Houston is 1-5 over their last six

Valdez returns, Astros fall apart in extras to Padres

Framber Valdez made his long-awaited 2021 debut Friday night. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

After splitting a high-profile two-game series with the Dodgers earlier in the week, the Astros welcomed in another daunting opponent on Friday night for a three-game weekend series, the San Diego Padres. After a tight game in regular innings, the Padres would take advantage of another rough outing by Houston's bullpen, handing the Astros the loss in extras.

Final Score (11 innings): Padres 10, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 27-23, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Mark Melancon (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brooks Raley (2-3)

Valdez makes his 2021 debut

After starting the season on the IL with a fractured finger suffered in a Spring Training game, Framber Valdez made his long-awaited 2021 debut at Minute Maid Park Friday night. He would not be expected to go deep into the game, being on a pitch count; instead, trying to build momentum for the season by getting a successful outing to build upon for the future.

He probably reached his pitch limit quicker than he would have liked but could hold a potent Padres lineup to just one run over four innings. That run came on a solo homer in the top of the third, giving San Diego a 1-0 lead at the time. Valdez went on to finish that inning along with one more, keeping his team within reach. His final line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 72 P.

McCormick pushes Houston in front, Tatis Jr. ties it late

After getting in scoring position a couple of times but coming away empty against Dinelson Lamet in the first three innings, the Astros would get on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Carlos Correa reached base by legging out an infield single, setting up Chas McCormick's fourth home run and fifteenth RBI in his 46th at-bat, giving Houston a 2-1 lead.

With Valdez's night done after four, Cristian Javier would come in to make his first appearance as a reliever this season in the top of the fifth. He erased a leadoff walk for a scoreless frame, then followed that with a 1-2-3 sixth. After another leadoff walk was stranded in the top of the seventh, the Houston offense threatened to extend the lead in the bottom half.

They put two on base with a walk and a single, and with two outs, the Padres intentionally walked Carlos Correa to face McCormick, who was responsible for the only runs so far in the game. He drove one deep the opposite way to right field, missing a grand slam by mere feet. That proved to be a pivotal turn of events, as in the top of the eighth, with Javier still going, Fernando Tatis destroyed a ball to tie the game, 2-2.

Houston falls apart in extras, Padres take the opener

Ryan Pressly entered in the top of the ninth, keeping the game tied by sitting down the Padres in order, giving his offense a chance at the walk-off. They would not, entering another decisive extra-inning matchup. San Diego scored their free runner with a leadoff double in the top of the tenth against Ryne Stanek, who would load the bases before getting out of the inning down one run.
Alex Bregman started the bottom of the tenth on second base, moving to third on a groundout by Yuli Gurriel. Chas McCormick would bring him in, getting a sac fly to re-tie the game.

Houston would load the bases with two outs, bringing Jose Altuve to the plate, who would fly out to extend the game one more frame. Brooks Raley came on for the eleventh, but after allowing three-straight hits to make it a 5-3 San Diego lead with no outs, he was lifted in favor of Brandon Bielak, who would watch five more runs come in before getting a merciful end to the inning. Houston would not make the miraculous comeback in the bottom half, giving them their fifth loss in the last six games.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will get underway at 3:10 PM Central on Saturday. Jake Odorizzi (0-2, 10.13 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros looking to make a better impression on his new team than he did before he went down, while Yu Darvish (5-1, 1.75 ERA) will start for San Diego.

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A new hotel is in the works near Minute Maid. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros owner Jim Crane says the team is ready to break ground on a major construction project that will include a hotel and entertainment complex across the street from Minute Maid Park as soon as the 2023 baseball season wraps up – hopefully with another World Series parade in downtown Houston.

AstrosWorld!

But another hotel? Another entertainment complex? More construction downtown? My first reaction was, how much more does Houston need? I remember when the Super Bowl was held in Houston in 2004, clubs and restaurants sprung up downtown practically overnight, only to disappear virtually the morning after. When it came to downtown development, the expression “less is more” turned out true. At least that Super Bowl.

I asked my contacts in government and the Houston welcome wagon, is this a good idea, building a hotel and entertainment complex next door to Minute Maid Park? Do we need it? Can we sustain it?

The answer every time was a resounding yes! For a couple of reasons: first, downtown Houston, coming out of Covid, is booming, leadership is creative and budget-minded these days, and most important, if Jim Crane is behind the idea, you can trust it’ll work. The guy’s got a track record.

“In 2004, the idea was to turn downtown’s Main Street into Bourbon Street. Is that what we really want? It was a misguided plan, the wrong philosophy, and businesses opened and closed in short order,” a source told me.

It was a different story when the Super Bowl returned to Houston in 2017. This time Houston saw the Marriott Marquis, a 1,000-room hotel complete with an iconic Texas-shaped swimming pool, open in time for the tourist onslaught. Also, Avenida Houston greeted downtown visitors with new restaurants and entertainment venues. Both the Marriott and Avenida Houston have continued to thrive long after the Super Bowl left town.

“We want our downtown to attract visitors while providing services for the growing number of singles and families who are making their home downtown. As we continue to host major events and conventions, there will be a need for more hotel rooms,” the source said.

The Astros’ plan to build a sprawling hotel and entertainment complex originally was discussed in 2021 but was put on hold due to Covid. Now Crane and the Astros are ready to come out swinging. Similar complexes operate successfully next to the baseball stadium in St. Louis, Chicago and other cities.

An Astros-themed hotel adjacent to Minute Maid Park is particularly intriguing. The lobby could be home to an Astros museum and team Hall of Fame. Rooms and restaurants could be decorated in honor of Astros legends – the “Nolan Ryan honeymoon suite,” or “Strech Suba’s Bullpen Bar and Grille.” There could be meeting space for autograph and memorabilia shows. There could be a broadcast facility for post-game interviews and analysis. And maybe one day, fingers crossed, a betting parlor like the Cubs have at Wrigley Field.

The Astros have a contract to play at Minute Maid Park through 2050 – the only long-term contract that doesn’t make Crane cringe. Anything that enhances the fan experience and generates revenue is good for the team and the city. I might even consider going downtown on non-game nights.

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