HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

When it comes to attendance, nothing about Houston is average

Astros attendance is up over last year, where the season ended in a title and parade. Getty Images

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

When we saw the stories, they honestly sounded like fake news.

Major League Baseball is worried. Attendance is down. Lowest numbers in 15 years.

It didn’t make much sense to us here in Houston where fans are streaming the Minute Maid every home stand. And definitely not when the numbers prove that attendance this season for our  defending World Champion Houston Astros is actually up 22 percent over last season.

Then we noticed the asterisk. Average attendance.

And, well, Houston these days just isn’t average.

Call it #HoustonStrong or the road to the playoffs. Then add this little tidbit – the only other MLB teams bucking that average 8.6 percent downturn with positive numbers? Houston’s playoff rivals – the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners. Three of the four have at least 62 wins at the All-Star break and the fourth – the Mariners – are at 58. And, yes,100-win seasons could be on the horizon.

Here, we crowd into Minute Maid to see which player is going to wow us on any given night. Will it be Alex Bregman with the walkoff? Or maybe George Springer or Jose Altuve? We can’t get enough of our Boys of Summer who are on pace for a total attendance of 2.9 million this year.

And those ring and bobble head giveaways? Just a little frosting on another summer of delight.

Honestly, the Astros are on center stage right now, but Houston has morphed into one great sports town. Forget those dog days of lost seasons and fan apathy. Houston sports are back.

Focus on an 82 percent increase in Astros’ attendance since 2012 or the Houston Texans selling out season tickets. Or the Rockets rocking Toyota Center all season.

And, of course, the future.

As forgettable as last year’s Texans’ season was, attendance was just down slightly. And the upside – they’re ranked 17th in the league in attendance -- is tremendous.

Now, the possibilities of what a healthy Deshaun Watson could do for a full season is enough to pull you in, right? Add in DeAndre Hopkins, injury comebacks by  J.J. Watt and D’onta Foreman and . . . well, pretty nice dreams of a great season, right?

Yes, the Rockets lost more than anyone thought this offseason and the battle for Carmelo Anthony is nearing an end, but MVP James Harden and Chris Paul will be back to make another run at Golden State. That’s enough right there to keep us coming back.

Soccer is growing with the Dynamo and Dash and the Sabercats are about to break ground on a rugby stadium. And with fall around the corner, nothing says Texas – and Houston – like high school and college football where Friday and Saturday night lights are a tradition like no other.

But the best draw in the city? As solid as the season totals are for Houston’s three major professional teams, there’s one sporting event that blows them away every year – the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

In those short three weeks of saddle-bronc riding, roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling and the carnival have drawn more than 2.4 million total attendance each of the last two years.

Like we said, there’s nothing average here. We learned a long time ago to never underestimate the hearts of our champions.

#HoustonStrong

 

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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