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 dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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