THE PALLILOG

Texans season now hangs in the balance after debacle against Broncos

Friday the 13th. Triskaidekophobes' worst nightmare. It's silliness. Like believing in the Texans as Super Bowl contenders.

So how did the Texans go from toppling the 10-1 Patriots one Sunday, to having the 4-8 Broncos humiliate them the next? That is what mediocrity is all about, Houston Texans style. Imagine how ugly it would have gotten had the Broncos not had to deal with the intimidation factor of playing under a closed roof on a gorgeous autumn afternoon. There was a surprising number of no shows for an 8-4 home team off of two quality wins. Coincidence? Certainly not entirely. Ticket holders who opted to stay away joined essentially the entire team in no-showing.

With their record 8-5 the odds still favor the Texans making the playoffs. Winning two of the remaining three games does the job (and secures other one of those cute little AFC South Champion banners!). Of course, the odds favored the Texans not trailing 31-3 at home at halftime to a Broncos' team that hadn't scored more than 24 points in any game all season. Winning one to finish 9-7 could mean a Wild Card. Yippee!

They are only three point underdogs at Tennessee Sunday. If the Texans' feeble pass rush can't pick it up the Texans' D figures to be D-stroyed again. Ryan Tannehill's career revival with the Titans has been astounding. What reasonable person would have believed that entering this game Tannehill would be playing better quarterback than Deshaun Watson over the last month? Defending Derrick Henry's power running is a big problem, and that has made Tannehill devastating in the play action passing game. Good chance the Texans will need to score more than 28 points to win. They last did so eight games ago in their 31-24 victory at Kansas City. The Titans look like the better team right now, but week to week in the NFL who knows.

As I put it on the radio show earlier this week, in an either or scenario which would you prefer: the Texans do win their division, maybe win a wild card weekend home game, and if they do then take a shot at not getting crushed at Baltimore again. OR…the Texans lose twice to the Titans, lose in Tampa, tumbling from 8-4 to an 8-8 playoff miss and Cal McNair decides to fire Bill O'Brien?

Tough spell for Astros

Given that Oakland wasn't a possibility, Gerrit Cole picking the Yankees is the Astros' worst case scenario. If you're thinking nine years 324 million dollars is nuts, of course nine years is crazy long, but the Yankees are a money printing machine. Forbes magazine estimate for 2018 had the Yankees generating roughly 300 million dollars more in revenue than did the Astros.

Another bottom line: with Cole the Yankees are markedly better, without him the Astros are markedly worse.

The Astros are in a payroll bind, hence the trade Carlos Correa rumblings. In isolation, trading Correa would be dumb. Yes he has proven brittle. But Correa is also super-talented, 25 years old, and for two more years in Major League Baseball terms, dirt cheap. Trade Correa for what? A desperate play to escape the 13 million dollar anvil that is Josh Reddick's 2020 contract? Offered for nothing in return the Astros have no takers for Reddick. As a must take in a Correa deal, Reddick would drive down the return the Astros could get.

The Astros would be seeking a cheap, multi-years team-controlled stud young starting pitcher for Correa. They're not getting one for him. Guys like the Dodgers' Walker Buehler, the Cardinals' Jack Flaherty, the Braves Mike Siroka, the Indians Shane Bieber, those teams wouldn't swap their guy for Correa straight up. They'd laugh at an Astro offer of Correa and Reddick. Reds' starter Luis Castillo's name has been thrown against the wall. He's had one really good full big league season. At 27 years old, Castillo isn't eligible for arbitration until 2021. Why would the Reds trade him for Correa who can walk as a free agent after the 2021 season? Mets starter Noah Syndegaard? Probably not available, and he can become a free agent the same time as Correa.

It's always easy to burn someone else's money, but the Astros' best play is keeping Correa and swallowing the Reddick 13 mil if necessary, rather than taking 70 cents on the dollar back in a trade. Jim Crane and his partners can make back any loss in profit margin during this Astros' window of excellence by cutting costs when the next rebuilding time comes around and/or by selling the team down the line for several times the 610 million dollars they paid to buy it.

Buzzer Beaters

1. If you can get a ticket, UH-Oklahoma St. at Fertitta Center is the place to be Sunday afternoon. 2. The NBA has captivated very few around here so far this season, but the relentlessness of James Harden's scoring pace (37.6 points per game) is stupefying. 3. Absurd actual phobias: Bronze-Somniphobia, fear of sleep Silver-Cherophobia, fear of happiness Gold-Arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth


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Houston needs a win to advance

ALWC Game 2 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It took all nine innings, but the Astros rallied late and took Game 1 by a score of 4-1 and are in the driver's seat in this best-of-three series. They'll return to Target Field, home of the Twins, on Wednesday afternoon to try and get the win and advance to the ALDS. Here's what you need to know about Game 2:

Game Facts

When: Wednesday, 12:08 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ESPN 2

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Jose Urquidy+ vs. José Berríos.

Series: HOU leads 1-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Astros 4, Twins 1 Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Urquidy+ vs. Berríos
Game 3* Thu 10/1, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis McCullers Jr.+ vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Houston's offense has to get going earlier

The Twins' error in the ninth inning in Game 1 was a gift for the Astros that they were able to take advantage of and score the winning runs. It's unlikely to be handed another chance like that in the postseason, so in Game 2, it's paramount that Houston creates their own opportunities at the plate.

The good news is, every batter in the lineup was able to reach base in the first game, either by hit or walk. However, they would go 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving nine on base during the game. Because they can't expect to have two pitchers to combine for a one-run game on Wednesday, they will have to carry over the momentum from the end of Game 1 into Game 2 to build a lead their bullpen can carry.

Trust your arms to navigate through

Whether it's Jose Urquidy, who is the likely candidate, or anyone else who ends up starting Wednesday's game, the Astros have to be prepared to have a longer stretch of innings filled by their bullpen. Despite his struggles to end the regular season, Greinke did well only to allow one run to the Twins over his four innings in Game 1.

You should expect a similar outcome in Game 2, where hopefully your starter can hold the Twins at bay for as long as they can before needing to make the change to relievers. It will be interesting to see how Dusty Baker plays that situation, mostly dependent on the score at the time, as he could have someone like Cristian Javier come in for multiple innings. The only thing the Astros shouldn't do is fire too many of their bullets and put their chances in a potential Game 3 at risk.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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