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 dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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