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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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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