DEEP RUN FOR COOGS?

Here's why Houston sports fans should savor Cougars' journey in NCAA Tournament

Go Coogs! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

There's a memorable scene in the movie Casino in which Robert De Niro's character, Sam Rothstein, is walking through the Tangiers Casino. In those opening moments his narrative highlights how he's now being admired & respected, the days of having a seedy reputation have "washed away" and he now has a fresh outlook and perspective. The same can be true next week as the University of Houston begins their journey, navigating the tournament field in Indianapolis. Imagine if over the next 2 1/2 weeks the city of Houston can wash away it's regrettable sports sins. A run to the Final Four would do just that.

The sin of allowing J.J. Watt to land in Arizona of all places. For the record, the Cardinals haven't actually won a playoff game in 5 years, and have only two playoff wins since January 2009. How about the sin of watching a watered down version of a previous championship caliber club in the Houston Astros? Astros fans, get ready for the growing pains of replacing Springer at the top of the lineup with Myles Straw whose on base percentage is going to be nothing short of dreadful. Speaking of dreadful, well, there's the Houston Rockets. Aside from a potential fire sale at the upcoming NBA trade deadline, they aren't relevant in the association any longer.

The best thing going right now in the city (as we attempt to drown out the Deshaun Soap Opera), are Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars. The administration knows exactly what it has, which is refreshing, recently rewarding Sampson with a contract extension that will keep him here through the 2026-27 season. For Sampson it's his 6th consecutive 20 plus win campaign, and throughout the state of Texas, the Cougars under his watch have won more games than any other D1 program, including Baylor who's been solid of late.

Assuming Sampson and his staff can keep his team under wraps in Indy, avoiding all the Steak and Shake handcrafted burgers and fries, (I personally like a side of the Chili Mac Supreme) they should advance with ease during the opening rounds. In recent days you've heard terms floating around campus such as "poised for a deep run." U of H is going to the Final Four, and during the magical ride the next few weeks, be sure to savor it, because for our city, this is the best it's going to get for a very, very long time.

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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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