HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: An amazing sports year in Houston with more to come

Has it already been a year since Houston hosted the Super Bowl? CultureMap

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

Has it really been 12 months? Or 12 minutes?

As you watch the mittens-and-caps-and-ice sculptures run-up to Super Bowl LII Sunday in Minneapolis, you could swear that it was really, honestly, just the other day that downtown Houston was transformed into a nine-day Super Bowl LI wonderland known as Super Bowl LIVE presented by Verizon.

There was live music, great food, the NFL experience and even a reality trip to Mars – all tucked into a footprint the size of 13 football fields in and around Discovery Green.

Yes, time flies. People are still talking about Lady Gaga’s spectacular halftime show and Tom Brady’s even more spectacular – and historic - Super Bowl comeback.

Best Super Bowl ever as Brady and his New England Patriots came from 25 points down to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime? Maybe so.

Biggest comeback, check. First overtime ever, check. A record fourth Super Bowl MVP – and a bunch of records – for Brady and the team.

Best ever? If not, it’s on a very, very short list.

It’s been a blur since then, right?

The city weathered Hurricane Harvey, then rallied around #HoustonStrong and its boys of fall – the Houston Astros – who took the city on a wild ride on the way to a seven-game World Series and their first championship. A few weeks later, the Rockets took off, and thanks to Chris Paul and James Harden, they’re looking like a team that just might make a title run of its own.

Now here we are in early February once again.

Brady is back for another Super Bowl run – this one against the Philadelphia Eagles – and everyone is wondering if he can win a record sixth title. He already shares the record of five with Charles Haley.

And Houston? It’s prepping for yet another big sports event – the inaugural Houston Sports Awards, February 8 at the Hilton Americas.

The city is still in Harvey recovery mode – and will be for years. We’ve survived a lot of ice and a little snow and sports fans are prepping for spring training and another World Series run, marveling at the Rockets and wondering if a healthy duo of J.J. Watt and DeShaun Watson will make a difference for the Texans in 2018.

But come Thursday, everyone’s attention will turn to the square block surrounding the Hilton Americas when Houston will usher in a new tradition – an eye-popping night celebrating Houston’s biggest sports stars.

The area will be transformed into a multiple-carpet, star-studded entrance for the gala and dinner. The event, a dream of Harris County - Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke for more than a decade, will draw more than 1,000 people – including most of the city’s sports royalty – to the downtown area for the sold-out event.

The night honors Houston’s legendary trio of 34s – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon – and there will be 10 other awards given out, seven of them with Oscar-style envelope reveals.

This is just year one, but, trust us, by the end of the night, it will leave a major impact on Houston and Houston sports.

In just two months, sports will collide when the Major League Baseball season opens and golf turns its attention to a tradition unlike any other - the  Masters in Augusta, Ga. And, of course, the NBA playoffs are taking shape.

At that point, people will think back to the night they watched those 34s come together and share an incredibly special bond with each other and the city.

Best inaugural event ever? Maybe so.

No matter what they decide, they’ll ask if it has really been two months? Or two minutes?

And they’ll wonder what’s next.

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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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