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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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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