By NEAL FARMER
The top sport in Houston is football, at least when it comes to TV ratings and media coverage. And it could always be No. 1, because the product on area football fields is excellent – high school, college and pro.
But after this World Series, baseball may be designated as No. 1-A on the Third Coast. The Houston Astros played one of the best World Series games on Sunday, coming from behind repeatedly to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 13-12, in 10 innings. The win gives Houston a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
But it was how they did it. Never giving up. Reaching back and finding more. Taking a punch from the Dodgers and punching back. And playing with child-like joy.
I’m sure it even made people at Sports Illustrated smile. And made Houstonians forget about the troubles of Yuli Gurriel and Bob McNair for a day. Probably.
I didn’t think there could be a better contest than Game 2 in the current World Series. But Sunday’s Game 5 was just as gut-wrenching. There was a palpable feeling in the pit of your stomach from the fourth inning on with each pitch. There was a feeling of helplessness when Yasiel Puig hit a homer with one hand in the ninth to help tie the game and help send it into extra innings.
Then there was the same feeling for LA when Houston hammered their homers. The Crawford Boxes giveth and they also taketh away. There was even a fan who ran on the field in his party underwear after Correa hit a homer in the seventh inning to the Crawford Boxes. You know you’ve arrived when there is party underwear.
A reason for so many homers is that the pitchers have told media covering the Series that the balls used in the playoffs are slicker than the ones used in the regular season. That means pitchers cannot grip the ball as well, and therefore have to throw more fastballs than breaking balls. And major league batters love to tee off on fastballs.
Can you imagine how the managers were feeling? Do I take this pitcher out? Who do I pinch run for? And when do you take out the starting pitchers – Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw – who are two of the top hurlers in baseball? If you had thought a game between those two starters would end of with both teams scoring in double-figures, you would have been put in a very small group because neither Cy Young pitcher had much experience in being yanked early.
Those decisions were complicated because the strike zone was only a suggestion by the home plate umpire.
There was a bit of foreshadowry, as Kershaw has now given up eight home runs in the postseason. No one thought that could happen, but then Houston had Ken Giles – who would have said, “Hold my beer.” Houston manager A.J. Hinch allayed those fears because he said before the game that Giles would not pitch on Sunday. But he almost ran out of arms.
I’m glad I didn’t have to keep score for this game.
Hell, this not only could put baseball back in the top spot in Houston for sporting interest, this World Series could be the shot that the sport of baseball itself needed throughout the country. This series will be talked about and rehashed for decades. It was equal parts exhilarating and hopeless — for both teams. These certainly look like the two best teams in baseball.
WATSON SHINES — The Texans don’t have a rookie quarterback anymore. First-year player Deshaun Watson looks like he is in at least his sophomore year.
He wiggled out of trouble, matched offensive prowess with Seattle’s Russell Wilson, and looked like he was adept at running the offense in Houston’s last-minute loss to the Seahawks.
I think Watson deserves some criticism, as he threw three interceptions – including a pick-six, which could be considered the difference in the game.
But his upside gives reason for confidence.
Houston is within striking distance of first place in their division, and plays everyone in that division so that the Texans can control their destiny into the playoffs. And I think Watson gives followers the idea that Houston has a better chance than in previous years – and Houston has been in the playoffs for three-straight years.
The defense struggled against Seattle, but only against the pass. Seattle rushed poorly against Houston, but was able to gash the Texans defensive backfield for long gains time and again.
But even with that defensive liability, it appears to me that the Texans are on pace to make the playoffs because they are in a weak division. (Stop me if you have heard that before).
TCU LOSES, SO BIG 12 LOSES, TOO – Dear Big 12 officials. Is there a frog in your throat? I told you last week that TCU losing will screw the conference when it comes to the college football playoffs. Even with the Big 12 Conference playoff game, TCU now will have to have a lot of help. I just don’t see Oklahoma and Oklahoma State being in the four-team January playoff. I predict that the Big 12 will be shut out again.
The way to fix it? Expand. That dog-and-pony show earlier by having schools “try out” only not to accept anyone was exceptionally stupid. Add Central Florida, South Florida, Memphis and Houston, and play in two divisions. That will give the conference the power rating it needs for the football playoff consideration. And that’s where the money is. You’re welcome.
LSU-ALABAMA ON SATURDAY – LSU has turned it around with three-straight, big-time victories. They play Ala-damn-bama on Saturday. Will LSU make it four in a row? Probably not. The Tide has beat people by an average of 33 points and LSU hasn’t even scored 33 points. But you say there’s is a chance…
FIRING OVER SOCIAL MEDIA? – Dear Red Raiders. This is not the way to do it.
WHICH SCHOOLS PRODUCE THE MOST PRO ATHLETES? – Take football, basketball and baseball, add up the players from each school that play professionally, and you have college programs that are studly. UT and A&M make the top 25, but UCLA is No. 1 and LSU is No. 2.
CLASSICAL NOTES – Moussorsky: The Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition. This is classical music that not only rocks, but blasts holes through preconceived perceptions that classical music is stale. The Russians know how to write music. Put this on during a football game and watch how often the music mirrors the action. Emerson, Lake and Palmer had an electronic version that kicks butt and was a huge hit in the UK. Play both versions and then decide which played it better. I call it a tie.
QUOTE OF THE DAY – Dr. Martin Luther King asks a great question about the parable of the Good Samaritan: “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?'”
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