CHARLIE PALLILO

So long, Carmelo, the Rockets will be just fine without you

Mike D'Antoni and the Rockets have moved on from Carmelo. Harry How/Getty Images

So what’s your favorite Carmelo Anthony Houston Rocket memory? A dubious move at point of signing, it played out worse more quickly than even the most hardened cynic could have anticipated. The Rockets looked ridiculous with their BS claim of Anthony having been sidelined by “illness” the last few games. Yeah. His performance level made Mike D’Antoni sick. His defensive contribution was a malignancy.

By all accounts Carmelo Anthony is a good guy. As a Syracuse alum I’ll forever have a warm spot for his carrying the Orangemen to the 2003 NCAA Championship. That was a long time ago. Anthony hasn’t been a big-time player for a while now. Before last season when dealt to Oklahoma City Anthony thought he made for a big three with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Not close. Then after being traded to and then bought out by Atlanta, Melo joined the desperate for bench help Rockets. Melo thought he’d make a big three with buddy Chris Paul, and James Harden. Not close again. It was never even a possibility. William Shakespeare wrote “Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow.” Not always. No sorrow on this one.

Meanwhile the Rockets have exhaled after their 1-5 mess of a start and settled in to playing some darn good ball. Getting back to .500 merits no celebration, but winning six of eight including this week’s wins at Denver and over (granted, Stephen Curry-less) Golden State is quality. The Western Conference is ferociously deep this season, but the Rockets schedule softens over the next couple of weeks so they should be leaving the .500 mark in their rearview mirror.

A Cougar low

Divergent agendas can make for ugly moments. Such happened during UH’s Thursday night rout of Tulane when Ed Oliver grew furious with head coach Major Applewhite when Applewhite told him to take off a jacket that was reserved for players playing in the game. Applewhite is the Cougars’ second year head coach trying to avoid a second disappointing season. His defense had been godawful in multiple recent games, the most recent played without All-America defensive lineman Oliver. Oliver was injured by an illegal block October 20. Two weeks later UH announced Oliver would play that night against SMU. Oliver did not, and has missed two more games since. The obvious undercurrent is that a number of people (maybe including the head coach) think Oliver is healthy enough to be playing. As much as it’s a team sport and any player on a team should feel obligation to his teammates and school, Ed Oliver cannot be blamed for taking no chances. He’s a surefire top 10 NFL Draft pick. That’s millions and millions of guaranteed dollars waiting for him. A blown out knee could wreck that. It’s not as if UH is chasing a national championship.  

On the road again

The Texans play at Washington Sunday in a matchup of 6-3 teams that really don’t seem to be all that good. With the possible exception of the Bears, the Texans and Washington are certainly the two weakest division leaders in the NFL. Which means, they are division leaders. Play the course.

The Texans somewhat surprisingly are road favorites by a field goal. That means unless they falter badly the Texans will be favored in six of their remaining seven games, the lone underdog role being at Philadelphia, and that could change since the Eagles’ Super Bowl defense could be dead by the time that game rolls around. So by the chalk the Texans should finish…12-4. 12-4!!!

But why are the Texans favored at Washington? The Texans offense hasn’t been very good this season, legitimately topping 20 points only twice. Washington’s defense has been stout, giving up more than 17 points only three times. Well, flip the script. Washington has won three of its last four games but hasn’t scored more than 20 in any of them. The Texans front seven has been hell-raising. J.J. Watt is probably running second behind Andrew Luck for comeback player of the year. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and friends should maul Washington’s injury ravaged offensive line. Both of Washington’s starting guards are out injured, and so is Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams. If the Texans don’t lose the special teams matchup or the turnover battle, they should have a seven game winning streak going into the huge Monday nighter upcoming against the Titans.

In the AFC South race the Texans’ ideal Sunday is they win while the Colts beat the Titans in Indianapolis. That would give the Texans a two game division lead and margin for error ahead of the Titans’ visit. If both the Texans and Titans win, control of the AFC South race will ride on that Monday nighter. If the Texans lose and the Titans win, the Monday nighter becomes a virtual must win for the Texans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Justin Verlander had a fabulous season, but Blake Snell was the best pitcher in the American League in 2018.  2. Go Orange! Beat Notre Dame! 3. Most absurd games with SEC teams this weekend: Bronze-LSU/Rice Silver-Georgia/UMass Gold-Alabama/The Citadel.


 

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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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