Big Deals

SportsMap weekend news: Verlander gets extension, Texans sign Kalil

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The Houston Astros made a big splash earlier in the week by extending Alex Bregman. They are on the verge of another big deal, according to multiple reports.

Extending Verlander

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The Astros and ace pitcher Justin Verlander finalized a two-year, $66 million dollar extension. Even at age 36, Verlander remains one of the best in the game. He went 16-9 last year with a 2.52 ERA and 290 strikeouts. It was his first full season in Houston.

Verlander quickly endeared himself to Houston fans after the last minute trade from Detroit in 2017. He helped the team to its first World Series victory that year and has been a fan favorite ever since. The Astros window to win it again remains open, and Verlander apparently will be a big part of it.

If this deal is finalized, and the Astros can reach a longterm deal with impending free agent Gerrit Cole, the team should be set for the near future. Cole, George Springer and Carlos Correa will be the next players in line for deals, but in locking up Jose Altuve, Bregman and now Verlander the team will remain in pretty good shape moving forward.

Verlander's deal - like Cole's - was set to expire at the end of this season.

Texans finally address a need

Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings

Matt Kalil. Getty Images.

The Texans needed to add offensive line help this off-season, but the options were limited and overpriced. On Friday they added the kind of player they needed, former Viking and Panther tackle Matt Kalil. It is a low-risk, high-reward move.

Kalil was a Pro Bowl caliber tackle in Minnesota until injuries slowed him in 2016. He started every game for Carolina in 2017, but missed all of last season and the Panthers let him go.

If he is healthy, left tackle becomes less of a priority in the draft - the Texans won't have to reach for one. If not, it's a low-risk move. If he wins the starting job, great. If he does not, it likely means the Texans drafted a better player.

They have not done a lot in free agency, but adding Kalil is a potentially key move. Former Raider Donald Penn is also still a free agent and if the Texans can add him as well, they have at least placed significant band-aids on a gaping wound.

Adding Kalil on a short-term deal is a much better option than spending huge dollars on Trent Brown. The potential success rate is basically the same.

The Texans still have some concerns - another tackle remains critical, and cornerback is still a serious minus, but now they can address corner in the draft without being locked in to taking a tackle. If they can add Penn, then cornerback immediately becomes the No. 1 priority. They could also use a backup running back and another interior D lineman, but those can be addressed in the middle rounds.

In all, this is a great move by the Texans, whether it works out or not.

Ohio State next for Coogs

Kelvin Sampson has the Cougars rolling. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Cougars will play their second round NCAA Tournament game Sunday against 11th-seeded Ohio State after Friday's easy win over Georgia State. The game will be played at 7:40 p.m.

The No. 3-seeded Cougars are 5.5-point favorites.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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