THE PALLILOG

Texans go deep with Hopkins, and it pays off

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Off Sunday's humiliation in Baltimore beating the Colts was a quality bounce back for the Texans Thursday night. Neither team looked like a Super Bowl threat, and the prospect of the Texans winning another AFC South championship excites very few as a stand alone achievement. Still, if the Texans are to ever notably break through in the playoffs, being in the playoffs is a prerequisite. The Texans are now probable to secure another one of those cute little AFC South Champion banners.

I said on the radio this week that it was lame that the Texans offensive scheme had largely reduced DeAndre Hopkins to a possession receiver. Through the first 10 games D-Hop wasn't even averaging 10 yards per reception (9.9). His low for a full season is 12.2, second lowest 13.7. 35 and 30 yard touchdown receptions vs. Indy later, the words "about time" come to mind. About time in giving their best player a chance to make catches downfield once in a while.

At 7-4, the Texans last regular season game against a good team is vs. the Patriots a week from Sunday. Even if they do their usual and lose to the Pats, the Texans should win 10 games and for a sixth time in nine years their division. Over the last quarter of the schedule anything less than 3-1 would be something on the spectrum from disappointing to epic failure (should it cost them a playoff spot): two games with the currently 5-5 Titans, a home game vs. the 3-7 Broncos, and a road game at the 3-7 Buccaneers.

State of dismay

Except for Baylor and SMU (both 9-1!), what a crappola FBS Texas college football season is winding down.

Tom Herman's third season at Texas stands at a mediocre 6-4 heading into Saturday's game at Baylor. The Longhorns have no individually horrible losses, but TCU and Iowa State are nothing special, and they barely beat Kansas. UT's season makes a punchline of Sam Ellinger's "We're baaaaaack!" proclamation after last season's Sugar Bowl win. Mack Brown's third season in Austin produced the first of what would be 10 consecutive seasons finishing in the top 13 of the final AP poll.

Jimbo Fisher is in his second season at Texas A&M. The Aggies are a hollow 7-3 heading into Saturday's game at Georgia. The Aggies' three losses all came to excellent teams: Clemson, Alabama, and Auburn. But they weren't substantially competitive in any of those games. The Aggies seven wins have come over not bowl eligible squads, though Mississippi State could get to 6-6! If the Aggies don't pull a major upset at Georgia or next weekend at LSU, Fisher's second season is a definite disappointment. His first season in Aggieland high point was the seven overtime thrilling victory over LSU. Contrast the Aggies with the Tigers 12 months later.

Dana Holgorsen's first season at UH is a stink bomb, Mike Bloomgren's second at Rice has one win. TCU, Texas Tech, North Texas, UTSA, UTEP. Not one winning record in the bunch.

Fuss about Russ

Russell Westbrook is one of my top 10 all-time NBA favorite players to watch. That doesn't change the reality that his three point shooting is lousy and despite the Rockets' bombs away system he should basically stop shooting threes. Westbrook is literally the worst volume NBA three point shooter ever. Four of the last five seasons he has failed to crack 30 percent. 30 percent stinks! So far this season, West"brick" checks in at a sub-awful 22.7 percent. It's going to be a problem for the Rockets in trying to win at the championship level. On the plus side, Westbrook is a one man fast break who has elevated the Rockets from being one of the slowest tempo offenses to one of the fastest.

If you'd like to live in Edmond Oklahoma about 20 minutes from downtown Oklahoma City, Westbrook is selling his mansion there. Approximately 8400 square feet, it can be yours for $1,695,000! He's selling at a loss. Westbrook owns a 9000 square foot palace in the ritzy Brentwood area of Los Angeles, for which he paid a reported $19,750,000.

Big Bang coming

With the state of their payroll the Astros weren't going to spend much in free agency regardless this offseason, but it can't help that Jim Crane and his ownership partners are probably looking at a seven figure fine when Major League Baseball lowers the boom after its investigations of Astro cheating schemes, and the organization's indefensibly horrible handling of the Brandon Taubman fiasco. And it sure seems like it is when that boom is lowered, not if.

Buzzer beaters

1. If only Will Fuller wasn't so darn fragile. A healthy Fuller is a dynamic threat. 2. At this point in his contract who is more overpaid, Herman at six mil per season or Fisher at seven and a half? 3. Greatest Sports Leonards: Bronze-Dutch (the better one) Silver-Kawhi Gold-Sugar Ray

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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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