THE PALLILOG

Texans-Jags leaves a lot to be desired, and George Springer may have gotten good news

Springer could be closer to a big payday. Photo by Bob Levey /Stringer/Getty Images

Not the busiest of sports weeks around here. Or anywhere. If COVID had never happened or at least had magically disappeared back in the spring, we'd have the new NBA season underway. Alas, we'll have to wait until Christmas week to get pro hoops going again.

This Sunday's Texans at Jaguars matchup looms as one of the least interesting games in franchise history, if not one of the least interesting games in NFL history. Evidently Cal McNair doesn't see it that way. Suckling at the teat of in-house Texans Radio earlier this week, Cal termed himself "extremely optimistic" and opined that the rest of the season "is going to be fun." There's a difference between optimistic and detached from reality. I guess the rest of the season can be fun, given an alternative of being stuck in an elevator until Thanksgiving. Sunday's matchup is a pair of 1-6 teams going nowhere. Vastly more interesting matchups in the noon window Sunday include Ravens at Colts, Bears at Titans, and Seahawks at Bills.

The NFL trade deadline came and went with the Texans doing nothing other than trading a defensive lineman who never played a snap for them for a seventh round draft pick in 2022. Yippee! Whatever confused or inert state of the Texans' football operations at the moment, they didn't screw up the deadline. The Texans had very few players of any interest to anybody. If they could have given away wide receiver Kenny Stills for the more than three million dollars in salary cap savings that would have been gained, not doing so was stupid. I give the Texans the benefit of the doubt that no team wanted to pay Stills the balance left on his seven million dollar salary. If the best offer for Will Fuller was a fourth round pick, not dealing him was a reasonable call. If the Texans wouldn't take a third for Fuller? Silly. What other viable trade candidates did the Texans have that would generate A. interest and B. a worthy return? Answer: none other than J.J. Watt, who the Texans were presumably too scared to trade. As if the Texans' fan base would have marched on NRG Stadium in protest.

The old college try

Having a hard time getting engrossed in the college football season? Texas and the rest of the Big 12 are already essentially eliminated from any shot at the playoff. Texas A&M should win its next four games which would have the Aggies 8-1 heading to Auburn for their season finale. Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State seem a cut above the field. 9-1 Aggies with the lone loss to Bama would have a better claim than undefeated Cincinnati or BYU. If an Ag wanting to think big, root for Florida to beat Georgia Saturday and for Trevor Lawrence-less Clemson to win at Notre Dame.

Meet the Mets?

The pandemic economy probably results in the Major League Baseball free agent market moving sluggishly. George Springer will certainly have his suitors. He may have gotten very good news with the final approval of the sale of the New York Mets to reeeeeally rich guy Steve Cohen. Reeeeeally rich meaning estimated net worth 14 billion dollars, by far the richest of all current MLB owners. Cohen did not buy a team for it to be a Big Apple afterthought to the Yankees. While the team was no good, the Mets actually got excellent outfield production in the shortened 2020 season. An important variable in a Mets' pursuit of Springer may be if and when this offseason the National League permanently adopts the designated hitter it used in 2020. Four good outfielders work just fine with a DH spot to be rotated among them.

Even if the Mets have no Springer interest, as I have noted before the Cardinals, Nationals, Giants, are all legit playoff hopeful teams and well-heeled franchises who would make sense. I presume Dallas Keuchel would agree that the White Sox would be a great fit. And never rule out the Yankees, though pitching should be their upgrade emphasis.

Writer Ben Reiter (he of the Astrodamus 2017 World Series Champs prediction) over the past six weeks has been releasing a podcast series called "The Edge" digging deeper into the Astros' cheating and culture of the era, in part wondering how he missed any clues about it while granted insider access in writing his "Astroball" book. Fired Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow was the main subject this week. One nugget I found interesting/amusing: Luhnow says Jim Crane fired him in a 29 second phone conversation. That was January 13. They have not spoken since.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. It's not surprising that Houston weather is beautiful this time of year, but it sure is working out nicely for the first Houston Open at renovated Memorial Park.

2. George Costanza: "It's not a lie, if you believe it." George was full of it. Lies are lies.

3. Most famous clowns: Bronze-Krusty Silver-Ronald McDonald Gold-Bozo

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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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