchel may not yet even have a four year offer. He's 31, not as good as he used to be, and there is a long, long list of long term pitcher contracts that have turned out to be huge mistakes for the signing team.

Never blame a player for taking the very maximum money he can get, if that's the choice made. If you were Keuchel would you take two years 30 million guaranteed to stay with a great team like the Astros or grab three years 45 mil from a projected also-ran? You'd probably take the extra 15 million. Me too.

An odd move

Interesting move with now former Texans quarterback coach Sean Ryan leaving for the same position with the Detroit Lions. All else being equal, would you opt to work with the still developing and darn exciting 24 year Deshaun Watson, or middle of the pack guy Matthew Stafford who turns 31 next week? It's not as if the Lions offer some stable and successful franchise environment. First year Head Coach Matt Patricia drew lousy reviews. Maybe Ryan winds up the play-caller in Detroit. Bill O'Brien wasn't going to give Ryan that opportunity here. Will O'Brien cede control of his offense to anybody?

Buzzer Beaters

1. Marquese Chriss asking the Rockets to play him more or trade him is sadly funny. The Rockets would give him away if they could. 2. The Texans hiring two time PED test flunker Brian Cushing as an assistant strength and conditioning coach is funny. 3. Super Bowl predictions: Bronze-Gladys Knight's national anthem performance will be stellar Silver-Maroon 5's halftime performance gets panned Gold-Patriots 34 Rams 31

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.

That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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