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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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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