This weekend featured 2018’s second edition of the Lone Star Series between the Rangers and Astros in Houston. The teams split the first two games of the series, but it was game three on Sunday night that will be remembered from this meeting.
The ageless wonder and Rangers starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, who will celebrate birthday number 45 in May, took a perfect game into the eighth inning on Sunday against one of the better lineups in baseball. It wasn't a blowout, either. Colon kept Houston off of the base paths for most of the night with just a 1-run cushion.
Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Justin Verlander of the Astros was dominant in his own right. Verlander’s only blemish through eight innings was a solo shot from Robinson Chirinos in the third. It was the first time since 1982 that both starting pitchers reached 7.2 innings with one or less hits allowed each.
Colon’s perfection ended with a walk in the eighth and the no-hitter would soon follow along with his shutout thanks to an RBI-double by Yuli Gurriel. He was removed from the game immediately after and neither Verlander or Colon would earn decisions in one of the better pitcher’s duels in recent memory. Chirinos would strike again for the Rangers in the top of the tenth with a double to bring home a pair and eventually win the game.
We expect to see this sort of dominance from an ace like Verlander, but the fact that Colon flirted with perfection against the defending champs at this stage of his career is astounding. The righty from the Dominican has played for more than a third of the teams in Major League baseball. Before he joined the Rangers roster in 2018, he was with the Indians, the old Montreal Expos, White Sox (two stints), Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Athletics, Mets, Braves and Twins. His rookie season was 1997 with Cleveland. He has a Cy Young Award, he’s been to four all-star games and he can still get guys out. He competed in his first and only World Series with the Mets in 2015 at the age of 42.
Elsewhere in baseball, the league has been plagued by cancelations due to wintery conditions in the northern part of the country. On Sunday alone, the MLB postponed contests in Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Kansas City and Chicago. Basically, the entire American League Central division took the day off. All three weekend games in a series between the White Sox and Twins were canceled.
The problem isn't just that the games aren't happening. On Saturday, the Cubs and Braves played their game despite temperatures in the upper 20s and a wintery mix of freezing rain and snow at Wrigley Field. It was one of the few times the historic stadium had a noticeably weak attendance.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon expressed his unhappiness with the league that his team was forced to play in such conditions, as did Atlanta’s manager Brian Snitker. The game itself ended in a 14-10 Chicago win after they came back from a 10-2 deficit, but baseball can’t be played effectively when the weather gets to a certain extent.
There really isn't much of a solution to this ongoing issue short of slapping domes on every stadium north of the Mason-Dixon Line. You can’t take home games away from teams and you can’t overload parts of the schedule with away games without creating some sort of advantage or disadvantage. However, the argument could be made that it also creates a disadvantage for teams who lose critical off days in July or August due to April cancelations. You can’t fault the MLB for trying to get the game in if they think there’s any shot at doing so, but this isn't football and teams can’t compete in certain weather.
While Colon and Verlander were battling it out on Sunday night, the Rockets opened up their first playoff series against the Minnesota Timberwolves as the top seed in the west. The Rockets scraped by thanks to 44 points from James Harden, but it wasn’t the typical result you’d expect from a top seed playing an eight. Harden seemed to be the only player who decided to show up in the 104-101 victory aside from Clint Capela, who dropped 24. The Timberwolves had a chance to tie the game on the last possession, but came up short.
The Rockets were fortunate enough to dominate a stacked Western Conference throughout the 2017-18 season, but the problem for them is the amount of parody throughout the rest of it. The eight seeded Timberwolves finished with 47 wins, just two games behind the three seeded Portland Trail Blazers. In other years, the last seed is usually a laugher and would be lucky to win one game against the top dog. The NBA saw a lot more parody overall this season, and the Rockets are in for a first round fight with Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Minnesota.
Game two of the opening series between the Rockets and Timberwolves takes place tonight at 8:30 in the Toyota Center.