THE PALLILOG

How Texans' ineptitude on offense raises 2 big questions moving forward

When will the Texans score another TD on the road? Composite image by Jack Brame.

We've made it through the first full week of the Astros' offseason, but how can we possibly make it through an autumn weekend without a Houston Texans game? The same way most have been doing it most of this season. By paying them no mind whatsoever. This pathetical facsimile of an NFL squad comes off the open week (it's not a bye!) playing at Tennessee next Sunday. Let's set the over/under for Texans' touchdowns in that game at 1/2. The under is on a four game road winning streak. The Texans last road touchdown was September 19 at Cleveland. How absurd is that? The 2000 Baltimore Ravens had a stretch of five consecutive games without scoring an offensive touchdown. Those Ravens wound winning up the Super Bowl on the back of one of the greatest single season defenses in NFL history. The Texans will finish a bit short of the Super Bowl. The Texans getting taken apart in Nashville will clinch their first back-to-back losing seasons since 2005-2006.

Do the Texans win another game this season? At least one online wagering site has the over/under for Texans wins the rest of the way at 1/2. They should have a shot at home against the Jets, maybe at the Jaguars, maybe at the 49ers. A 16 game losing streak following the season opening win over the Jaguars is an obvious possibility. Last season the Jaguars won opening day, then lost their remaining 15 games.

Not that Davis Mills had a decent supporting cast while playing, but he showed essentially nothing that should make one believe he is a legit long term starting quarterback option. That makes it worse for the Texans that there is no QB worth taking with a top five pick in the 2022 draft. The top guys touted in the preseason were Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler and North Carolina's Sam Howell. Rattler isn't even the Sooner starter anymore. Howell is having an all right season for the Tar Heels but he is not top five worthy. Matt Corral of Ole Miss and Malik Willis of Liberty might be the top two QBs picked. Not exactly Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck coming out.

Once he actually starts trying to assemble a decent roster maybe General Manager Nick Caserio gets a lot of stuff right. In the meantime, he's the captain of the Titanic, or, if you're up on ship disaster history, the Losertania. And yet, at 1-8 the Texans don't even have the worst record in town.

Failure to launch

Hello, 1-10 Houston Rockets. The second ring in our sports circus of lameness (a much smaller ring, but the Dynamo rounds out the conventional three ring circus, having finished the 2021 Major League Soccer season with zero road wins in 17 tries, and dead last in the Western Conference behind expansion team Austin FC), going back to last season the Rockets have lost 55 of their last 62 games. The worst Rocket season ever finished 14-68. Goals! Friday night the Rockets play host to the only team besides the Rockets yet to win a road game this season, Portland. The Trail Blazers are 0-6 away from home, with superstar guard Damian Lillard shooting the ball miserably so far.

College football

While the Texas Longhorns strive for the glory of bowl eligibility (I think they're going to make it!), Texas A&M remains alive in the College Football Playoff chase, albeit on the periphery. The Aggies are at number 11 in the CFP rankings as they play at number 15 Ole Miss Saturday. Win that game and then beat Prairie View (gee, you think?) and LSU, and the Aggies would have an untopped resume for a two loss team. Let's say Georgia, Ohio St., and Oregon all win out and are in. No two loss team has made the playoff but the Aggies would have a case if 1. Alabama loses another game (including the SEC title game) 2. Oklahoma and Oklahoma St split two games 3. UH knocks off undefeated Cincinnati in the AAC title game 4. The committee doesn't want to put a one loss Notre Dame back in the playoff with the Fighting Irish having only 1 win over a top 25 opponent. That's a lot of stuff that needs to break right for the Ags, but for the second year in a row it hands down beats being the Horns.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Pure guess: Carlos Correa does not sign before the lockout December 2nd shuts off the hot stove.

2. Good job Mother Nature getting rain out of the way early Thursday and keeping it beautiful through the weekend for the Houston Open at Memorial Park.

3. Baseball's greatest Carlos-es: Bronze-Correa Silver-Delgado Gold-Beltran

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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