THE PALLILOG

Texans-Patriots has a different feel, and making sense out of the Rockets' latest moves

The Patriots return to NRG this Sunday. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

This time last year Patriots at Texans was so much more interesting. Now it's basically not interesting at all, from the Houston side anyway. The 2-7 Texans actually opened as favorites this week, though the wagering on the game soon changed that. The Texans should be favored over no one other than the Jaguars, Jets, and maybe at home vs. the Bengals or any NFC East team. Currently 4-5, this Patriots squad playing here Sunday is New England's worst in 20 years. Two years before the Texans played their first ever game is the last time the Patriots finished with a losing record. They closed 5-11 in 2000, Bill Belichick's first season as their head coach. The following season they launched a dynasty in winning Super Bowl XXXVI. This season New England must win out to get to 11-5. 2009 is the last time the Patriots didn't win at least 11. In the 10 years since they won at least 12 in nine of them. Ridiculous sustained excellence.

Riding with Rice?

Another double digit slate of college football games postponed this week because of coronavirus issues. The Longhorns, Aggies, and Cougars all are sidelined. Go Owls! Rice has played just two games thus far. The Owls are scheduled to play at North Texas Saturday. They are as I type this anyway.

The theoretical best college matchup of the week is third ranked Ohio State vs. number nine Indiana. The Buckeyes are favored by 20 and a half. Among division one schools none has lost more games all-time than the Hoosiers.

Rockets making money moves

The Rockets are not rudderless but one wonders how badly the rudder is mangled. Who knows how things play out with Russell Westbrook and more importantly James Harden, but this week's action leading up to and then through the NBA Draft speaks at least chapters if not volumes. When the Rockets traded Clint Capela back in February they claimed it was entirely a basketball move about being "all in" on "small ball." That was baloney then and it's baloney now. That it was in significant part basketball move, sure. But even pre-pandemic the financials played a role. At cost of a first round pick they had to include in the deal the Rockets got out of the three seasons more than 51 million dollars guaranteed on Capela's contract starting this season and took on Robert Covington who has two years roughly 24 million left. The financials have absolutely played a role in their moves since. Earlier this week the Rockets agreed to deal Covington to Portland for Trevor Ariza who has just one season 12.8 million coming. That actually seemed a decent deal with the Rockets getting the 16th pick in Wednesday's draft included. Then on draft day the Rockets cut a deal with Detroit to send Ariza and that number 16 pick, for zero in return that goes on the Rockets' books in 2020-21. The Rockets do get the Pistons' first round pick if it comes in 17th or lower any time over the next four years.

A twist of fate for George Springer?

Robinson Cano's second PED suspension, this one to cost him the entire 2021 season and his 24 million dollar salary, likely eradicates any shot he had at ever reaching the Baseball Hall of Fame. Strictly by on field results Cano was going to be an easy choice for Cooperstown. Cano played very well in the shortened 2020 season. Considering he was very unlikely to play that level in 2021, the Mets probably catch a big break getting out of Cano's money for the season. New Mets' owner Steve Cohen is worth an estimated 14 billion but billionaires don't like bad investments either, even if they can cover their losses by reaching between their sofa cushions. Bottom line is if Cohen wants to go on a free agent signing spree (think George Springer) he has 24 extra mil for 2021 with which to work. Cano has two years 48 million due over 2022 and 2023.

It's been very quiet on the Springer front. We'll see, but few think he returns to the Astros. The Blue Jays supposedly have the hots for George. If they're ready to pony up and Springer has any interest in them the White Sox still make the most sense to me.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Deshaun Watson said this week that Cam Newton has been his favorite quarterback. 20 years from now who will have had the better career? I like Deshaun in that one but remember that in the 2015 season Cam did win the NFL MVP award and lead the Panthers to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance.

2. My favorite QB ever is the late great "Snake" Ken Stabler. That's Raider Ken Stabler, not Oiler Ken Stabler. And for goodness sakes not Saint Ken Stabler.

3. Most coveted Thanksgiving dinner side dishes: Bronze-cranberry sauce Silver-stuffing Gold-sweet potato casserole

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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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