THE PALLILOG

Texans look to make a huge statement; Astros already doing so, but not in a good way

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There is not a lengthy list of quality alternatives, in fact there is not much of a list at all, but a Texans win at 7-2 Baltimore on Sunday would be the biggest road victory in franchise history. A win takes the Texans to 7-3 and secures the driver's seat in the race for the second AFC postseason bye. A loss means 6-4, and pretty much no shot at a bye. The quarterback matchup is spectacular. Ravens' second year sensation Lamar Jackson is probably running second in the NFL Most Valuable player race. Texans' third year blossomed star Deshaun Watson might be third (the Seahawks' Russel Wilson is on the lead).

His running is what has made Jackson a unique force this season. He's on pace to shatter Michael Vick's NFL record for quarterback rushing yards in a season by more than 200 yards. This game is one where the Texans figure to sorely miss J.J. Watt, and could really use Jadeveon Clowney. Oh well.

The Astros busy autumn, good and bad, continued this week. By unanimous vote Yordan Alvarez won the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Justin Verlander very deservedly won his second AL Cy Young Award, 17 votes to 13 over the equally (and maybe a wee bit more. Or less.) deserving Gerrit Cole. Alex Bregman settled for runner-up to third time winner Mike Trout in the AL Most Valuable Player Award balloting. Trout beat Bergman by the same 17-13 margin Verlander edged Cole. So by a two voter margin the Astros miss out on becoming the first MLB team ever to produce a Rookie of the Year, Cy Young winner, and MVP in the same year.

The General Managers meetings in Scottsdale Arizona this week produced next to nothing on the transaction front. The one something was something that if of a mind to spend the Astros should have been interested in pursuing, lefthanded reliever Will Smith to the Braves for three years $39 million dollars. The price of poker will be too high for the Astros on most guys this offseason. Next week there are owners meetings in Arlington, next month, the winter meetings in San Diego. By then major movement should have heated up on the free agent and trade fronts.

Fantasies can bring a little spice to life, but's let's put to sleep a couple of Astros related fantasies.

With Cole highly likely to become an ex-Astro, the need for a starting pitcher is glaring. Behind Verlander and Zack Greinke the Astros rotation is all question marks. Only a fool or the desperate would count on Lance McCullers for a healthy and very good season. Jose Urquidy is far from a given. Can't miss prospect Forrest Whitley? A huge question mark after two years filled with a PED suspension, injury issues, and plenty of lousy pitching. Whitley is still just 22 years old and could wind up fulfilling much of his potential. Banking on him would be dumb.

With all that said, forget any idea of a pursuit of Stephen Strasburg. The Astro World Series vanquisher won't get Cole money, but is likely to get 30 million per season for at least 4 years. There is no way that is in the Astros' budget. Mets free agent Zack Wheeler at 20 per? Doubtful.

Speaking of Astro World Series vanquishers, another fantasy is any notion of Lamar high school and Rice Owl-ex Anthony Rendon coming home via hometown discount. The Astros wouldn't be interested even with a discount. Rendon is joining the 30 mil per year club. So anyone thinking move on from brittle Carlos Correa, move Alex Bregman fulltime to short, plug in Rendon at third...that's really not fantasy, it's delusion. Correa is the Astros shortstop. Yes his track record of daintiness is troubling. His 2019 postseason overall was poor. But Correa remains relatively cheap, maybe eight or nine million next season. The Astros control him for two more seasons. Correa is still just 25, and really good. Cross your fingers about his health.


Then there was the latest Astros' ethical mess. Ex-Astro Mike Fiers has no motivation to concoct the story about the Astros' cheat of a sign-stealing system. The evidence has mounted that the Astros cheated. It's not as if the NCAA will vacate the 2017 World Series title, but in the aftermath of the Brandon Taubman fiasco it's another embarrassing black eye for the organization and another stain on this overall glorious era of Astros baseball. Does their moral compass truly grasp this? One particularly disappointing component would be if A.J. Hinch is confirmed as complicit with the scheme, especially after he was such a beacon of class during the Taubman mess. It's a humongous if. If yes, Hinch could also face a long suspension.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Machiavelli texted that the Astros have gone overboard. 2. Myles Garrett should have been arrested for his punk move Thursday at Mason Rudolph. 3. Greatest sports Rudolphs: Bronze-Kyle Silver-Tomjanovich Gold-Wilma


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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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