THE PALLILOG

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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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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