What if they played a ballgame and nobody watched? Apparently, we have an answer with regards to Sunday's Indians-Astros contest in Cleveland, at least according to the Nielsen Co. ratings system, and it's this: The Astros have discovered new ways to lose. Not only can they drop a game to the team they're playing, but they can draw less local interest than a static football scoreboard or a rerun of The Cosby Show.
According to the Houston Chronicle's David Barron, Sunday's game, which started at noon Central Time (1 p.m. Eastern Time in Cleveland) and was broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Houston, received a 0.00 Nielsen rating — a sampling of a small percentage of the TV-watching population. Sunday's rating came via 581 meters in the Greater Houston area, around half of which were in use by viewers for any 15-minute period during the three-hour bloc between noon and 3 p.m. Meanwhile, 23 percent of households were busy watching the NFL's Houston Texans lose to the Baltimore Ravens, 1.3 percent were watching a NASCAR race, 0.5 percent were watching a Cosby rerun and 0.16 percent were watching the NFL Network's screen of football scores.
Those alternatives apparently make for more gripping television than the local nine going down to its 105th defeat of the year, in this case in a road game against a wild-card contender with whom the Astros have very little history. Prior to this year, Houston and Cleveland had played all of 18 games in 16 years of interleague play, with nine wins apiece but no signature moments. Coming into Sunday, the Indians had won five out of six games between the two teams this year, including the first three of their four-game series, one of which went 11 innings and another of which was called after just six and a half innings due to rain. Perhaps the fact that the Astros scored just one run apiece in each of those three games of varying length was too much for the Houston fans to bear. While they could have seen their team rally for two runs on Sunday — even taking a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the third — the 'Stros nonetheless gave up nine runs. The good news is that the people not watching were spared the seven pitching changes Indians manager Terry Francona undertook after starter Corey Kluber's departure prior to the top of the sixth, five of which took place after they had expanded the lead from 3-2 to 7-2 in the bottom of the sixth. C'mon, doesn't anybody in Houston care whether the Indians have a better lefty specialist than Rich Hill on the roster for the postseason?