THE PALLILOG

Pallilo's View: Is there any reason left to watch the Texans?

Pallilo's View: Is there any reason left to watch the Texans?
DeAndre Hopkins is on pace for a career year. Tim Warner/Getty Images

So what it would take for you to sit through three hours of watching the Texans at Jacksonville Sunday?  For me a thousand dollars would definitely do it. OK, $250 would definitely do it for me. Since such an offer seems unlikely, skimming through the game in an hour or so via DVR will be punishment enough. The awful drudgery that the 2017 Texans devolved into is a reminder that while they were a mediocre squad the last three seasons, at least their games mattered in December. Part of the sadness with this team is that the Texans have hardly any young players developing in a way that makes you think “hey that guy might become really good!”

Over the last six seasons the Jaguars BEST record was 5-11. Combined record over the six: 22-74. Last season they were 3-13. The Jaguars clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Texans Sunday. Seems likely. The Texans offensive line is no better now than it was opening day when Calais Campbell played as if in his prime Deacon Jones and the Jags slapped the Texans silly. With a win Sunday, and if the Steelers beat the Patriots in Pittsburgh Sunday, the Jaguars take the inside track over New England for the number two seed in the AFC and the bye that comes with it. If that happens the Jacksonville Freaking Jaguars stand a good shot of beating the Pats.

If searching for a watchable angle over these last three Texans games, DeAndre Hopkins needs 24 receptions and 289 receiving yards to establish new career highs in each category. Hopkins already has 11 touchdown catches this season, his second 11 TD catch season. Andre Johnson never caught 10 in a season.

Black out?

If you are reading this before the Rockets-Spurs game Friday night, take a gold star out of petty cash.  If reading at some point after, you are still very much appreciated. An odd Rockets’ choice to declare this their first Black Out Night. I presume they know that black is one of the Spurs’ team colors. The color the Spurs wore here last May in administering the most embarrassing loss in Rockets’ history, the 114-75 game six humiliation to end their Western Conference Semifinal series.

Arms race

The Astros’ signing of reliever Joe Smith this week wasn’t a headline grabber but was an excellent addition. Major League Baseball is flush with cash so two years $15 million dollars for a set up reliever is not an overpay. Smith turns 34 before Opening Day but has been solid for years. He has two calling cards: 1. His sidearm delivery is extremely tough on righthanded hitters, and 2. He is married to SEC on CBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce. Over his career Smith has yielded a puny .586 OPS to righthanded hitters. The Yankees now may have the most powerful righthanded trio ever assembled in Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. The Astros adding Smith isn’t a direct response to that, but they certainly are aware. In 2017 Smith pitched 54 innings, walking only 10 while striking out 71. It appears Ken Giles will get the opportunity to bounce back from his worse than brutal postseason. Smith joins Chris Devenski, Will Harris, and Joe Musgrove as certain pieces of the Astros’ pen. Francis Martes, a lefty to be determined, and the sixth starting pitcher (meaning the one who doesn’t make the rotation if all are healthy to start the season) should round it out.

Sign of the times

Ominous sign against Dallas Keuchel being an Astro for life with his change of representation to Scott Boras. Keuchel turns 30 New Year’s Day. If the Astros can’t work out an extension with him this winter, Keuchel hits the open market after the coming season. With a healthy and solid 2018 campaign Keuchel could be looking at five years $125 million. Would the Astros go there? Marwin Gonzalez also switched to Boras. Marwin is highly likely entering his last season as an Astro. Also in the Boras/Astros portfolio are Jose Altuve and Lance McCullers.

The race is on...sort of?

The Angels, Mariners, and Rangers have all made multiple moves. None is anywhere close to having the look of a legit challenger to Astros AL West supremacy. Now, if one of them trades for Manny Machado…

Bowled over

With the college football bowl season kicking off Saturday, which of the six games excites you most? The correct answer is none of them. If forced to choose, I’m going with the Las Vegas Bowl. Not that Oregon vs. Boise State does the slightest for me, but at least the game is in Las Vegas.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Still waiting on the Texans owning up to wasting 50 million dollars for their retractable roof.   2. Waiting for Godot was more fruitful.   3.  Best Star Wars movies:  Bronze- The Empire Strikes Back Silver- Return of the Jedi   Gold-Star Wars. I haven’t seen the other 37.

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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