HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: A big season for awards

Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt. Sports Illustrated

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Humbled & Honored.

Short and sweet. Simple and honest.

But, most of all, J.J. Watt’s opening line was straight from the heart.

So was the second.

Houston, this is for you and this is for the hundreds of thousands of people who donated from all over the world.

What followed on his Twitter feed Tuesday was an exclamation point to 2017 – a cover shot of the Texans defensive end and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve with their arms thrown around each other’s shoulders having a great time posing for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year issue.

If ever a year belonged to one city, this year was it.

An August to forget. A late October to remember. #HoustonStrong

And now an awards season like no other.

Everywhere you look, the city’s top athletes are taking center stage.

Watt raised the city on his shoulders after Hurricane Harvey and raised more than $37 million for relief effort before a freak knee injury ended his comeback season. Altuve, the Astros pint-sized American League batting champion, captured the hearts and imagination of the country as he led the Astros on an amazing run to their first World Series Championship.

SI honored the duo’s power which was unmatched in September when the city started to bounce back from Harvey, which devastated neighborhoods and caused close to $200 billion in damages.

The Astros, meanwhile, took down Major League baseball’s elite teams in the playoffs – Boston, the New York Yankees and LA Dodgers, in order – and simply dominated the MLB awards:

*Altuve won the American League MVP and shared best postseason player with teammate Justin Verlander.

* A.J. Hinch was named manager of the year and General Manager Jeff Luhnow took executive of the year honors.

* George Springer was the World Series MVP and Alex Bregman owned the moment of the year with his 10th inning walk-off single in Game 5’s 13-12 Astros win.

* Carlos Beltran won SI’s Hope Award for his hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

* The MLB even honored Houstonian Kirk Head with catch of the year when he took Yasiel Puig’s homerun ball from his sister-in –law Sarah and threw it back onto the field during Game 5 of the World Series.

* University of Houston sophomore Ed Oliver won the 2017 Outland Trophy Thursday night, was named 2017 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award.

* And, if he hadn’t torn his ACL in practice in early November, Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson would likely have been in the running, at the very least, for rookie of the year.

Now, as we prepare for 2018, there are still a few awards left to hand out.

All those national award winners above could also be among those taking bows at the inaugural Houston Sports Awards Feb. 8 at the Hilton-Americas Downtown. But, with 10 different awards, you’ll see many more outstanding Houston athletes walking the red carpet.

"The athlete and executive that may win the award may very likely win it in their league as well," Rockets president Tad Brown said when the Awards were announced in September. "That shows the quality of teams that we have here."

Brown was, to say the least, prescient.

From three different Athletes of the Year to Executive of the Year, Fan of the Year and Event of the Year, Houston Sports Awards ballots will be stacked with talent, heart and must-see moments.

You already know the event is honoring Houston’s famous No. 34s – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon – and we’ll add a few more names to the mix soon. Plus, we’ll be revealing the nominees for seven categories next week, so stay tuned.

For everything you need to know about Houston Sports Awards – everything from categories to how to purchase tickets -- go to www.houstonsportsawards.com

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Always wanted season tickets? Each time you purchase a 2018 Houston Sports Awards Golden Ticket Raffle, you buy a chance to win a pair of season tickets to all Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Dynamo, Rodeo Houston & Houston Open home games/events during the 2018-19 season. In addition, the winner of the drawing receives tickets for two Houston Texans home games, the 2018 AdvoCare Texas Kickoff and the 2018 Texas Bowl. Information is available at www.houstonsportsawards.com

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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