FALCON POINTS

The 5 most likable active athletes in Houston sports

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When it comes to current athletes in Houston, there is no shortage of likable ones. Yes, the Astros cheating scandal did tarnish a few, but there are still some Astros who are easy to root for. There are also great players like James Harden, but he is a polarizing person. Some fans love him, some just can't root for him. The ones on this list are not only great at their sports, but they make an impact on their community. These are my five favorites based on that criteria. There are certainly many others who could have made this list, but when you limit it to five...

5) Lance McCullers, Astros pitcher: It's easy to forget about McCullers, who missed last season after Tommy John surgery. But he was a key contributor on the 2017 championship team, and had ace stuff before the surgery. It's possible his best years are ahead of him. Off the field, he and wife Kara have long been supporters of stray and homeless animals through the Lance McCullers Foundation. McCullers is active on social media and simply a really likable dude.

4) Carlos Correa, Astros shortstop: Correa has not quite reached the superstar level predicted for him, but he has still been very good, and he is young enough to still reach those heights. He was one of the few Astros to come off as open and honest after the cheating scandal, and he has been instrumental in raising money for Puerto Rico as well as Houston. He has helped distribute beds for children in the city of Houston with Texas Mattress Makers.

3) George Springer, Astros outfielder: Yes, the Astros dominate this list. Springer has been a terrific player, but he has also been an inspiration for stutterers as one himself. He donated money to Astros employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the other two, unless you just hate cheaters, Springer is hard to root against.

2) Derrick Lewis, UFC heavyweight: The 35-year-old "Black Beast" is one of the best heavyweights in the UFC, an exciting fighter who is worth every pay per view penny. He is also charismatic, a terrific interview and an easy guy to like. He also went out after Harvey and pulled an estimated 100 people out of the water with his elevated truck. It's almost impossible not to root for this guy.

1) J.J. Watt, Texans: In a lot of people's minds, Watt can do no wrong in Houston. He has been the best player in franchise history, and his amazing efforts after Harvey were the stuff of legends. His wife, Kealia Ohai Watt, is also a popular athlete, although she no longer plays in the city. Still, they make for a sports power couple. Yes, Watt can occasionally come off the wrong way, and injuries have slowed him in recent years, but in general, he has been one of the highest profile athletes in Houston history and has made unprecedented impacts both on and off the field.

HONORABLE MENTION

Just missing out on this list, in order, are Jose Altuve, Justin Verlander, Simone Biles, Deshaun Watson, Russel Westbrook.

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After a rough, disheartening loss the night before to even the series at one game apiece, the Astros tried to shake it off and regroup for a win on Thursday to get the series win against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Here is a quick recap of the finale:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 5, Astros 4.

Record: 6-6, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Junior Guerra (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (0-1, 40.50 ERA).

Bielak tosses an impressive start as Houston puts him in winning position

After both teams finished the first three innings scoreless, the Astros were able to get a little bit of good luck on their side, unlike the night prior. Jose Altuve started the inning with a much-needed single, stole second, then moved to third on a groundout for the second out. That set up Yuli Gurriel, who hit a ball down the third-base line that would strike the bag and bounce away from Arizona, allowing Altuve to score and put Houston up 1-0.

Though he likely would have preferred more run support, Brandon Bielak made do with that one run in his first career MLB start. He was able to complete five innings of work, holding Arizona scoreless over that span despite allowing a runner in each inning. He left in line for the win, with a final line of 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 0 HR.

Altuve extends the lead, then Diamondbacks go ahead

Jose Altuve helped double the lead in the top of the sixth, connecting for a one-out solo home run to make it 2-0. With Bielak's night over at five innings, Cy Sneed took over in the bottom of the sixth and allowed back-to-back one-out doubles to cut Houston's lead in half. He allowed a single to put runners on the corners before Dusty Baker would move on to another reliever to try and preserve the lead. Blake Taylor would enter but allowed the tying RBI-single to take Bielak out of winning position. Taylor would go on to allow a go-ahead run before getting out of the jam.

In the bottom of the seventh, Taylor was still on the mound but would only get two outs before another call to the pen. Andre Scrubb would enter and get the final out of the inning. In the top of the eighth, Jose Altuve would improve to 3-for-4 on the night with a two-out double, setting up Alex Bregman for a go-ahead two-run home run to make it 4-3, Houston.

Ryan Pressly allows the walk-off

Scrubb went back to the mound in the bottom of the eighth and was able to record a 1-2-3 inning to move the game to the ninth. After a scoreless top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly would attempt to get the save in the bottom of the inning. Instead, he would allow the walk-off, loading the bases with no outs on a walk and two singles before a two-RBI single to give Arizona the win and the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will travel to Oakland to kick off a three-game weekend series with the A's on Friday at 8:10 PM Central. The A's will send Chris Bassitt (1-0, 0.93 ERA) to the mound while Houston will turn to Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00 ERA) to help cut down Oakland's division lead.

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