FOOTBALL IS COMING

When the NBA and NHL seasons end, the NFL fun begins

Bill O'Brien and the Texans now take center stage. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

We’ve had all of Monday and Tuesday this week to dissect the conclusions to the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals so naturally, it’s time to focus mostly on football with a little bit of mid-season Astros. But really, football. Mini-camp workouts have started so the hype train is loaded up and ready to barrel on down the tracks.

If you’re paying attention you’ve already started to see heavy speculation about players returning from injury. You’ve seen rosters being loaded and unloaded with veteran and undrafted players. You’re starting to feel that twinge of excitement because you know that your busy summer will pass quickly and training camp is on the horizon. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s start with what’s currently happening: mandatory three-day mini-camp. Day one was yesterday and Cody Stoots provided SportsMap with his 11 Observations to whet your appetite.

It’s good to see the Texans taking the field and Deshaun Watson appears ready to play, but throwing the ball in an unpadded practice is just a small step in the process. This week is just another step in his continued rehab from his knee injury. I like reading that his receiving options seem to have improved as well. Now I want to see how the defense looks, but I’m glad to see Houston has the best offense in the NFL.

But let’s not forget that it’s a team effort and everything happening right now is learning how to play together while the coaches evaluate their performance. There will still be a lot of shuffling at the bottom of the roster and the Texans should be active this time of year. It could be one of those cast offs that really helps them late in the season.

But for now, let’s look at these last two days as our chance to see the team in action and begin formulating our wildest predictions.

I’ll go ahead and kick things off:

  1. Deshaun Watson is ahead of schedule and won’t miss a beat to start the season.

  2. The addition of receiving options Keke Coutee, Jordan Akins, and Jordan Thomas will be the difference in multiple wins this season.

  3. The defense has a good enough rotation to keep the star players healthy and capable of a top-five finish.

  4. The schedule and the competition will work in their favor on the way to 10 or more wins and a home playoff game.

Time for you to come up with your own or talk trash about mine. There’s plenty of time. Training camp doesn’t start until the end of July and the dates have yet to be released. So, for now, we can only argue and laugh as we speculate on what will happen in the fall.

 

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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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