Falcon Points

With latest Rockets news, is Houston sports headed for the dark ages?

All good things come to an end. Composite image by Jack Brame.

By now, you have likely heard Russell Westbrook wants out with the Rockets. James Harden is not returning phone calls. Daryl Morey is gone and no one knows if his replacement can do the job. Mike D'Antoni is gone and no one knows if his replacement can do the job. The rest of the players are grumbling.

The Westbrook era is likely over, and maybe Harden goes next. For a city that has been buoyed by stars for the past several years, that era may be coming to a close as all three major franchises face big challenges in the coming years. (Sorry, Dynamo fans, you were already in the dark ages). A look at all three:

THE ROCKETS

The off-season has been one of turmoil. In a perfect world, the Rockets would hope a new coaching staff could make things work with the two stars. But if Westbrook wants out, it might be time for a total reset, and that would include moving Harden. It would be painful, because the Rockets are a playoff team with Harden. Without him? It could be a long reset. But it has to happen sometime, and maybe now is the time. Rockets fans have gotten spoiled, so a big step back might hurt the bottom line for a while, but you can't rule out the possibility. The turmoil might just be the beginning of a brutal stretch.

THE ASTROS

George Springer is the biggest loss of the off-season, and Justin Verlander won't pitch at all in 2021. They are down two outfielders, although it is possible they bring back Michael Brantley, which would leave only one spot to fill. Yordan Alvarez should return and provide some of Springer's production, so the offense should be OK. They got enough out of the pitching staff last season to be a playoff caliber team once again. The bullpen needs to be fixed, but that's not all that difficult.

But there are still real concerns. Jeff Luhnow built a roster that made it to the ALCS four straight times. We don't know if James Click can maintain that. And is Jim Crane backing off on spending? It would not be a shock considering the loss of revenue from the Rona. They should still be good in 2021, but beyond? Carlos Correa will be a free agent after next season. Verlander might never pitch again. Zack Greinke will be a free agent. The farm system is uncertain. The Astros could easily fall back to the pack at that point. Right now, they are still a safe bet to stay relevant. But for how long?

THE TEXANS

We all know what a mess Bill O'Brien left behind, and while a shrewd GM and a better coaching staff could get them competitive pretty quickly, does anyone believe that will be the case? A poor hire at GM, another unpopular coach...things could get ugly quickly. J.J. Watt, perhaps the most beloved Texan ever, will probably not be a part of it no matter what. Texans fans will have a hard time with that, but it's going to happen, and it should.

It might be difficult to swallow, but it's not inconceivable that when 2021 rolls around, some of Houston's biggest sports names - Watt, Harden, Westbrook, Springer - will be gone. And the bad thing is it could very well get worse from there.

Hopefully, the Rockets rebuild quickly. The Astros retool. The Texans get their hires right. If not? Things could get really bleak very fast.

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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