Esports Report

This week in Houston eSports: Clutch Gaming earns its namesake; Outlaws get held up

Clutch Gaming is heading to the playoffs. Twitter

Clutch Gaming continues to improve their play in the North American League Championship Series and after a 2-0 week, lock up a playoff berth at 9-5 with four games remaining in the Spring Split. Unfortunately, the Houston Outlaws had a frustrating 0-2 week experiencing losses to both Philadelphia and New York.

Clutch Gaming (9-5) Third Place

Clutch Gaming continues to beat the teams they should beat, with a 2-0 week against Optic Gaming and Flyquest. The team controlled the game from the beginning against Optic with a 2k gold lead by the 11-minute mark and a final tally of only giving up one kill without losing a single tower or objective throughout the swift 26-minute game. CG also had a solid game against Flyquest, breaking the game open after securing the Baron buff at around 21 minutes and applying methodical, safe gameplay in their 43-minute win. Solo and Febiven also finished the week with zero deaths apiece, and the team only giving up four deaths across both games. Their two wins were enough to secure them a guaranteed playoff spot as they have 4 games remaining and a four-game lead over 7th place Counter Logic Gaming while already owning the tiebreaker for their 2-0 split record against CLG.

Predictions (8-2)

This week is Clutch Gaming’s chance to step up into the top ranks of the NALCS. With games against Echo Fox (11-3) and Team Liquid (8-6), they face a tough week. Last week I predicted ahead of time an 0-2 week, but those predictions are now revised to 1-1 with a loss to Echo Fox and a victory over Liquid. Clutch Gaming clearly has already adapted well to the changes in the new 8.4 patch.

Houston Outlaws (9-5) 5th Place

Last week the Outlaws lost a 3-2 heartbreaker against the Philadelphia Fusion after going up 2-0 and losing three straight maps against the Fusion. Four out of the five maps were decided by only one point, including all three victories by the Fusion. The Outlaws were similarly frustrated in their 0-4 defeat against the New York Excelsior with the maps either being dominated by the Excelsior or a close defeat, each decided by only one point. The Outlaws retain a +17 overall map differential which will serve them well in any tiebreakers. However, if the Outlaws hope to participate in the stage two playoffs, they will need to get back into form quickly as they sit tied for 7th at 2-2 with a 0 differential within Stage Two.

Predictions (6-2)

After the Outlaws failed to avenge two of their three stage one defeats, the Outlaws face the Los Angeles Valiant (10-4) for the first time this season and the Florida Mayhem (1-13) who the Outlaws defeated 4-0 during Stage One. The Outlaws will likely play the Valiant with a chip on their shoulder and after the 0-2 week are likely to not underestimate the Mayhem. The Outlaws will return to form with a 2-0 week.

Any comments or feedback on what you’d like to see in future columns? Find me on twitter - @mattdj2002

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After dropping the middle game to the Rangers to split the first two games, the Astros looked for an improved offensive showing in the finale on Thursday night to take the series. Here is a rundown of the rubber game:

Final Score: Astros 2, Rangers 1.

Record: 25-25, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (4-3, 3.82 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jordan Lyles (1-5, 7.07 ERA).

Valdez another Houston pitcher to thrive against Rangers

Much like Jose Urquidy on Tuesday and Lance McCullers JR. on Wednesday, Framber Valdez put up an excellent pitching line on Thursday against the Rangers. After allowing two singles in the first and a single in the second, he would settle in and hold the Rangers to just one baserunner, which came via a walk through six frames.

He would try to get through the seventh, but after a long at-bat and one-out double, Dusty Baker would stop his night and go to the bullpen. Unfortunately, that double would end up scoring as Josh James would allow an RBI-single, charged to Valdez, before finishing the inning. Along the way, Valdez was able to ring up eleven Rangers. His final line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 0 HR, 100 P.

Kyle Tucker gets the big hit of the night

Luckily, Houston was still in the lead after the Rangers' run, thanks to a big hit by Kyle Tucker back in the second inning. After Alex Bregman reached base on a walk to become the first runner for the Astros, Kyle Tucker would break out of his recent slump with a two-run home run, putting Houston ahead 2-0 at the time.

Jordan Lyles was otherwise handling the Astros just like Kyle Gibson the night prior, who threw a complete-game shutout. Other than the Tucker homer, Lyles allowed another hit in the second and one in the third before retiring the next 12 Astros in order before an error in the seventh broke that streak, giving Houston their first baserunner since two outs in the third.

Houston takes the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James returned to the mound to start the eighth, and he would get a 1-2-3 inning against the top of Texas' lineup, including back-to-back strikeouts to end it. After another scoreless inning by Houston at the plate, that would set up a save opportunity in the top of the ninth. The opportunity would go to Brooks Raley, and he would notch the save with a scoreless inning, giving Houston the series and moving them back up to .500 at 25-25.

Up Next: The Astros' final three regular-season games played at Minute Maid Park in 2020 are this weekend in a series against the Diamondbacks. In Friday's 7:10 PM opener, Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.77 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston while Zac Gallen (1-2, 3.15 ERA) will be the starter for Arizona.

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