ESPN NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING

Take heart Houston, another team actually had a worse week

Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images.

Remember that opening line from the Cliff Notes version of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

That was Thursday, the best of times. In one day, for the first time ever, sports fans could watch (deep breath) the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, college football, PGA, LPGA, WNBE and the U.S. Open tennis tournament on TV.

That was Thursday, the worst of times. All three of our major teams, the Astros, Rockets and Texans lost big important games back-to-back-to-back in an all-day feast of defeat.

The Astros lost to the division-leading A's and fell below .500, at risk of missing the playoffs. The Rockets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, putting them on the brink of elimination from the playoffs. Then the Houston Texans dropped their Opening Night game to the defending Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs. All three of Houston's teams were Vegas underdogs. It was a three-team parlay of failure.

Around Houston today you can hear guys yelling to their wives, "I think I blew out the TV remote last night. Where do we keep the batteries?"

It was the busiest day for TV sports and it plain sucked to root for Houston teams. For all the sports world to see, the Houston Astros looked like a team in desperate need of a rebuild. The Astros are stuck in a meltdown trip to California, dropping lopsided series in Oakland and Anaheim, with the first-place Dodgers coming up.

The Rockets fell to the brink of elimination, one loss from goin' fishing. The Lakers completely flummoxed the Rockets high-octane offense. It's never a good sign when your highest-paid player is inconsistent in crunch time. Or when a key player is sidelined for allegedly breaking bubble rules in Orlando. And when the Lakers' defense pretty much takes scoring machine James Harden out of the game.

And especially when there doesn't seem to be a Plan B.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is staring at the team's organizational chart today, contemplating a major overhaul from the top down.

The Texans looked beaten from the moment they took the field, after staying in their locker room for the national anthem. That was the easiest game to analyze: you don't have to be Tony Romo to take one look and realize that the Chiefs are just better than the Texans. Period. End of story. Look out below: the Texans next three games are against the Ravens, Steelers and Vikings.

Years from now, when Sept. 10, 2020 is remembered for being the busiest day in sports TV history, there will be a footnote saying: Houston lost its baseball game, its basketball game and its football game.

There is one bit of good news coming out of Thursday's beatdown: the Astros, Rockets and Texans all have the day off Friday.

Still there were fun moments in our bleak day. I put my remote in overdrive, switching between the Rockets and Texans and the women's U.S. Open semifinals. Naomi Osaka has become a thoughtful, spiritual hero wearing face masks bearing names of African-Americans who were killed or injured by police brutality. Osaka also has the goods when it comes to tennis, too. She defeated American slugger Jen Brady. The headline match saw Victoria Azarenka postpone Serena Williams' drive to match Margaret Court's 24 Grand Slam wins. Seriously, tennis needs to do something about Azarenka screaming at the top of her lungs on every shot. It's obnoxious.

Also, the TNT guys on Inside the NBA were hilarious as always. The biggest disparity in TV history continues to be the NBA studios shows on TNT and ESPN.

TNT with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal is unique, the perfect blend of comedy and insight. Meanwhile, the studio show on ESPN: boring and unwatchable. Do something, ESPN.

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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