FALCON POINTS

Why the bubble has been a sports fan's dream come true

Photo by Getty Images.

The NBA playoffs are under way, with all day basketball. The NHL playoffs are also in full swing, and after a play-in round, we are getting three or four games a day.

From a fan's perspective, they have both been rousing successes.

While it sucks people can't be at the games, both leagues have done a terrific job of managing the events. The quality of play has been better than expected after a long layoff, and we have seen some incredible moments.

The feared Covid spread has not happened, so the bubble concept is clearly working.

The leagues themselves are losing millions with no fans, but they are at least getting TV money. The good news? If they have to start next season without fans, they now have a workable model.

With many people stuck working from home, it is possible to get work done and watch all the games at the same time. It is also a betting person's bonanza.

Many were skeptical that this could be pulled off, but Dana White was doing it for months with the UFC. Constant testing, limited contact and social distancing have worked like a charm.

In the case of the NBA, the 8-9 seed play-in was a huge success. Who got in to that matchup came down to the last shot of a game only made it better. In the NHL, the play-in round gave teams like Chicago and Montreal - who would have missed the playoffs in a normal year - a chance to earn a spot in the big tournament.

In essence, what we have seen is very much like the first week of the NCAA Tournament, which is one of the best sporting events of the year. One game after another, exciting action and all of our favorite players.

It would be cool to see both leagues maybe implement a version of this going forward. Yes, it waters things down to have so many playoff teams, but the atmosphere has been incredible.

The NFL should consider something similar, but they seem committed to the baseball model. Despite some Covid cases, that has worked well also. There was never going to be a scenario where there would be no one getting sick. Considering how few outbreaks there have been, it has to be considered a success as well.

So all in all, sports have returned, and they have been worth the wait. The bubble has worked. The set up has worked. The playoffs are working.

The leagues have made the best of a bad situation, and somehow made it even better.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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