The Pallilog

Yes, Astros fans, there is still a chance in this World Series

Justin Verlander pitches Game 1. Bob Levey/Getty Images

I'm saying there's a chance!

For all my character flaws, being a water-carrying silly homer shill is not among them.

I'm saying there's a chance. For the Astros. In this World Series.

A great chance? No. But slim beats the heck out of none. The way the Nationals beat the heck out of the Astros in game two.

The Astros getting swept or losing in five is more likely than them beating Washington four times in five games. Still, the Astros pulling it off isn't some million-to-one shot. What odds would you have given against the Nationals beating Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander at Minute Maid Park on consecutive nights? Sports happen. Overwhelming momentum, positive or negative, exists. Until it doesn't. A game three win puts them right back in it. A game three loss…

Three times in the World Series the home team lost the first two games then rallied to win the Series. Last to do it, the 1996 Yankees, who dropped two in the Bronx to the defending champion Atlanta Braves then swept the next four. The other teams to go from 0-2 down at home to ultimate glory are the '86 Mets and the '85 Royals.

The Nationals are outstanding. From late May until now, five months, their record is better than the Astros' record. The Nats essentially wipe out the massive starting pitching advantage the Astros held over basically everybody else. The Astros' offense, overhyped by more than a few as one of the greatest of all time, has largely failed this postseason. Yes the hitters face better pitching in the playoffs than they do over the full regular season. Same is true for the Nationals. The Astro offense has been too often too impotent. Jose Altuve is the only guy up from his regular season production rate. The other six offensive mainstays (Springer, Bregman, Brantley, Alvarez, Gurriel, Correa) are all waaaaay down. Time is running out to turn that around.

Faint silver lining of the moment: if the Astros are to win this World Series they'll do so at home.

Where does he rank?

After Altuve's thrilling pennant winning home run vs. the Yankees, I wondered via Tweet whether Altuve now ranks number two in the Houston sports legend pantheon. Talking about greatness, ensuring status in the city forever. Is Altuve now ahead of Earl Campbell? There is no definitive right answer. Your response may be influenced by your age and/or by which sport you prefer. Recency bias can influence. Hakeem Olajuwon remains the very clear number one. No disrespect to individual sport athletes, but they're not relevant to this discussion. Apologies to Simone Biles and Carl Lewis, but cities don't swoon over and revere individual sport athletes.

Ugly situation

Infinitely less fun questions that came out of the AL winning celebration: How big of a jerk is now former Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman? Or was it just one egregiously vile but not truly character defining moment? Sometimes one strike and you're out. Taubman's behavior was abhorrent and obviously fireable. How despicable was the Astros' handling of the situation? Very.

The Astros win a lot of games. President of Baseball Operations Jeff Luhnow has built a phenomenal baseball organization. It doesn't mean their poop doesn't stink. An amazing level of arrogance had Astros' upper management think theirs doesn't. Taubman was part of Luhnow's inner circle. That Luhnow didn't say anything until Wednesday was weak. His press conference content Thursday was in parts apologetic, embarrassing, and contemptible.

The Astros' first statement, their smear the messenger piece of garbage, was a disgrace. Taubman's apology line "if anyone was offended" was a disgrace. Many wrongs can be righted at least in part. The Astros righted theirs in part with their subsequent "real" investigation (with MLB leaning hard) and apology to Sports Illustrated, SI writer Stephanie Apstein, and others involved. Taubman will have to seek his redemption elsewhere.

When asked about the situation Tuesday before game one, Manager A.J. Hinch spoke briefly with the decency and dignity that escaped several others in the organization.

Slow start

What should be a compelling Rockets' season got underway with a thud Thursday night, a 16 point second half lead blown in a Toyota Center loss to Milwaukee. For the second straight offseason the Rockets did nickel-dimey stuff in filling out their roster, but it's a strong club that given generally good health from the mainstays should win a bunch (50+) of games. That is unlikely to culminate in an NBA Championship since the defense is unlikely to be elite and they'll mix in enough brick-laden three point shooting games to come up short.

Russell Westbrook is one of the worst three-point shooters in NBA history. Inside three weeks of turning 31 years old he's not going to suddenly become a good three-point shooter, but Westbrook is a one man fast break like the Rockets have never had, and the relentless passion and intensity with which he plays are compelling. That Harden fella should amass some pretty stout numbers again.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. I'm not into karma, but if the Astros lose the Series, man are a whole bunch of people going to be thinking just desserts. 2. Justin Verlander being the only pitcher with an 0-5 World Series record doesn't seem fair. Who says sports are fair? 3. Toughest to name state capitals: Bronze-Kentucky's Silver-Missouri's Gold-Maine's

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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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