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Jordan Smith

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Astros Sign Michael Brantley

The Houston Astros have added some outfield depth by signing outfielder Michael Brantley. According to Ken Rosenthal, the deal for Brantley is reportedly in the range of a two-year, $32 million deal. Other reports suggest there is a possible third-year option tied to this deal.

In the 2018 season, Brantley hit for an average of .309, with 17 homers, 76 runs batted in, 12 steals and only 60 strikeouts in the 143 games played this past season. Brantley joins a crowded outfield with George Springer, prospect Kyle Tucker, Josh Reddick, Jake Marisnick and Tony Kemp. This addition will also help bring what is only the third left handed bat to the lineup. The other two: Reddick and Kemp.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers has put it best on Twitter, in my opinion, about what Brantley brings to the table as far as options go for his versatility in the lineup.

Under this theory, manager A.J. Hinch now has a way to figure out the lineup to start the regular season. With this move, the Astros have some options in the outfield. With Springer and Brantley as the two most likely guaranteed starters in the outfield every day, this acquisition now allows for a competition for the final starting spot and most likely two back up outfield positions.

With Marisnick, Kemp and Reddick, this will set up what looks to be an interesting battle during the upcoming spring training to see who will get center field position to start the 2019 regular season. Most likely, we won’t see Tucker join the Astros’ opening day roster. But we might see him show up to the major leagues sometime in July.

Recent rumors have suggested that the Astros are open to shopping Reddick around on the trade block. This could accelerate the possibility of Reddick being shipped elsewhere by the next trade deadline. The Astros, while not as strong as before, are still “in contention” for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. If the Astros are serious about shopping Reddick and want to have a shot at Realmuto, we might end up seeing Reddick included in a package to Miami for an opportunity to grab their catcher. However, it has been said by Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and Hinch that they are content with the two catchers they already have on the roster. Pulling off this move might create a vacancy for a backup outfield position; Tucker could then fight during spring training for a spot on the opening day roster.

More Astros news may be coming soon, as they are still interested in the services of DH Nelson Cruz, in addition to potentially shopping Reddick. Stay tuned to my twitter page @JordanSmithPXP for more information on the news about Cruz and his destination this offseason.

All stats courtesy of Major League Baseball

Texans lose to Colts, Ending Nine-Game Winning Streak

The Houston Texans, on a third-and-one play, had a chance at getting the ball back with enough time to go down the field and kick a game-tying field goal to force the Indianapolis Colts into overtime. However, the Colts played a hard count to draw the Texans’ defense offsides; they got the first down and sealed the victory.

It would once again be defensive end Jadeveon Clowney who would leap offsides, which he is known to do often, and give the Colts exactly what they were looking for—their fifth win in six games. In the game, Clowney only recorded two tackles against Indianapolis.

The Texans’ run defense was stellar in the game, only allowing 50 rushing yards on 23 carries and one touchdown. It was the pass defense that struggled, allowing quarterback Andrew Luck to throw 27-for-41 on the day with 399 passing yards and two touchdowns. The only positive from the pass defense was the interception that safety Andre Hal got.

The Texans offense was average, with less production from the running game than usual. Starting quarterback Deshaun Watson was the leading rusher in the game with five carries for 35 yards and no touchdowns. Running back Lamar Miller would come second with 14 carries for 33 yards and one rushing touchdown.

Watson had a good performance through the air, going 27-for-38 for 267 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

With the loss, the Texans sit still at the number three seed in the AFC. With a win, the Texans would have moved up to the second seed in the conference, thanks to a walk-off lateral touchdown play for the Miami Dolphins to defeat the New England Patriots 34-33. The Texans have one more division game, Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars at noon on Dec. 30 at NRG Stadium for the final home game of the season.

The Texans now must regroup from their first loss since Week 3 and get ready to face the New York Jets. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday at MetLife Stadium for a chance to win the AFC South for the fifth time in franchise history.

*Stats courtesy of NFL.com

Texans Defeat Jets, Get to 10th Win for the First Time in O’Brien Era

The Houston Texans, coming off their first loss since week three, defeated the New York Jets on an NFL Saturday special by a final score of 29-22.

In the first quarter of play, the Texans defense was able to get stops easily and hand the ball to starting quarterback Deshaun Watson. The offense looked as effective as the defense, as they effortlessly drove down the field and almost got a touchdown on their opening drive. However, the referees blew a controversial whistle on a key third down play when it seemed Watson was breaking a defender off his back and breaking towards the far sideline. The play was stopped and ruled a sack, forcing a fourth down.

Also, in the first offensive drive for the Texans, running back Lamar Miller went down with an injury and didn’t return in the quarter. The Jets kicked a field goal and tied it up 3-3 with just over two minutes left in the quarter, and that is how the first 15 minutes of the game went for the Texans.

The second quarter of action brought another offensive drive that ended in a field goal. However, there was no drama for this drive; it was just a missed opportunity to get into the endzone.

A big play for the defense came from superstar defensive end J.J. Watt, who forced the ball out of the running back’s hands. Nose tackle D.J. Reader recovered the fumble to set up a huge 45-yard passing touchdown from Watson to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. This touchdown extended the Texans’ lead to 10 with 8:14 left in the first half of play.

A field goal by kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was good from 53 yards to make it a 16-3 game with 4:39 left in the first half. The Jets would score a touchdown with 30 seconds left in the half, but missed the extra point; this made the score 16-9 heading into the locker room.

Through the first half of play, Hopkins was having a monster game with 108 yards on five receptions and a touchdown through the air. Also stepping up in the first half was the Texans defense, as veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph led the team with three tackles at the half and two assists. Watt had a sack in the first half that came in the first defensive drive of the game for Houston.

To start the second half, Lamar Miller returned to the Houston sidelines and looked all right after his first-quarter injury. The first offensive drive of the second half failed on a three-and-out with two sacks allowed. It wasn’t a great start on offense. Later on, the Texans defense would allow the Jets to make it a one-point contest with a 13-yard passing touchdown (but another missed extra point) to make it 16-15.

Another big factor for the Texans in the third quarter was poor blocking from the offensive line, allowing three sacks of Watson in the first seven minutes of the third quarter of play. Of course, this has not just been a problem today, but for the entire season and really for the past few years for the Texans franchise.

In the final 15 minutes of play, Houston would get a field goal to extend their lead to 19-15. However, their troubles continued with blocking on the offensive side of the football, as they continued to allow more and more sacks of Watson. This let the Jets gain momentum and confidence to get back into the game.

A huge defensive holding penalty was called on the Texans, leading to a touchdown for the Jets. They took their first lead in the game with less than six minutes left and a 22-19 score. But on the Texans’ following possession, Watson found Hopkins in the endzone on an amazing grab for the game-winning touchdown. A field goal at the close of the game sealed the victory by a final of 29-22.

For the Texans, starting quarterback and emerging star Deshaun Watson passed 22-for-28 for 294 yards and two touchdowns, both to Hopkins. Watson also ran for 26 yards on four carries and once again was the leading rusher in the game. Also performing well in the game was Fairbairn, who finished the night five-for-five in field goals, with his longest being from 53 yards. Fairbairn finished the game with 17 of the Houston’s 29 points.

The Texans will take their first double-digit winning season in the O’Brien era north to take on the Philadelphia Eagles; kickoff is at noon on Sunday, Dec. 23. The Texans will be hoping for the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans to lose so that Houston can win their third AFC South divisional title in four years and their fifth in franchise history.

*Stats courtesy of NFL.com

Astros Day 2-4 recaps of the Winter Meetings

Day 2

With the Houston Astros not even being in town on Day 1, we will jump ahead to Day 2 of the Winter Meetings. The Houston Astros executives flew into Las Vegas on Monday with the hopes of filling in the gaps from the 2018 season.

With the Astros looking for a starting pitcher, a DH/1B and even a relief pitcher or two and an outfielder, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has his work cut out for him this year in Vegas.

No deals were made, no signings, no trades: some more talk about Astros being in contention for certain players like JA Happ and JT Realmuto, but nothing was done.

Result: No new additions &/or subtractions

Day 3

Besides the continuation of hearing that Realmuto is on the verge of being traded in a supposed three-team trade with the Marlins, Yankees, and Mets, nothing was happening as much for the Astros and the names that they are involved. Dallas Keuchel has continued to be mentioned as “top of the list” guy for multiple teams, as well as Marwin Gonzales. Other than that, nothing new came from Charlie Morton, except now other teams are interested in his services.

J.A. Happ continued to be mentioned as a possible candidate for the Astros and other teams as well. The 36-year old was looking for a 3-year deal that could send him into retirement after the end of the contract.

Andrew McCutchen, while not a top target for the Astros still someone that could be considered if the need fit, signed with the Phillies for a 3-year, $50M deal. Now, besides Bryce Harper, the outfield list is starting to wind down a little bit possibly. Rumors that the Dodgers are shopping Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp emerged late Tuesday night, but nothing has happened since.

Another name that has escaped the hands of the Astros is Nelson Cruz, who was in talks with the ballclub and even was one of the top considerations, has now moved on to make his decision between either the Twins or the Rays. So, that’s another player that the ‘Stros have failed to close a deal on.

Kluber and Bauer are still with the Indians and have not been moved yet. At this point, a move will most likely not occur during the winter meetings for either one of those players most likely. The only thing the Astros announced today was Jim Crane saying that if the circumstance is correct, they will increase the payroll.

Result: No new additions &/or subtractions

Day 4

Waking up on Day 4 of the Winter Meetings in Vegas, the rumors now speculate that the Mets are now backing away from JT Realmuto and looking for a more defensive catcher possibly (that rumor coming from Jon Heyman).

The Dodgers have been a name connected to him, but according to Jon Heyman, the deal could have been done already between LA and the Marlins. However, the Dodgers are not willing to get rid of Cody Bellinger in the deal, which has stalled talks in trade for Realmuto, reopening the door for the Astros to swoop in if they want to. However, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has stated that he is good with the group of catchers they have right now in Chirinos and Stassi.

Reports about J.A. Happ re-signing with the Yankees has been reversed as it looked like no agreement had officially been put in place when Ken Rosenthal first reported it.

Madison Bumgarner is still on the market by the San Francisco Giants. No move has been made yet for him, though the Astros at this point are still a team that are interested in his services with the potential loss of Dallas Keuchel.

Today was the day that pitcher Charlie Morton decided to leave the city of Houston and sign with the Tampa Bay Rays for a 2-year, $30M contract. With that, the Astros look at their starting rotation now with a gaping hole that is left, which now most likely has to be filled with a re-signed Dallas Keuchel, if they can pull it off.

Result: Big subtraction in Charlie Morton, No additions

Day 5

Heading into the final day of the Winter Meetings, the Houston Astros and their fans were still in a somber mood with the departure of Morton to the Rays. Besides that, no signings or trades occurred for the Astros as they quietly ended the Winter Meetings with no additions and one big subtraction in Morton the day before.

Result: No new additions &/or subtractions

An overall recap of the Winter Meetings for the Astros:

Despite previous years where the Astros were somewhat active to fairly active during the Winter Meetings, not much- if any- action was taken by the Astros these past five days. With that being said, the blue and orange are still looking to add an arm and a big bat from now until the start of spring training in February. Marwin Gonzales and Dallas Keuchel remain unsigned, while Charlie Morton heads for Tampa Bay. It’s been somewhat of a ho-hum December so far for Houston. However, signing Chirinos before the meetings at least helps with the catcher situation. Although, don’t be surprised if the ‘Stros go and sign another catcher.

Overall grade: D

Charlie Morton heading to Tampa Bay

The Houston Astros have lost a key member of the 2017 World Series roster and last year’s historic regular season roster in starting pitcher Charlie Morton.

According to Yahoo Sports MLB columnist Jeff Passan, Morton’s deal with the Rays is a 2-year, $30 million deal. This leaves the Astros with a vacancy in their starting rotation. That’s a fair deal, makes you wonder why the Astros didn’t offer the second year. It was earlier reported that they offered him a one year deal.

In the 2018 season, Morton had a 15-3 record with an ERA of 3.13 according to Baseball-Reference. Morton helped the Astros have the best ERA from their starting rotation in the entire American League. Morton would start all 30 games he appeared in during the season and strike out 201 batters in 167.0 innings of play. Morton would also finish the year with a WHIP of 1.162.

For the Houston Astros, this move now puts them in an interesting predicament for their starting rotation. With three guaranteed pitchers in their rotation still under contract in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Colin McHugh (who will move from his role in the bullpen back to the starting rotation), Astros GM Jeff Luhnow would like to add another arm for the rotation in this Winter Meetings.

It was the original thought that Morton was either going to retire or come back to play baseball, but had said he would only come back to the Astros if he was to play again. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reported back on October 19 Morton’s sentiment about wanting to be a part of the Astros again.

“I’d love to keep playing,” Morton said after last night’s game. “I’d love to be an Astro. I’d love to be a part of this again. Ultimately, it’s not really up to me. It’s not solely up to me.”

This move now puts pressure on Luhnow to most likely must re-sign starting pitcher and Cy-Young winner Dallas Keuchel in order to have at least four guaranteed arms in the rotation heading into spring training in February.

For Morton, this move to the Rays would mean that Morton had to feel like he wouldn’t help the Astros get better this season. In talking with fans and other baseball followers, their sentiment about Morton’s decision is the same. If he didn’t feel like he could make the 2019 Astros better with him on the team, he didn’t want to have the ballclub spend money to bring him back. Despite this feeling, fans from around the franchise will miss him and what he has done for the Astros this past couple of seasons.

Stay tuned to my Twitter page @JordanSmithPXP for more info about the Astros Winter Meetings transactions over the next few days, as well as any other news going on with the Houston Astros during the Winter Meetings.

*Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

Rockets fall to division rival Mavericks, 107-104

The Houston Rockets have continued their recent slide of games in which they come out on the losing end, this time to one of their geographical and divisional rivals ,the Dallas Mavericks, by a final score of 107-104 Saturday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

With the loss, the Rockets now sit second to last in the Western Conference, only ahead of the Phoenix Suns who sit in last with a record of 4-22 on the season. The Suns are the only team in the Western Conference without double digit wins so far this year.

Houston also sits in last in the Southwest Division, 0.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs who have a 12-14 record on the season to date. The Rockets are only four games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for first in the division and six games behind the Denver Nuggets for first in the Western Conference.

Power forward PJ Tucker was on the court the longest with 39 minutes played for Houston. In that 39 minutes, Tucker scored five points on 22.2% shooting, with one three-pointer made in four shots, six rebounds and a steal.

Starting center Clint Capela was the only Rockets player to get a double-double on the night, with 12 points on six-for-eight shooting. Capela also grabbed 13 rebounds, nine on the defensive end, and got an assist on his stat line as well.

Point guard Chris Paul, in 37 minutes, scored 23 points with three-for-seven shooting from behind the three-point line, as well as one steal. Shooting guard James Harden tied with Paul for the team lead in assists with eight for each of them. Harden had the team lead in points, as expected, with 35 points in 36 minutes of play. Harden also grabbed four rebounds in the game.

Besides Paul and Harden, none of the other Rockets who made an appearance on the night scored more than 12 points in the game. Both Harden and Paul were also the only ones on the roster to get more than one assist in the game; they both got eight assists in the game.

The Rockets, who now sit 11-14 on the season, will have a few days rest before their next game when they will take on the Portland Trail Blazers at 7 p.m. this Tuesday at the Toyota Center.

*Stats courtesy of NBA.com

North Shore heads to the final four, defeats Cy-Fair 38-21

The Galena Park North Shore Mustangs and the Cy-Fair Bobcats did battle in the 6A Division I Region 3 Final at NRG Stadium Saturday night. The Mustangs came out victorious in the end, with the final score of 38-21 to clinch a spot in the final four of the 6A Division I Tournament.

Photo credit - Jordan Smith

In the first quarter, both teams got on the scoreboard. But the main storyline was the time of possession. In the first 12 minutes of play, the Bobcats held a TOP of 9:01, while the Mustangs controlled the ball for only 2:59. The Bobcats got on the board first with a 12-yard passing touchdown from senior quarterback Ryan Nelub to senior fullback Marcus Mckinley to strike first in the game, 7-0.

Also highlighting the first quarter was Mustangs’ junior running back, Zach Evans, who had two rushing touchdowns and 48 yards on four carries to start the first 12 minutes of the contest.

The star of the game was Evans, who ended the night with four rushing touchdowns on 17 carries for 138 yards on the ground. Evans also recorded three catches for 39 yards and one receiving touchdown. Sophomore starting quarterback Dematrius Davis for the Mustangs also had himself a good night, throwing 17-for-22 through the air with 267 yards and one touchdown. Davis also showcased his running game with nine carries for 112 yards, an average of 12.4 yards per carry.

For the Bobcats, senior starting quarterback Ryan Nelub was the main factor for Cy-Fair, as he went 12-for-21 through the air with 142 yards passing and three touchdowns. The Bobcats rushing attack combined for 123 yards, with sophomore running back L.J. Johnson the leading rusher. He finished the night with 12 carries for 33 yards and no touchdowns on the game.

The Mustangs outscored the Bobcats in every quarter except the fourth quarter, when only one touchdown was scored for the Bobcats. North Shore had 545 yards of total offense, 278 of that total coming from the running game. Cy-Fair had 296 total yards in the entire game, with 174 coming through the passing game.

The Mustangs will now take on Lake Travis in the 6A Division I State Semifinals at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec 15 at NRG Stadium. The winner of that game will head to the 6A Division I State Championship game at AT&T Stadium the following weekend.

Texans win ninth straight, defeat Browns 29-13

The Houston Texans took care of business to start the month of December, defeating the Cleveland Browns by a final score of 29-13 at NRG Stadium.

This win matches the season high for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien during his tenure with Houston, as he has finished three other seasons with a 9-7 record.

Behind a Texans defense that was turnover happy, Houston was able to take advantage offensively with running back Lamar Miller. From the first offensive snap, Miller was in the zone, rushing for 103 yards on 19 carries, good for 5.4 yards per carry.

The Texans defense was able to disrupt Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield down the field. Despite not sacking Mayfield, the front seven for the Texans were able to force the rookie quarterback to throw into one of the best secondaries in the NFL this season, resulting in three interceptions in the game. One of those interceptions came from linebacker Zach Cunningham as he returned it to the house for a 38-yard pick six to extend their lead 17-0 with 7:26 left to go in the first half of the game.

Mayfield, however, had one of the best days of his rookie season so far with a stat line that read 29-for-43 passing, good for 67.4% completion. In this, Mayfield would throw for 397 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson had a good afternoon as well, going 22-for-31 (70.96% completion) on the game with 224 yards through the air, one touchdown and no interceptions thrown. Watson would also run for 30 yards on seven carries on the afternoon. Star Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins would once again lead the WR category with seven catches on 12 targets for 91 yards and no touchdowns.

The only touchdown on the offensive side of the ball was an 11-yard pass from Watson to rookie and standout tight end Jordan Thomas to make it 10-0 with 38 seconds left in the first quarter. Thomas had three catches for 32 yards on three targets and one touchdown in the victory.

The Texans will face the Indianapolis Colts at noon next Sunday, Dec. 9th, at NRG Stadium with a chance to clinch the AFC South with a win. In the previous matchup this season, the Texans won it 37-34 in overtime for their first win of the season and the start of a now nine-game winning streak for Houston.

*Stats courtesy of NFL.com

Reports: Melo’s time in Houston “will soon be ending”

According to New York Times NBA reporter Marc Stein, Houston Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony has been informed that his brief stint with the Rockets "will soon be ending." This prediction comes after Anthony was listed as “out” on the Rockets’ injury report for the game tonight against the Indiana Pacers.

Despite this report, Rockets GM Daryl Morey talked to the media, claimed that there is nothing wrong, and stated that everything being spread is just rumors.

“He’s sick tonight and that’s pretty much the update,” Morey said. “One of the reasons why I’m here besides being 10 games in [the season] about, I think there is just a lot of unfair, you know, rumors and everything going around about him. He’s been great with us. As coach said yesterday, he’s been- his approach has been great, he’s accepted every role coach has given him, starting, off the bench, whatever it has been. Look, we’re struggling as a team and it’s my job, it’s coach’s job to figure out to figure this thing out.”

Anthony, in 10 games played this season for the Rockets, has averaged 13.4 points per game with 5.4 rebounds per game and 0.5 assists on average. The 15-year veteran started the season on the bench and worked his way up to the starting rotation alongside point guard Chris Paul and shooting guard James Harden.

Morey was asked about his expectation of Anthony’s role in the starting rotation when he returns from the injury report.

“Yeah,” Morey said. “I would expect Carmelo [Anthony] to be playing when he is healthy.”

In another report on Twitter from Stein about the situation he wrote, “The Rockets have denied they are waiving Carmelo Anthony, but two sources close to the situation say Anthony has been informed that his brief time with the team will soon be ending.”

If Anthony does actually get waived or traded, there are some scenarios that would be plausible to fill the space. For one thing, it would open up the three spot in the starting rotation. With that, you have a few options, one of which includes trading Melo to the Phoenix Suns and getting Trevor Ariza to fill that spot to bring back some key chemistry from last season. If that scenario does not come to fruition, then you can simply choose between Michael Carter Williams, James Ennis III, Gerald Green, or PJ Tucker to fill in the three spot until you sign someone from the free agent list or trade for a piece.

Whatever the result of this whole Melo situation, the Rockets are in a tight position with injuries, a lack of offensive production compared to last season, and a team with a sense of confusion for some of its top players on the roster.

*Stats courtesy of nba.com/rockets

*Daryl Morey quotes courtesy of Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) Twitter video