THE PALLILOG

The weekend that could have been for the Astros

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It would have been a battle of the reformed cheaters series this weekend with the Astros and the Red Sox playing at Fenway Park. Oh well. Memorial Day will mark the end of two full months of the baseball regular season without any baseball. I'm. Slowly. Going. Crazy.

While the 2017 World Series champs won't be playing the 2018 World Series champs, the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals will hold a virtual ring ceremony Sunday. MLB Network will televise it live basically because it has nothing better to show. Sunday is May 24. The Nationals woke up May 24 last year with their record at 19-31.

Alex Bregman has been sitting on 99 career home runs longer than anyone would have remotely envisioned in February. I'm sure Bregman doesn't have 99 problems, but he decided his agent was one. Bregman has dropped agent Brodie Scoffield, evidently in large part because Scoffield took his business into the Klutch Sports agency fold in which LeBron James has an interest. One of LeBron's production companies will be putting together a documentary tentatively called "Sign Language." Correct, about the 2017 Astros' scheming.

NBA

For a guy nicknamed "The Truth" Paul Pierce came across as full of baloney more than truth this week when he was dismissive of James as one of the five greatest players in NBA history. Magic Johnson is of course a legend of the game, as is the late Kobe Bryant. Neither was greater than LeBron. Truth: Paul Pierce grew up a Lakers fan in Inglewood, site of the Forum where Magic played all his home games. Anyone around here who wants to make the "Magic and Kobe both finished with five rings while LeBron only has three argument" must then accept that Hakeem Olajuwon automatically rates behind Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan.

Rockets Rewind

This was a fun week on the calendar for some very happy anniversaries in Rockets' history. Wednesday marked the 25th of Mario Elie's "Kiss of Death" shot in game seven of the Western Conference semifinals at Phoenix. Before Mario's make, brilliant Suns' point guard Kevin Johnson missed a free throw leaving the score tied at 110. K.J. had been 21 for 21 at the foul line for the game, but missed attempt number 22. Huge difference having the ball tied vs. down one.

Even though Elie's shot wasn't a buzzer beater, since the "Kiss" was a critical moment on the path to the Rockets' second championship, I lean to it as the most dramatic moment in franchise history. There is a strong argument though for Thursday's memory lane stroll, the 34th anniversary of Ralph Sampson's twisting foul line jumper at the buzzer to dethrone the Lakers in the Western Conference Final. The Rockets won that series four games to one, winning game five on Ralph's heroics after Hakeem Olajuwon had been ejected midway through the third quarter after throwing down with Lakers' fringe guy Mitch Kupchak.

Friday's anniversary pales in comparison to those two but is far from inconsequential. In the Rockets' very next game after the "Kiss of Death," Robert Horry hit his only field goal of the game with :06.5 on the clock to give the Rockets a 94-93 win at San Antonio in game one of the Western Conference Final. Sean Elliott missed a contested eight-foot runner before the buzzer for the Spurs. Just before Horry's shot Elliott missed two free throws (the second looked very choke-y). That Rockets-Spurs series is remembered for Hakeem Olajuwon's decimation of regular season Most Valuable Player David Robinson. Somewhat lost from memory banks a quarter century later, the road team won the first five games of the series before the Rockets closed it out at The Summit in game six.

Final Stretch

With NASCAR having returned last weekend I don't know whether that means the Indy 500 was prematurely postponed, but that Memorial Day weekend tradition will not happen. August 23rd is the rescheduled date.

Doubt I'll watch much of it, but I'll take Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady over Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning in their 10 million dollar coronavirus relief fundraising match Sunday. Hopefully zingers are flying around like golf balls because otherwise watching four guys walking a round is not very exciting.

Buzzer Beaters: 1. So Carlos Correa claims to hope to try MMA someday. No chuckling. It's not as if he's injury prone or anything. 2. "The Last Dance" was fantastic, but are we not all now a little bit "Jordan-ed" out? 3. Top sex symbols of the 90s (sorry Carmen Electra, at least you beat them all today): Bronze-Heather Locklear Silver-Cindy Crawford Gold-Pamela Anderson

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After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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