The Pallilog

Rockets-Jazz is barely a contest

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Other than James Harden bizarrely announcing his immediate retirement, the only remaining risk for the Rockets in their first round playoff series with Utah might be assumption of victory. After destroying the Jazz in both games one and two, the talent gap between the teams is obvious. While momentum shifts can happen seemingly out of nowhere, underdogs can get on a roll, and favorites can tense up, it is just about unfathomable that the Jazz can beat the Rockets four out of five games. Utah has a traditionally strong home court advantage, but last year the Rockets rolled in Salt Lake City in games three and four. Blowout losses to the Rockets have become a recurring Utah nightmare. Perhaps appropriately it was February 2 of this year (Groundhog Day) that the Rockets battered the Jazz, in Utah, by 27. A game in which neither Chris Paul nor Clint Capela even played.

Despite all that, Utah is actually a small favorite in game three. No team in NBA postseason history has rallied from 0-3 down to win the next four.

The earliest a Rockets' second round series would start is a week from Sunday. The afternoon slot that day is no doubt reserved for the Warriors, be it for a shocking game seven in their series with the Clippers or game one of the Western Conference Semifinals. Golden State losing DeMarcus Cousins for the rest of the playoffs is a big blow to the champs. They've won three titles without him but adding a skilled low post threat and quality rebounder was not purely a "luxury" addition. Specifically against the Rockets, Cousins on his game is too big and strong for Clint Capela to effectively single cover. Against the Warriors "Death Lineup" the Rockets will dare Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to take all the jumpers they want.

Astros take on the Rangers again

In a scheduling oddity the Astros are back in Arlington this weekend for their second series there already this season. At 10-7 and riding a four game winning streak the Rangers are a modest early season surprise. At 12-6 the Astros ranking among the elite are not. Exactly no one (no one credible anyway) sees the Rangers having the staying power to challenge the Astros in the American League West.

The Rangers and some other anticipated AL mid to bottom feeders could have more hope for a Wild Card spot. The defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox enter the weekend 6-13. One way to think of the 162 game regular season is as nine innings of 18 games apiece. Before tacking on yet another loss Wednesday the Sox finished the first inning at 6-12. I'd say that's like falling behind 3-0 after the first inning. There's plenty of time to come back and win but the odds don't favor it. In no 18 game stretch last season did the Sox play sub-.500 baseball.

Keuchel still waiting

So Dallas Keuchel is open to a contract covering just the rest of this season. He could have taken one year 17.9 million guaranteed from the Astros. Agent Scott Boras evidently wanted Keuchel bidding in the six year 150 million dollar range. And I wanted to marry Halle Berry after seeing her in Boomerang. And Swordfish. And Die Another Day. Anyway… Keuchel is a class act, and had just one bad season in the last five years. As a short term play he makes sense as rotation depth for a number of playoff contenders. Signing Keuchel before the June MLB Draft costs the signing team a draft pick so his waiting game could take another six weeks.

Big week for Texans

Ahead of next week's critical for the Texans NFL Draft, the 2019 schedule release this week reminds that the Texans will be hard-pressed and unlikely to equal last season's 11 wins. The 2018 Texans took advantage of a heaping platter of below average to awful starting quarterbacks. Among the starters they beat who they don't face in 2019 are Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Josh Allen, Case Keenum, and Brock Osweiler.

Among QBs new to the opponent list this year are three of the last four NFL Most Valuable Player winners: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton. The other MVP of the last four years is Tom Brady. He's back on the schedule, though the Texans finally get the Patriots in Houston. As an Eagle Nick Foles shredded the Texans' defense, now the Texans face him twice as a Jaguar. Unmentioned to this point, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees. Brees showed slippage down the stretch last season but at age 40 he'll start 2019 still considered a top 10 QB expected to be part of a Texans' season opening loss in New Orleans on Monday Night Football.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Kevin Durant is an all-time great, but sure can seem emotionally needy. 2. Caddyshack was a movie with Bill Murray, not a Bill Murray movie. 3. Best Bill Murray movies: Bronze-Lost In Translation Silver-Stripes Gold-Groundhog Day

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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